Andrew Geller, "Architect of Happiness", 1924- 2011

Alastair Gordon/via

I had never heard of Andrew Geller, the architect of wonderful, small quixotic cabins until I read Alastair Gordon's 2003 book Beach Houses: Andrew Geller. I was working on modern prefabs then and was studying everything I could find on modern design for small spaces. Geller was a revelation, as was Gordon, who writes in his lovely tribute to the architect who died Christmas Day at 87:

As far as I know, Geller’s houses were never published in “professional” magazines like Architectural Record and certainly not Architectural Forum. Geller posed something of a threat to the status quo. He was incredibly prolific, experimental, friendly, never took himself too seriously, could be irreverent, and even had dared to live a normal family life in suburban Long Island. He was successful in his own right, well outside the inner sanctum of the design world. He wasn’t practiced in the priestly double-speak of the architectural establishment. He didn’t care. He had the nerve to be playful, make jokes, have fun, be funny, breezy, light, even joyful. He’d made up his own rules and didn’t care much what the mainstream thought of him.

© Alastair Gordon: Esquire Weekend House

Of course, nobody wants little wooden cabins anymore, and they certainly don't want things like the Esquire Weekend House. In Britain they have the Rubble Club, " an organisation to remember buildings demolished in their architect’s lifetime." You couldn't have that in America, just about every architect would be a member. Few would have seen as many losses as Geller; Fred Bernstein writes in his obit in the New York Times:

In recent years Mr. Geller’s playful houses were the subjects of books and articles, but most of those houses now exist mainly in memories and black-and-white photographs. Mr. Gordon recalled driving around the Hamptons with Mr. Geller in 1999, trying to find some of the scores of houses he had built there. Altogether, they located fewer than a dozen. Mr. Geller said he felt like he had lost his children.

Read Alastair Gordon's Tribute, and an excerpt from his book, at Andrew Geller, Architect of Happiness, 1924-2011

Tags: Architects | Less Is More | Living With Less | New York State