Posted tagged ‘beauty’

Famous Blueprints: Our Humble Historic Home

October 7, 2010

A few years ago we were delighted to discover that our unassuming little home in Grand Bahama was born from famous blueprints—designed by Alfred Browning Parker, whose post-World War II contemporary modernist work in and around Miami made him one of the most sought-after architects in the U.S., garnering high praise even from Frank Lloyd Wright—a guiding influence in Parker’s organic architecture philosophies.

Originally constructed for a former chief executive of The Grand Bahama Development Company, our modest two-bedroom home shares architectural roots with a much grander home, built by one of Freeport’s founding families on Sea Shell Lane. This property was recently sold by Coldwell Banker James Sarles Realty and photographed by fine art photographer Christine Matthäi. Matthäi’s artful images capture the home’s classic oceanfront elegance and the timeless organic nature of Parker’s work.

Sea Shell Lane residence photographed by Christine Matthäi

Parker shared a passion with Frank Lloyd Wright for designs that worked with local climate and natural materials. In tropical climes that meant louvered shutters and windows that allowed prevailing ocean breezes to cool things down in the days before air conditioning became commonplace. Parker’s sensitivity and commitment to use of indigenous materials is also evident in the limestone rock that is incorporated into both our humble abode and the Sea Shell Lane residence.

Beautifully blending local materials, recycled materials with then-modern techniques like poured concrete was part of Parker’s modernist mission. His designs are still relevant today in the way they seamlessly merge the interior with the exterior—blurring the boundaries between building and landscape in classic organic architecture.

Sea Shell Lane photos by Christine Matthäi. 2010

In our little part of paradise, the grand old trees that surround the property are visible everywhere and bring a particular kind of contentment and sense of well being found only in the shade of their longevity. Our stands of mature trees were planted by Lila Gonsalves—the first President of the Freeport Garden Club—and I send her quiet thanks on an ongoing basis for the green goodness we regularly enjoy in the garden.  Sir Jack Hayward also had a hand in our arbor abundance, having given the now towering 40-foot tall Royal Poinciana tree that graces the front entry, to the original home owners in a coffee can—a tiny sapling housewarming present that bursts out in dazzling splendour every May & June.

Royal Poinciana entryway tree in full bloom

A kiss of the sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.

— Dorothy Frances Gurney

Our small home and the Sea Shell Lane property are the only two known surviving residential works of Alfred Browning Parker on Grand Bahama—a tie to modern day Freeport’s history that still smiles on the ideal of harmony between human habitation and the natural world—an essential element in preserving our island’s inherent beauty and grace as we make our way into the future.

Related Alfred Browning Parker Links:

Alfred Browning Parker: The Master of Coconut Grove:

Modernism Magazine (Volume 11, No. 2 | Summer 2008)

House Beautiful Magazine

The legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright commented on a home Alfred Browning Parker built for himself in the Coral Ridge area of Miami, featured as House Beautiful Magazine’s 1954 Pace Setter House:

“This Florida house aims at the highest goal to which architecture may aspire: organic architecture. Along this new but ancient way a home where the enlightened mind can flower, where people can develop their fullest potentials, is still a possibility.”

Slide Show: More of Christine Matthäi’s photographic images of Sea Shell Lane residence, click here.

Florida Fandango

April 16, 2010

Because Grand Bahama Island sits a mere 68 miles off the coast of South Florida, the closeness creates a sort of fandango of back-and-forth, here-and-there-frequently two-step, where the best of both worlds is readily at hand.

The small flock of flamboyant feathered friends in this picture were gorgeous to see recently at Ft. Lauderdale’s Flamingo Gardens, and it got me thinking about the great abundance of flamingos in The Bahamas, where  the world’s largest colony of West Indian Flamingos (some 50,000 of these long-legged lovelies!) are a true Bahamas National Trust conservation success story on the southernmost island of Inagua. Protected by law, the wild flamingos of Inagua live in a beautiful symbiosis, thriving along the shallow lagoons and salt ponds created by The Morton Salt Company in their harvesting of almost a million pounds of salt each year.

Known as the national bird of The Bahamas (and sometimes locally called “fillymingos”), these brightly colored wonders take their name from the Latin word for “flame”, and are just one of the many shared tropical ties between Florida and the 700 islands and cays (pronounced “keys”) of The Bahamas.

Images of flamingos and their iconic pink plastic lawn ornaments (created in 1957) became so widespread and overused in the marketing of Florida’s development boom that some people see them as a cliched symbol of paradise. Their image has swung back and forth between the ultimate in tacky taste and retro-cool for decades now. I can’t argue with that (and I’m actually a big fan of kitsch and love seeing a flock of pink plastic for a good cause!), but I also can’t help but be amazed at the odd elegance of these exotic creatures in a more natural environment.

Flamingos became a symbol of the tropical good life in Florida at about the same time a group of concerned world citizens took steps to save actual wild flamingos from extinction. Because of their timely efforts to save the flamingos, they are now a symbol not only of the good life, but of a natural and national treasure in The Bahamas. I am encouraged to think that The Bahamas still has a chance to thoughtfully and carefully develop its many precious and unique islands, and to grow in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly manner, learning valuable lessons of restraint and environmental awareness from its more commercially overgrown-up cousin, Florida.

In The Bahamas, the flamingo was saved from extinction through a combination of foresight, vision, international cooperation, hard work, and dedication to preserving irreplaceable distinctive rare beauty. May this same approach (and sparks of divine design inspiration as graceful and eclectically riveting as those seen in the flamingo!) ever be present in any development of the stunning, world-enhancing, and incredibly beautiful and beloved islands of The Bahamas. Amen.

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