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Sanibel Island in Florida, with its sister island, Captiva, form a long narrow strip parallel with the mainland. When this writer first visited the island in 1961, the only way to approach it was by a ferry-boat from Ft. Meyers. When in the mid-1960s the causeway was constructed, the popularity of the island exploded real estate skyrocketed, but very intelligently about half of the island in its length was designated as a wildlife sanctuary.
After the devastating storms and floods during the mid-seventies, an ordinance was passed according to which – unless the building sits on a mound – the ground floor cannot be used for living quarters; for storage, utilities, open space or parking yes, but not for living spaces.
Add to this that it never snows on the island so that the roof does not have to carry the often immensely heavy snow load like it does in the Midwest. Consequently, a flat roof from which the snow does not slide off is completely safe as well as economical.
In spite of having no living quarters on the ground floor and no snow on the roof, the paradigmatic examples of the 1920’s so called Bauhaus Modernism – the flat roofed box lifted from the ground on columns – simply do not exist here.
Let us now turn the clock back to the 1920s Europe (or South America) where the predominant sign of modernism was a flat-roofed pristine white box lifted on pilotis (piers) advocated by all the pioneers like Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius or Oscar Niemeyer.
This writer travelled throughout the island in the hope to find a few Bauhaus modern homes (not apartment buildings –there are plenty of those – but homes). He also has to admit – regretfully – that the north, for that matter Evanston, has little right to be critical. Do we have that many modern homes? Let us try.
There is George Shipporeit’s home on the east side of Asbury Avenue; Jim Nagle designed the one on the north side of Keeney Street, and Larry Booth created the Weissbourds’ house on the lake. Bill Massey and David Hoffman did a beautifully remodeled one on Eastwood Avenue, the few I can think of. Perhaps there are a dozen or two more – still too few for the size of Evanston.
Opponents of modernism claim that it is not comfortable, it is cold. The truth is that modernism well executed is not cheap. It requires different and meticulous detailing most home building contractors are accustomed to. When the geometry calls for precision it takes more time and care. Consequently it is cheaper to do a sloppy job and cover it up with a trim.
Only handsome bodies can wear bikinis – or in case of a man, a small bathing trunk – most of us need a cover-up trim.