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Tropic_May20_Issue_eMag

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42 T R O P I C M A G A Z I N E 42 T R O P I C M A G A Z I N E tropic preservation RUSSELL PANCOAST, A HOMEGROWN master archi- tect and one of Miami's most formative architectural designers, worked on and produced scores of ar- chitecturally significant buildings from the 1920s through the 1950s. His work spanned epochs in de- sign, leaving behind an inimitable legacy of exem- plary Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco style, the transitional Med-Deco, Tropical Art Deco, Stream- line Moderne and a brand of Postwar Modernism unique to Subtropical Florida, referred to as the Coconut Grove School. The grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John Collins, Russell Pancoast came to Miami's Subtropical fron- tier from New Jersey as a young boy in the first years of the 20th century. He came with his family, led by Collins' son-in-law Thomas Pancoast. Thomas Pancoast was the first to envision Miami Beach a s the Palm Beach for the new money, self-made mil- lionaires of the late 19th century Gilded Age. But first there were mangrove forests to reclaim and mosquitos to tame. Though Southern Florida has had an exotic allure from the beginning, the pioneer days of the turn of the 20th century were rough going during the long hot season of the year. Russell Pancoast earned his degree in architecture from Cornell in 1922 and worked in the Miami office of the illustrious Pittsburgh firm of Kiehnel & Elliott before starting his own practice in 1928. Pancoast possessed, however, something that could not be learned at a great university or by appren- ticing at a luxury architecture firm. Unlike the rest of the small club of respected Miami architects of the first half of the 20th century, he had a first-hand knowle dge of the pioneering subtropical vernacular architecture of South Florida, that is to say, espe- cially in Miami's case, what came before the Mediterranean Revival style. The northern white pioneers of subtropical Florida logically built according to the climate and the ma- terials readily available locally. Thus, the defining characteristic of building construction was the use of the abundant and tough D ade County Pine as the primary building material. Oolitic Limestone, com- monly referred to as 'coral rock' was used as deco- rative cladding material over the pine. A defining design characteristic of the early buildings were shallow pitched roofs because only water, not snow, needed to be shed from them. The roofs had wide eaves to provide protection from the searing sum- mer sun and frequent summer rai ns. As air-condi- tioning would not come into widespread use until the 1950s, any passive cooling device such as these was a blessing. So critical were the wide eaves that they wrapped around all four sides of a building, running across even the gable ends. The highest expression of these wraparound sun protection devices came with the deep, shaded verandas at The Barnacle. Break- ing with the age-old cus tom of building a residential building in a rectangular arrangement, The Barna- cle has a square arrangement provided by a hipped roof. Porch roofs here surround the entire structure, providing protection from the sun and rain. The use of these devices was not lost on Pan- coast, who, by virtue of being a pioneer, was the only one who experienced –– and therefore had an intimate knowledge of –– the constr uction of the very first buildings in Miami. So now we come to the question at hand, is the Pan- coast-designed house at 1208 Asturia Avenue in Text Randall Robinson A Tale of Two Roofs A Russell Pancoast-designed home in Coral Gables finds its head on the chopping block. Is it worth preserving? The important transition this little house represents is the movement from Miami's pioneer houses... to modern, suburban, one-story houses

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