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Tropic_May20_Issue_eMag

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43 T R O P I C M A G A Z I N E 43 T R O P I C M A G A Z I N E Coral Gables worth protecting? The fact that it's by Russell Pancoast and is nearly intact should be more than reason enough. Beyond that, there has been much discussion of the structure's unique quality as a transition between the revival styles popular from the mid 1910s through the mid 1920s, when Art Deco, the first modern style appeared. But in looking for an ironclad argument, as rea son to protect the house, that doesn't fill the bill. Even though it is transitional and was embraced in its time, there are scores of Med-Modern transitional houses throughout the up- scale Miami suburbs of the 1930s and '40s, up until the early 1950s. Another major discussion is that the house can be seen as Miami's contribution to the classic American ranch house that became ubiquitous in the suburbs in the 1950s and '60s. This might be another good rea- son to protect it, but as the designation report ex- plains, the house was not a prototypical ranch house but rather a strand that was woven into a unique form as it was intertwined with influences from other parts of the country. While this might be a good reason to protect the house, it's a little too academic and based on hypothesis. I find that wh at makes the house truly unique is not that it represents a transition style to style. Rather, the important transition it represents is the movement from pioneer houses with low-pitched, hipped roofs and wide eaves to modern, suburban, one-story houses with low-pitched, hipped roofs and wide eaves. The most overt signal of this particular transition is de- scribed in the property's historic designation re port: "The eastern 'private' end of the home has two bays. The front façade of the eastern-most bay is along the same plane as the front entry public bay discussed above. This small bay has a hipped roof with a central window flanked by shutters. The sec- ond bay projects approximately five feet and has a very shallow front-facing gable roof. The gable end is visually minimized by a 'hip' skirt roof that becomes the wide projecting eaves of this bay." That's the way the designation report describes one of the house's decorative details, unquestionably in- spired by the eaves applied to the gables often seen in the coral rock houses of the 1910s and early 1920s. With his unique knowledge of Miami's ear- liest buildings, Pancoast found inspiration for deco- ration in a rote architectural move borne of nece s- sity but one that was not yet refined. Refinement of this contradiction reached its pinnacle in the sculp- tural roof of the Coral Gables house, where gables and contradicting eaves were intentionally assem- bled into an elegant coherent whole. It shouldn't surprise anyone that something so seem- ingly superfluous would grant uniqueness and ir- refutable significance. Nor should it be a revelation that something utilitarian and clumsy would become valuable and appreciated with the passage of time. The world is full of those sorts of transitions. Remem- ber, the Tropical Art Deco that emerged 40 years after the city's inception –– and was considered cheap and tacky in the 1970s –– became a cher- ished savior of Miami's tarnished image in the rocky early 1980s. It could have just as easily been erased, and that, we can all agree, would have been a tragedy. About the author: Randall Robinson is the co-author of MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed and Miami Architecture: An AIA Guide Featuring Downtown, The Beaches and Coconut Grove. Vintage photo of the Coral Gables house at 1208 Asturia Avenue, designed in 1937 by Russell Pancoast.

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