breuer & beckhard's beachfront box
It's Friday, and you deserve this.
Along the sandy shore of Mantoloking, New Jersey, stands a modern cube defiantly emerging from rows of traditional beach cottages. Designed by Marcel Breuer (perhaps the preeminent East Coast modernist at the time) and his associate (later partner) Herbert Beckhard, the McMullen Beach House is a bold rectangular box in step with the pair's refined and thoughtful modernist aesthetic. Planned to offer both privacy and open views of the ocean, the house is a unique experiment in exposure and concealment, a purely modern expression of function and form.
Essentially a two-story rectangular block raised on a semi-transparent base, the McMullen Beach House has solid sides, a screened street elevation, and a wide expanse of glass across the ocean-facing facade. By elevating the house, Breuer and Beckhard maximized the scenic views, provided privacy, and effectively exposed the home's structural system. Like many of their residential projects, structural elements are conspicuous, adding depth to the seemingly simple box form. Here, the dark-stained support posts, railings, and screens pop in contrast to the creamy white walls of the rest of the exterior. On the east elevation, Breuer and Beckhard exercise their penchant for intersecting planes by topping a projecting deck with a series of overhead beams, creating an abstracted articulation of indoor/outdoor space.
The striking post and beam aesthetic of the exterior continues on the inside of the house as dark structural members juxtapose with light walls. On the first floor, an open staircase leads to a monumental two-story living room, the centerpiece of which is a concrete fireplace, an extravagant sculptural element within the otherwise minimalist space. Depending on the time of day, shadows from the exterior screens dance across the living room floor, and the large expanses of glass offer uninterrupted views of the ocean. Bordering the large living space, a dining room, kitchen, study, and laundry room complete the main level, while three bedrooms are practically arranged on the top floor.
Easily distinguishable from its traditional neighbors, the McMullen House is an exercise in Modernism with its geometric planes and exposed structure adding a compelling richness to the boxlike form. A striking example of Breuer and Beckhard's innovative approach to housing design within a vacation setting, the McMullen House is compatible with its function, offering a novel solution to privacy and transparency. With attention to detail and clarity of expression, Breuer and Beckhard created a beach house that exploited the potential of modern architecture, designing an efficient mechanism for beachside living.
Have a good weekend, #archilovers.
Image at top:
McMullen Beach House, Mantoloking, New Jersey. Marcel Breuer and Herbert Beckhard, architects. Ben Schnall, photographer, between 1960 and 1964/ unidentified photographer. Marcel Breuer papers, 1920-1986. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
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