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Magazine    February-March 2003


A century and a half ago, the privileged families of New York had the resources and the means to build mansions and great camps in the Adirondacks where they would hunt, fish, swim and otherwise enjoy the pristine wilderness around Lake George. The coal, gold and copper barons of the West Coast, too built their own castles, Victorians and ranches in Washington and in Oregon states, usually along the coastline. As vacation architecture flourished, the small islands and harbors in Puget Sound and surrounding lakes began to be populated by summer houses, and by 1894 Washington state had 35 registered architects. The subtitle for Coastal Retreats thoroughly describes the content of the book: The Pacific Northwest and the Architecture of Adventure. While there are a limited number of archival photographs that help illustrate life in the region decades ago, most of the contemporary houses, retreats, cabins and cottages in the book are fascinating, either for their enormity, the architectural ingenuities that have helped them stand up to the often harsh climate of the area and the incredible vistas that their doors and windows look out onto every day of the year.

The open floor plan was part of a cultural, artistic and philosophical expression that took root in the early part of the 20th century. Streaming light, unconstricted movement, liberation and spatial continuity were some of the terms that architects and designers used freely, both in their discourse as well as in their plans for residential living. In the 1950s California architects, among them Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler, pioneered free-flowing floor plans that brought the outdoors in, thereby integrating interior and exterior living. Open House is a testament to the fact that the free plan is alive and well today, as the book presents 12 projects by leading architects in the world, from a duplex in New York to a minimalist retreat in Japan. The authors are expert commentators, and the photography is as dynamic as the architecture. Buildings jump off the pages and pull the viewer in.

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Coastal Retreats
by Linda Leigh Paul
Universe, $39.95

Open House
by Dung Ngo and Adi Shamir Zion
Rizzoli, $75
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