Mark Lamster | Essays

Andrew Geller: 1924–2011

Levitas House, 1964

At the risk of turning this into the obituary corner of Design Observer, I don't want to let the death of architect Andrew Geller yesterday go unremarked here. Geller isn't a household name in architecture circles, but he created many warm and wonderfully inventive modern homes in the 1950s and 1960s, most of them summer residences on the beaches of Long Island. These were not the megamansions one now expects out in the Hamptons, but inexpensive and modest homes with playful shapes that radiated a sense of post-war optimism.

Geller studied architecture at Cooper Union, and began his professional career working for Raymond Loewy. It was for Loewy that he designed the kitchen in which Kruschev and Nixon had their Moscow debate, a project that he developed into the prefab Leisurama house.

I first me Geller as the editor of Alastair Gordon's history of Long Island modernism, Weekend Utopia. We put numerous Geller projects in that book, but it became obvious to us that they clearly deserved their own book. That's when I really got to know Geller. At the time, his grandson, Jake Gorst, was just beginning the process of organizing the Geller Archive, which was then in the attic workshop of Geller's Northport home. Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, I took the LIRR out to the house, to go through this material. Jake picked me up at the station, and we turned on the radio to the awful news. I spent 9/11 with the Gellers, watching the horrifying events unfold on tv, occassionally distracting myself with Geller's drawings and models. 

The book we finally produced, Beach Houses: Andrew Geller, remains one of the most satisfying projects of my career; to my mind, there's no better rejoinder to the terror of that day than its celebration of American ingenuinity, modesty, progressivism, generosity of spirit, and charm. 

A Geller sampling follows.

Reese House, 1955

Hunt House, 1958

Pearlroth House, 1959

Frank House, 1958

Lynn House, 1961

Elkin House, 1966

Andrew Geller

Jobs | May 22