Picks and Pans Review: The Houses of the Hamptons

updated 07/07/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/07/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Paul Goldberger

Let's say that you are an architect. A prospective client has bought a piece of property on the shore of Long Island—grass-flecked dunes with a glorious, unhampered view of ocean and sky. The client is very, very rich, and he tells you, "Okay, let's go. I want a house unlike any other. I want the most fanciful design you can come up with. And of course money is no problem." From the looks of the houses in this beautiful volume, many of the architects who built them were just that lucky. A few of them were building houses for themselves, so the end product in those cases is a kind of advertisement. Goldberger, the 35-year-old architecture critic for the New York Times, makes this book a history of American architecture of the last 300 years. He sees the Hamptons as "the most conspicuous testing ground of architectural preferences." A stone house in East Hampton by Norman Jaffe looks a bit like a church in the South of France. The de Menil house in the same town by Charles Gwathmey and Robert Siegel is simply the most luxurious private home imaginable, with a jungle of tropical plants behind glass walls, a guest house, arbor, garden, tennis court and swimming pool on seven acres. (Estimated cost: $6 million.) The Tarlo house in Sagaponack by Tod Williams is a group of walls that look as if they are freestanding, the house hidden mysteriously within. Virtually every kind of design that has been executed during the past few years seems to be represented in these artful photographs and sketches. The book is a compendium that's full of stimulating, original ideas, produced by the most sensible writer on architecture in the business. (Knopf, $40)

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