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Thread: Palm Beach

  1. #1
          ablarc's avatar
    Nov 2003
    East Coast

    Palm Beach


    Resorts are built to provide people with delight. Some succeed solely on the strength of their setting, such as the ocean or a mountaintop. Others add to this an urban delight, for which people will pay a premium.

    The sufficiently-rich will even stay for a good part of the year if a place is interesting enough, such as Palm Beach, Carmel or any of dozens of places on the French and Italian Rivieras. Here numerous beach resorts and mountaintop perched villages qualify as premium urban beauty spots. Cannes, Nice, St.Tropez, Portofino, St. Paul, Vence, Haut-de-Cagnes, Menton, San Remo, Monte Carlo: these places--in addition to being beachy or craggy--also offer an urban experience.

    Some Florida resorts offer varying degrees of urbanity: St. Augustine, Key West, Seaside, South Miami Beach and Palm Beach.

    Palm Beach was the inspiration of the brilliant Addison Mizner (1872-1933), architect and developer.

    “Poets are born, not fed.”

    In 1922, when Mizner arrived in Florida its architecture was mostly tin-roofed wooden vernacular with wraparound porches. Mizner thought something classier, palmy and…you know, European… would go down better with the rich he targeted. So he cooked up a style with red-tile roofs and stucco, and he called it Mediterranean.

    In short order he foisted off this picturesque pastiche as Florida’s second signature architectural style. It has been that ever since in the public mind.

    Palm Beach owes its present appearance to Addison Mizner. He had such an unerring eye for the atmospheric and the picturesque that he created a fantasy town that comes close to matching the scenographic beauty of parts of Seville. Needless to say, those who live there love it, and so do the many tourists. Palm Beach in season hosts some of the most plutocratic denizens of North America, including country club liberal, Edward Kennedy. It is home of the ultra-lavish Breakers Hotel, also designed by Mizner.

    Mizner followed up by planning and developing Boca Raton, while Coral Gables-- though not actually by Mizner-- owes him its appearance. Mizner in turn drew some of his inspiration from a scrapbook of postcards, photographs, drawings and sketches he kept sorted by subjects. He browsed through the scrapbook whenever he needed an idea.

    Striving to capture the diversity of periods and styles that comprise Spanish architecture, he criticized modern architects for "producing a characterless copybook effect." His ambition, he explained, was to "make a building look traditional and as though it had fought its way from a small unimportant structure to a great rambling house"—in other words, he sought to mimic the effects of time.

    Mizner had a good eye, a romantic and witty nature tempered by bouts of depression, and an acute sense of the picturesque that surpassed even Carmel’s svengali, Hugh Comstock. He knew how to connect with the people he was trying to impress, and he knew how to make an urban place by starting with the form:

  2. #2
    Short and sweet!

    Some of the square buildings remind me of Irving Gill, though not as minimal.

  3. #3
          ablarc's avatar
    Nov 2003
    East Coast
    Irving Gill was the Mizner of La Jolla. He had a similarly well-developed sense of upper class taste. His developments were so successful at establishing commercial desirability that hardly anything he designed survives. Most of his numerous works were replaced by bigger buildings more commercially exploitive still. This also happened to Nash's Regent Street, of which nothing survives.

    I don't know what accounts for the fact that so much of Palm Beach is still original Mizner.

  4. #4

    Not to get off topic but...

    The San Diego Historical Society put out a book about Gill's work, it's a nice book.
    I wish Southern California would have caught on to his "Home of the Future" idea's, where "Any deviation from simplicity results in a loss of dignity", and houses could be "the simple cube house with creamy walls, sheer and plain,rising boldly into the sky' unrelieved by cornices or overhang of roof, unornamented save for the vines that soften a line or creepers that wreathe a pillar or flowers that inlay color more sentiently than any tile can do."

    I can dream.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian bocian's avatar
    Jun 2003
    Raleigh NC
    Ablarc, is the are portrayed in the pictures in/around downtown, or is it some "mini-mall" for the wealthy somewhere in the middle of nowhere? Also, it seems your pictures showed just one building+ --- how urbane is Palm Beach overall?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian H's avatar
    Feb 2003
    Quote Originally posted by bocian
    how urbane is Palm Beach overall?
    Here is the infamous “new-urban” City Place development.


    True it is over on the “common folk” side of the intercostal in West Palm Beach. But hey, without West Palm Beach who would service all the people of Palm Beach? You cant have your yin without your yang. And if I say so myself, this is a pretty good yang. :-P

    Seriously, City Place is a good example of new-urbanism DOWNTOWN. Many other cities in Florida are currently trying to mimic the development.

    It is nice, but again not so cheap. :-S

  7. #7
          ablarc's avatar
    Nov 2003
    East Coast

    Palm Beach and West Palm Beach

    Bocian, as H explained, West Palm Beach is not Palm Beach. The two municipalities are separated by a body of water and a social chasm broader than the Grand Canyon. West Palm Beach is where the serfs live.

    Palm Beach is a fair dinkum town, and has been since the Twenties when it was conceived. The genuine article. Like almost all other nice American urban places, this one is full of rich people. But in this case, that is not the result of gentrification; it was built for the super-rich, and they never left.

    Census statistics probably don’t show it—because almost everybody in Palm Beach has homes in several other places—but Palm Beach probably has the richest population of any municipality in America.

    Here’s the scoop on West Palm Beach, a world away:


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