Sometime in 2014, architects Max Worrell and Jejon Yeung got a call from friends who had been looking for a beach house in the Hamptons to buy. The couple, a financier and an artist, had stumbled across a compelling find: a spacious modernist home in Amagansett, New York, about a block from the ocean. Only, they hadn’t heard of the architect named on the listing and rang up Worrell and Yeung to ask for their opinion.
“They called us from the house and asked, ‘What do you think of Charles Gwathmey?’” recalled Worrell. “We chuckled and told them, ‘It depends which Charles Gwathmey you mean?’”
He and Yeung, partners in a Brooklyn-based architecture firm that bears their names, first met as graduate students at the Yale School of Architecture. There, they were steeped in the modernist tradition to which Gwathmey (class of ’62) was heir, partisan, and, eventually, wrecker. A few years out of school, Gwathmey made a splash with a house he designed for his parents, also in Amagansett. It inspired endless copies and permutations up and down the East Coast, done by architects who never seemed to tire of the formal games one can play with platonic solids. Least of all Gwathmey himself. He would return to that well time and again until he, like many of his generation, thinking themselves great wits and savvy businessmen, switched allegiance to postmodernism in the 1980s. The quality of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects’ (and later Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates Architects’) output nosedived, never to recover.