Eye on Design: Architects of Alys Beach

Words by J.N. Campbell

Photos provided by Architects' Firms

 

Architects are an eclectic bunch. A conversation with them uncovers their historical toolkits, which are full of depth and rigor. Most of all, the deeply personal homes they build leave physical legacies that are linked to marrow-filled reminders of where we have been and where we are going next. Architects take the pulse of their towns and read the tea leaves floating in the urban and rural landscapes. They are the maestros of bricks and mortar, and their edifices stand as monuments to human effort; conversely, their work can crumble into oblivion, becoming the next find in a distant-future archeological dig. Heady macro-historical stuff to be sure.

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BOBBY MCALPINE

As architect Bobby McAlpine sees it, he “courts the bastard, those with the gap in the tooth, the lazy eye.” No, he is not talking about people or his clients, but rather homes that require attention and provide challenge. From bases of operation in Atlanta, Montgomery, Nashville, and beyond, he has steadily cobbled together an architectural philosophy that melds old with new. He wants his clients’ houses to be imbued with a story, however imperfect they might be. To hear him tell it, he actually practices the art of medicine. His prescription is silent modernism, the fusion of many elements. In the home he designs, you might find a symmetrical bathroom or kitchen. Although that might sound strange, it’s his way of using all 64 Crayons. To put it another way: His design choices mirror an old Selectric IBM Typewriter ball, spinning and punctuating an organic stamp of truth. Architects challenge conventions and push the boundaries of our comfort zones so that we can find ourselves in pure ecstasy simply by walking into our homes.

If you meander down 30A between Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Watercolor along Florida’s Panhandle, you will stumble upon the New Urbanist—a urban design—town of Alys Beach. It is more than just some planned snowbird community; rather, it is part of a lifestyle movement that is surging like a tidal wave. Conformity resides in its ogee arches and whitewashed exteriors, the interior spaces are being nurtured and personalized through the works of a duo by the name of Marieanne Khoury and Erik Vogt. They understand that the word “vernacular,” meaning common, is not something derogatory, but instead an expression of one’s own ideology. The influence of aqueous territories like the Caribbean and Latin America can be found in their designs, and like McAlpine’s work, it can court the unexpected. Khoury believes that they can “synthesize the needs of the community with that of the individual.” That makes the pair mavens who raft a communal spirit of togetherness for their clients. Urban context is their trade, and they ply it by examining a myriad sources, motifs, and emotions.

 

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KHOURY - VOGT

If you meander down 30A between Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Watercolor along Florida’s Panhandle, you will stumble upon the New Urbanist—a urban design—town of Alys Beach. It is more than just some planned snowbird community; rather, it is part of a lifestyle movement that is surging like a tidal wave. Conformity resides in its ogee arches and whitewashed exteriors, the interior spaces are being nurtured and personalized through the works of a duo by the name of Marieanne Khoury and Erik Vogt. They understand that the word “vernacular,” meaning common, is not something derogatory, but instead an expression of one’s own ideology. The influence of aqueous territories like the Caribbean and Latin America can be found in their designs, and like McAlpine’s work, it can court the unexpected. Khoury believes that they can “synthesize the needs of the community with that of the individual.” That makes the pair mavens who raft a communal spirit of togetherness for their clients. Urban context is their trade, and they ply it by examining a myriad sources, motifs, and emotions.

 

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MICHAEL G. IMBER

Michael G. Imber, Architects is “a modern classical design firm based in San Antonio, Texas and San Francisco, California.” The firm looks to promote an American architecture reflective of our cultural history and modern lifestyles. Imber starts with the geography of the area where his buildings sit. The land seeps into the buildings, undulating and prevaricating, but that is fine with him. Of course, his primary concern, like Khoury and Vogt, are the needs of the client. Imber once went so far as to hire a geo-archeologist from Rome to seek out an extinct quarry in the Sahara because his client refused marble. The Texas Hill Country soon saw blocks of the precious stone arriving as, Imber relates, “whole furniture pieces, complete with numerals still carved into them for the purposes of tracking to the Roman market.” The indigenous cypress and oak cedar shrugged. Imber finds strength in historical antecedents, but he finds precision in modern means. It is a form of powerful storytelling. Architects grasp, morph, and deliver.

Most of all, architects like McAlpine, Khoury, Vogt, and Imber embody the very construction of meaning. Their environments, clients, and approaches all differ, but the cord that binds them is what the main character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead observed: “A house can have integrity, just like a person; and just as seldom.” Thus, these architects birth more than just the proverbial blueprint. In the wake of over two centuries of American residential architecture, the houses have become homes. They are reflections of what we believe about ourselves. The architect has become both archivist and soothsayer as they shepherd designs, interpret dreams, and translate raw materials into reality.