Arcadia/Suburbia Exhibition: Heckscher Museum

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Exhibition by Erik Neil at the Heckscher Museum, USA

Arcadia Exhibition – Heckscher Museum New York Architecture Information

Mar 2, 2010

Arcadia/Suburbia : The Modern House on Long Island 1930-2010

Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY

Arcadia Exhibition dates : until 12 Apr 2010


Curated by Erik H. Neil PhD, the exhibition Arcadia/Suburbia: The Modern House on Long Island 1930-2010 presents a new narrative of the history of modern architecture on Long Island in the 20th century. Charting the coeval development of Modernism and Suburbia, the show considers works by prominent architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph and John Hejduk, as well as houses by many talented but less well-known Long Island architects who embraced Modernism. The range of projects examined moves beyond the traditional boundaries of Modernism to encompass key examples of Post- Modern and Contemporary architecture. The exhibition includes many previously unpublished drawings, photographs and models.

Beckhard House c.1964 designed by Herbert Beckhard (an associate of Marcel Breuer) in Glen Cove:
Beckhard House
photo K. Wheeler courtesy Loeb Library, Harvard University, image from the Arcadia Exhibition curator

For the purposes of the Arcadia/Suburbia exhibition, the history of modernist residential architecture is structured into three periods: I. Pioneers of the 1930s, II. Post- War Modernism 1946 – 1970, III. Modernisms since 1970. It does not give extensive coverage of the vacation homes of the East End.

Beginning in the late-1920s and through the 30s, several architects like Albert Frey, A. Lawrence Kocher, Edward Durrell Stone, and Wallace Harrison built cutting edge weekend homes for themselves or their clients. Kocher + Frey’s avant-garde Aluminaire House was one of the most famous homes in America when it was erected in Long Island. Other architects like Wright and Percival Goodman built or designed homes that were intended for the middleclass.

Rebhuhn House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright c.1938 in Glen Cove:
Rebhuhn House
photo : Erik H. Neil, image from the Arcadia Exhibition curator

From the mid-1940s through the 50s and 60s, the population exploded on Long Island and the character of the region transformed from agrarian to suburban. The demographic growth and change would lead to new architectural developments. There was a renewed interest in housing that coincided with the Post-War economic boom and the creation of new suburban communities.

The most famous of these was undoubtedly Levittown, Long Island. An infrastructure of parkways and commuter rail lines linked the region more closely to the city. The changes in Long Island coincided with a national concern about new housing that expressed itself in special exhibitions and competitions dedicated to model homes. Long Island also became home to works by internationally recognized masters of Modernism such as Marcel Breuer, José Lluis Sert, Richard Neutra, Philip Johnson and John Hejduk. In the same period, talented local architects built and published outstanding projects.

Long Beach Cottage 2010 by RES4:
Lido Beach House
photo © RES4

In the 1970s adherence to Modernist principles wavered. Some architects like Richard Meier continued to utilize the language of Modernism. Paul Rudolph diverged from the doctrine and pursued his own vision. Charles Moore and Robert Venturi rebelled against the conventions of the movement. All of them built important residences on Long Island in the 1970s and 80s. Most recently firms like Steven Holl and RES4 have reconciled with Modernism and forged a new path in their projects on Long Island. All of these buildings deserve to be recognized, studied, and preserved.

Arcadia/Suburbia Exhibition image / information from Joseph Tanney

Location: Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY, USA

Architecture in USA

Contemporary Architecture in USA

New York Building News

Since receiving his PhD in the History of Art & Architecture from Harvard University in 1995 Erik Neil has curated a broad range of exhibitions including shows on 18th century French Follies, 19th century photographs of New Orleans, and the ongoing traditions of Landscape in American painting and photography. He has organized exhibitions of the work of contemporary artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Michal Rovner, and Tony Oursler & Jacqueline Humphries among many others.

Neil has written extensively on the Renaissance and Baroque Architecture of Sicily as well as diverse subjects in the history of photography and modern and contemporary architecture. From 1999 to 2006 he was the Director of the Newcomb Art Gallery of Tulane University. He is also a graduate of Princeton University (1986) and the Getty Museum Leadership Institute (2003). Currently he lives in New York and works as an independent curator and writer.

A fully illustrated catalogue, Long Island Moderns, accompanies the exhibition. It includes essays on the development of Modern Architecture on Long Island (Erik Neil), Levittown (Sandy Isenstadt), and artists working in the region in the 20th century (Ken Wayne). The University Press of New England distributes the 128-page book.

Contents: Approximately 90 works including original drawings, models, vintage and modern photographs, furniture, and contemporary publications.

For information about the Heckscher Museum including hours, directions, and fees please call 631.351.3250 or visit

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