This fascinating book is as much a social history as a documentation of architects working on Long Island during the period of “high Modernism,” when ideology was considered as important as space and form. Organized in chapters devoted to individual architects, rather than in a coherent thematic order, the book includes a surprising number of well-known architects who built on Long Island, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Antonin Raymond, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Paul Rudolph, and Marcel Breuer.
Disappointing, although not entirely unexpected, is the almost total absence of women, with only one, Jane Yu, noted among the 25 chapters. This points to one of the unexpressed themes of the book—that Long Island architecture during this time, perhaps mirroring the contemporary culture, was an unrepentant old-boys network where backroom connections were the main means of procuring work. Wallace Harrison, a close friend of Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Robert Moses, looms large in this context. Virtually all the major commissions covered in the book—from the SUNY campus at Stony Brook to the one at Old Westbury—went to architects who had either worked for or were connected to Harrison. Mies, following in his habit of bedding female clients such as Edith Farnsworth, continued with the artist Mary Callery, doing a strangely Zen/Tudor barn renovation for her in Huntington in 1950. Quirky, wealthy women provided patronage to the arts in general; for example, Marian Willard opened her 300-acre estate in Locust Valley to Fernand Léger and others. She hired Josep Llu's Sert, then offered a property to the architect and his wife for their own Modernist house. Besides Richard Meier, Percival Goodman is the token Jewish architect, presented mainly for his 1950s Modernist synagogues that established the typology for this postwar-period structure. African-American architects seem to have been nonexistent at the time; if there were any on Long Island, they aren't mentioned here.