BUILDING A DAY: October 22, 2014
Royal Road House
Coconut Grove, Florida
Architect: Alfred Browning Parker
Photos: University of Florida Digital Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries
?This Florida House aims at the highest goal to which architecture may aspire: organic architecture. Along this new but ancient way a home where the enlightened mind can flower, where people can develop their fullest potentials, is still a possibility.
?Frank Lloyd Wright on describing the Royal Road House designed by Alfred Browning Parker in ?House Beautiful? magazine, 1953.
Alfred Browning Parker, whose architectural career spanned seven decades was one of a group of ?tropical modernist? architects who practiced in Florida after WWII. He received international notoriety for his designs that engaged a regional architectural identity that responded sensitively to the subtropical climate, local terrain and foliage, and changing social patterns of post-WWII America. His architecture was greatly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s ?Organic Architecture? and was the only architect recommended by Wright as an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Fellow – an honor that ?recognizes architects who have made a significant contribution to both architecture and the greater society, achieving a standard of excellence in architecture at both a local and national level.?
House Beautiful magazine, the leading home magazine during the 1950s and 1960s, introduced his work nationally in its influential Pace Setter series. Three of Parker’s residences were chosen as Pace Setter homes, more than any other architect.
Throughout his long career he received numerous national, international and local awards including national and regional AIA awards. Recent awards include having his former Miami home, ‘Woodsong,’ being recognized by the British design magazine Wallpaper in 2005 as one of their “Top 10 Houses of the World,? the only house selected from North America. In 2007 the city of Hollywood awarded Parker the ?Historic Preservation Award: Architect of the Year, ?and the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Alfred Browning Parker died on March 11, 2011 on the same day he was being commemorated by the Dade Heritage Trust as a ?Living Legend.?
The Royal Road residence was designed by Parker in 1950 was the first of three Parker houses to be selected as the House Beautiful Pace Setter House. Elizabeth Gordon, the editor of House Beautiful magazine encouraged Parker to design all the furniture and fixtures for the home and featured the home over 143 pages in the issue.
The Royal Road site was challenging: a long and narrow lot (91 feet by 715 feet) that flooded during hurricanes, had restrictive deed restrictions and privacy issues – the property was bordered by a boy’s school and busy road. Yet Parker subscribed to the writings of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ?Prescription for a Modern House? including the direction to ?Find a good site, but pick one at the most difficult spot – pick a site no one wants – but pick one that has features making for character: trees, individuality, a fault of some kind in the realtor mind.?
The house is sited with its longest elevation parallel to the shore overlooking Biscayne Bay. He designed the home for prevailing breezes, with southern exposure to capture the summer shade and winter sun. Parker wanted the home to ?strengthen, exploit, and extend the landscape.?
The home features three staggered horizontal concrete slabs that were molded from formworks lent by Rufus Nims and were anchored at each end with monolithic limestone walls that were rusticated for effect and helped to guide the view to the home’s predominant feature: the view to the bay.
The cantilever design expanded the living space with wide balconies and deep overhangs that provided protection from the sun and tropical rainstorms. The roof deck was designed as an outdoor living area furnished with dance floor, sky garden and a small pavilion that served as a guesthouse or studio. Mahogany persianas (floor-to-ceiling louvered doors) opened to the balconies and provided a continuous flow to the outside space.