Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Addison Mizner's Latest Project

Anyone who has ever been to South Florida knows the name Addison Mizner. Mr. Mizner, who died in 1933, is the only architect to complete more projects in death than in life. If he could Google himself from the heavens, he would be proud to find over 30,000 results... or, maybe he'd sue for misappropriation of his name.

Today, just about every developer of apartment complexes, shopping centers and country clubs "borrows" Mizner's name, along with a gross bastardization of the great architect's design elements. One offender is Mizner's best-known project, The Boca Raton Club (as it was named in 1925). While being passed around various real estate investors, this once charming lakeside hotel erected an ominous pink skyscraper in the late 1960s. Retained are still some of the original charming areas like the mosaic fountain garden just beneath the tower but even that area is adorned with a large green vinyl awning.

So, imagine my expression when I was hired to shoot the new Grand Del Mar resort near San Diego, arriving to find a familiar "Mizneresque" style of architecture. This Mizner project, however, seemed much different than the others.

As we went through our shoot days, I noticed that despite the large scale of the resort, none of the individual areas seemed too big. Intimate living room spaces, hallways that lead to special views, staircases that wind down underneath spectacular chandeliers... someone actually thought through these things. The Moorish archways, pinkish exterior, Spanish tile roofs and an elegant motorcourt all made me feel like I was in Florida circa 1925. (The only difference was seeing the California mountains and not having to eat mosquitoes during dusk and dawn shots).

The Grand Del Mar is Mizner's best work in 75 years.

The actual project architect is Robert Altevers who, according to his wife Lyla, studied Mizner's style from old project plans and photographs. As I told Lyla, her husband did a great job of interpreting Mizner's style and design elements. It really feels like Mizner, who appreciated the warmth of Spanish villas and Mediterranean patios. Sure, there are some modern elements that take away a bit of the charm but I'm probably too idealistic to be objective about the technical requirements of a modern resort facility. Anything short of actual time travel is just not good enough.

That's probably why I take pictures for a living.

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