Somewhere beyond fabulous lives the architecture of William Morgan–a modernist builder taught by the ultimate modernist master, Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus. Having created over 200 sites in his 50 year career, presented herein is a select photo essay of his works. All images courtesy of William Morgan Architects
James House: Located in Atlantic Beach, Florida, the Alvin D. and Harriet L. James House was commissioned in 1960 and completed in 1962. It is Morgan’s first residential project, launching his independent career 50 years ago. Recalling that the house was built for $8.50 a square foot, Morgan says “What could one do and still have architecture in the end. It cost around $15,000…an average cost back then. But, to introduce a two story space and bridge that ran between towers, for such a modest house, was remarkable. That building always elevates my spirits to walk in…it’s a good house.
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Williamson House: The Dan H. Williamson House in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida is a 4140 sf. commissioned completed in 1964. The home was featured in Architectural Record May of that same year.
Goodloe House: An icon of the modernist era’s most geometric, minimalistic vein, this 1965 house built for George M. Goodloe in Pointe Vedra, Florida, holds true to Morgan’s “Earth Architecture” principles; constructed on land abandoned by former property owners who prior fled after a terrible hurricane severely damaged the natural landscape. In rescuing this neglected beachfront land, Morgan integrated a heavily eroded, broken dune into the foundation, allowing it to function as an organic, terra plinth. Similarly, this is seen with Morgan’s own house and others, like the Dune Houses.
Seaplace Apartments: An elevated structure spanning a streetscape and multiple pedestrian areas, built in Atlantic Beach, Florida, this oceanfront complex contains 100 units. The structure has cedar-planked siding and cantilevered balconies, with four evenly spaced courtyards for its inhabitants.
William Morgan House: An A-Frame made of timber construction, which sits asymmetrically atop a half-eroded sand dune, Morgan commissioned his firm for his family home in 1971; completed in 1972. Situated in close proximity to the Goodloe House, this supine, multi-storied, triangular structure is located in Atlantic Beach, Florida.
Florida State Museum of Natural History: Commissioned and built 1969 to 1971 in Gainesville, Florida, on an irregular-shaped, neglected piece of property that prior served as a diagonal walkway for students to access other essential parts of the campus, Morgan’s L-shaped design incorporates the natural landscape into the built environment with grass-covered earth in sculpted mounds that serve as open-air gathering platforms, walkways and stairways. These outdoor spaces, which are interconnected, lead to various entrance points of the building. A substantial, very important civic site in Morgan’s career, he recalls the building and plaza’s being erected at $21 per square foot—extremely efficient even in those days.
Pyramid Condominium: Commissioned by John S. Whatley, this residential building—located in Ocean Front, Maryland—was commissioned in 1971 and completed in 1975. The building’s form echoes a steeply-stacked, ziggurat pyramid, with undulated sloped sides of interlaced, cantilevered balconies, which direct the eye from earth to sky.
Police Administration Building: Located in Jacksonville, Florida, this Roche and Dickenloo inspired building draws inspiration from the Oakland Museum in California. A complex yet rhythmic interplay of stepped profiles in deeply-banded gray and white concrete make up the breezeways and courtyards of this stately, modernist structure, complete with rooftop gardens. And while built for the purposes of housing law-enforcement activities, the built environment serves dually as a well-organized, civic venue for impromptu outdoor activities with ample seating to be used for informal meetings, study areas, picnicking and/or play spaces for kids. Design/Completion 1971-1975
Hilltop House: The Wayne Thomas House, aka the Hilltop House, Brooksville FL. The Hilltop House embodies functionality and idealism as a man-made structure built both within and above the earth. Cast-in-place concrete with sloped retaining earth berm walls. Laminated wood beams support low-slung, pyramidal roof made from planked wood. 3,500 sf. Commissioned 1972 – Completed 1975.
Dune Houses: Located next door to Morgan’s own family home in Atlantic Beach, Florida, this curvaceous, subterranean duplex was designed and constructed 1974-1975, and is literally built inside a dune. Morgan says “I thought we could preserve the live vegetation…see in a shape how big/how high that natural feature would be. Then we imagined taking that shape and building within the earth two cave-like structures with large openings toward the ocean front. The wall shapes came from a thought of mine from my navy days; having been in submarines below the water line. You notice that the hulls are always curved.”
Forest House: Built for Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Dickinson, the home was commissioned and completed 1977-1979. The construction of the space–consisting of two adjacent, berm-walled, truncated pyramid forms connected by a thin breezeway–is inspired by pre-Columbian, American Indian architectural design.
Tree House: A project fitting of its name that began in 1979 and was completed in 1983, this vertically-sculpted, treescaped structure—to scale with the natural canopy–was conceptualized as a prototype for higher-density residential living. Featuring thin vertical strips of cedar siding, exposed wood rafters and a plank ceiling, the home is located in Atlantic Beach, Florida.
Westinghouse Headquarters: At 275,000 square feet, this arc-shaped, concrete structure is built into a gently sloping hillside, allowing it to hug the contour of the land. The building and corporate campus, located in Orlando, Florida, was commissioned in 1980 and completed three years later.
Drysdale House: Highly functional and elegant, while remaining understated and simplistic, this Atlantic Beach residence is emblematic of Morgan’s vernacular of earth and air synthesized in the built environment. With a petite footprint of twin concrete towers spanned by enclosed bridges for living, the home has a total of four stories that meld together in a unified, sculpted form, capped by a pair of opposed, cantilevered balconies and a squat, long-eaved roof reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style. The home was commissioned and built 1995-1996.
The Francis and Diane Lot House, aka “Sealoft”: This supine home, whose owner says “is the signature home of the Amelia Islands”, is as well, Morgan’s final completed project. Interior concrete towers support and balance the whole of the wood-frame structure. Frontage faces street, rear faces beach with swimming pool in between, doubling as reflection pool. “Sealoft” is an extraordinary study in light, which brings cosmic rotation within the residence, allowing the space to function as a solar clock, much in the same way that obelisks and sundials once did in eons past (VIDEO). Mr. Lott is himself schooled in architecture, and he and his wife are both avid art collectors. Commissioned in 2004 and completed in 2006.