written by:
December 31, 2013
Originally published in Prefab Now
as
Ready-Made Retreat
Constructed in 1961, Richard Meier’s first residential project is a nascent example of the modern prefab typology.
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  “Saul, being an artist, had a strong idea about what he liked and didn’t like. He wanted light, clean spaces, and that’s what Richard Meier was able to do.” — Joanna Underwood. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.  Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects..

    “Saul, being an artist, had a strong idea about what he liked and didn’t like. He wanted light, clean spaces, and that’s what Richard Meier was able to do.” — Joanna Underwood. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.

    Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects..
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  When illustrator and artist Saul Lambert approached Richard Meier with a budget of about $10,000, the architect turned to a Michigan prefabricated log cabin manufacturer: “I figured, if they could do it for a log cabin, they could do it for a modern home!” Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
    When illustrator and artist Saul Lambert approached Richard Meier with a budget of about $10,000, the architect turned to a Michigan prefabricated log cabin manufacturer: “I figured, if they could do it for a log cabin, they could do it for a modern home!” Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
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  The wall of windows and simple floor plan appealed to Lambert so much that he kept a snapshot of the house on his studio’s bulletin board for years after selling it. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
    The wall of windows and simple floor plan appealed to Lambert so much that he kept a snapshot of the house on his studio’s bulletin board for years after selling it. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
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  Onsite assembly of the structure was finished in a mere nine days. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
    Onsite assembly of the structure was finished in a mere nine days. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
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  Lambert's widow, Joanna Underwood, sent Dwell a photo of the house ("now old and faded") that the artist kept on the wall of his studio until his death in 2009.
    Lambert's widow, Joanna Underwood, sent Dwell a photo of the house ("now old and faded") that the artist kept on the wall of his studio until his death in 2009.
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iconic modern lambert house

“Saul, being an artist, had a strong idea about what he liked and didn’t like. He wanted light, clean spaces, and that’s what Richard Meier was able to do.” — Joanna Underwood. Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.

Image courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects..
Architect 

The Lambert House is named for its first owner, Saul Lambert, a New York City artist and illustrator who shared many of architect Richard Meier’s modernist ideals. Lambert’s widow, Joanne Underwood, recalls the early design process: “Saul had a strong idea about what he liked and didn’t like. Plain and geometric, light and clean proportions—and that’s what Meier was able to do.”

The architect met Lambert’s needs by keeping things functional for the modest 1,425-square-foot beach house, using walls of windows to bring in natural light and sticking to a simple floor plan. The home is the pinnacle of affordable living, with its built-in kitchen and beds. “All you need is a few chairs,” Meier says.

iconic Lambert prefab exterior
When illustrator and artist Saul Lambert approached Richard Meier with a budget of about $10,000, the architect turned to a Michigan prefabricated log cabin manufacturer: “I figured, if they could do it for a log cabin, they could do it for a modern home!” Photo courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects.
Looking back, the architect still feels “very proud” of his early project, and, as for the future of prefab, he remains optimistic. “It depends on where it is and what it’s for—it can be very appropriate in some parts of the world.”

The Lambert House underwent significant changes after it was bought and renovated by Hollywood duo Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, who added two bedrooms, a second floor, and shingled siding. The original beach house is still remembered for its influence on 1960s modernism across Long Island and stands out as an early icon in Meier’s career.

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