Mockbee Coker Architects – Seaside House

Bob Borson —  July 26, 2011 — 21 Comments

Designed in 1991 by Samuel Mockbee and Coleman Coker from Mockbee/Coker Architects, this 1,100 square foot bungalow was originally called the Kennedy House but is now called “Birdie’s”. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have noticed this house on previous trips to Seaside but had never bothered to take photos or look up the architects (that’s one side effect to having a blog – your thoughts are forced into action). So this year I made a little extra time for myself to take some good (as good as I am capable of producing) photographs along with a little research so I could talk about some of these buildings.

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside House Street Elevation

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The original clients had requested a “weekend fishing shack” except the town of Seaside has a fairly stringent set of design ordinances that govern, among other things, exterior materials. The June 2004 issue of Architectural Record, in an essay by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, Samuel Mockbee had described his architecture as contemporary Modernism grounded in Southern culture and drew inspiration from such vernacular sources as overhanging galvanized roofs, rusting metal trailers, dogtrot forms, and porches. “I’m drawn to anything that has a quirkiness to it, a mystery to it,” Mockbee said. His designs tended toward asymmetry and idiosyncrasy…” (source)

If you are familiar with the work Samuel Mockbee developed with the Rural Studio program at Auburn, you can see the early application of his design philosophy here (because this house predates the creation of the Rural Studio in 1993 by two years). I feEl like I am giving the short shrift to Coleman Coker since his name is on this project too – they were in practice together from 1983 till 2000.

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Mockbee Cocker Birdies Seaside House

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Here I am once again stalking the perimeter and lurking in windows … I suppose it’s an occupational hazard. Despite the obvious invasion of privacy involved with taking pictures and publishing them on the internet for 12.7 billion readers, I make it a rule not walk onto the property and if I see someone, I’ll introduce myself, tell them who I am, what I am doing, and ask for their permission. Luckily, nobody has ever told me no … I suppose I have an honest face (or a pathetic one). This site is more accessible than most since the house is located on the corner – but it was still difficult to get a clear view through all the vegetation surrounding the building.

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside Screen Porch Detail

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This is the screened porch that runs along most of the house that faces the public right of way. Screened porches are by no means uncommon at Seaside but this is the only one I’ve seen that had this much fun with the framing. One thing that this pattern does is that it forces you to reinterpret the way the space is enclosed and as a result, the space itself. Many screened in porches are throw-away spaces from how the people outside looking in see them. By creating a random and asymmetrical pattern, the screen wall becomes a feature element, adding substantial visual interest to the street elevation.

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside House Hidden Elevation.

Mockbee Cocker Seaside House Roof Detail

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The picture above shows a detail that over the next few years appears regularly in Mockbee’s work – the peeling back of the roof to expose the structure beneath. While the gesture may seem minor, it changes the scale and texture of the elements – breaking down the mass of the screened porch and presenting it as an assembly of componants.

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside Screen Porch Detail 2

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside House Outdoor Shower

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Since outdoor showers are present at almost all Seaside houses, I had to include a shot of the shower above. Simple, practical and effective – three desirable descriptors for any contemporary modernist.

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside House Rear Elevation

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This is the rear end of the house and the area that was modified from the original design. The square windows above were not part of the original design and the sleeping porch on the second floor level was in this location. If you care to look at the second floor plan drawing below at #10, you can see the location of the sleeping porch. Looking further down, you can also see the original elevation at this end by looking at the North Elevation drawing.

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside Rear Screen Porch

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside Rear Screen Porch Detail

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I discovered that this house was reviewed in a book I have in my architectural library – ‘The New American Cottage‘ which is where the following drawings were collected. I have provided a link towards the bottom for the book if you’re interested in having your own copy. In the 20 years since this house was originally built, little has changed. At some point, the screened sleeping porch (#10 in the plan below) was enclosed but other than that … even the paint is the same color as it was originally.

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Mockebee Coker Kennedy House plan drawings

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Mockebee Coker Kennedy House Elevation drawings

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Mockebee Coker Kennedy House Building Section

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The New American Cottage

“The New American Cottage”

written by James Trulove and Il Kim

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Mockbee Cocker Seaside House Street Elevation 2

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This is another great little project I found in Seaside – one of my favorites to accompany the Seaside Chapel by Merrill and Pastor Architects. If you find yourself in the Florida panhandle – and even if you don’t – Seaside if a destination worth visiting.

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  • Josef Svanström

    This was an interesting read!
    I’m currently mapping out a study trip to the US south (a friend/fellow student and I are going together), to study the architecture of Mockbee and Coker, and the context in which it is rooted.

    We’ll make a stop in Seaside to have a look at this house. Do you happen to know the exact address? (we live and study in Copenhagen- it’s a bit difficult for us to find out everything from here).

    best,

    Josef Svanström and Anders Hilbert

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It’s on the NorthWest corner of Butler Street and Pensacola Street in Seaside, Florida 32459 – you can look at it in Google Maps for confirmation

  • Don Armstrong

    Great photo essay and commentary – thanks! As a longtime observer and fan of Seaside and the groundswell of creative work it inspired, found your study very interesting. As an experiment in the potential of a dialectical relationship between rule and invention, Seaside has surpassed the new towns it inspired.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Don – many people are still trying to capture what Seaside created and have fallen short. There is certainly something magical about how that place came together.

  • Oscar

    Where can i find more information about the interior and all its components of this house? As well as the exact location of the house?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I don’t know where the general public can get information regarding the interior and all of it’s components – it’s a private residence.

      As far as the location goes, I believe it is on the NW corner of Butler Street and Pensacola Street (in Seaside, Florida)

  • Anya

    does anyone knows an address for this house. i cant find it!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It’s on the corner of Pensacola and Butler

  • http://www.facebook.com/jorge.soto3 Jorge Soto

    Bob,
    Thanks for the Seaside series!  I’m sure I’m not the only person that would like to see more, so please do post more photo essays.  I have been wanting to vacation in the various New Urbanist resort towns along the Florida Gulf coast for a while.
    Regarding Mockbee & Coker (and the Rural Studio), if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend that you watch the documentary “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio”: http://citizenarchitectfilm.com/ In addition to covering the great work of the Rural Studio, it contains some nice interviews with both Mockbee and Coker discussing their work together.
    - Jorge

  • http://twitter.com/collier1960 Collier Ward

    Your readers are well educated, no?

    As a (pre-Sambo) Auburn Grad I’m proud to learn more about the work of Samuel Mockbee and his associates.

    Thanks for another great post.

  • http://twitter.com/collier1960 Collier Ward

    Your readers are well educated, no?

    As a (pre-Sambo) Auburn Grad I’m proud to learn more about the work of Samuel Mockbee and his associates.

    Thanks for another great post.

  • architectrunnerguy

    Nice little series on Seaside buildings. I’m enjoying it. Thanks for the treat!
    Doug

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Doug!

      I am debating running one more – I don’t want people to get sick of the subject. I have a grab bag of images that don’t warrant a post on their own but people might like to see. I suppose I’ll make a last second decision Wednesday night!

      Cheers

      • architectrunnerguy

        Three entries with the last being a grab bag? Sounds like a perfect ending to me!

        Doug

  • http://twitter.com/jyosiv Jyotsna Sivaguru

    Great post again. Thanks ! 
    We did a studio trip to meet with the students of Rural Studio and travel around Alabama to see some of the rural studio work. One thing I noticed in those projects ( Which we tried to see as chronologically as possible) was that the work seemed to have evolved over time. From rough, highly experimental forms, structures and materials, it seemed to have an order and understanding of what works and what does not. This project reminds me of some of the later work of Rural studio. Of course, being a part of Mockbee Coker might have had something to do with it. Neat  little building -I love the peeling back of roof material to expose the structure and the frame for the porch screen. Little touches that make the building fit into the landscape. 

    Jyotsna

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Jyotsna,

      Thanks for adding your thoughts. I am currently looking into the Coker contribution portion a little more deeply but I think you are spot on about the level of refinement of this project compared to the early RS projects. I have a friend who was on the 20K House project through the Rural Studio last year and next time he is through Dallas, the subject of how the projects have changed as they’ve seen previous ones age will definitely be a topic.

      Cheers

  • Kelly in Austin

    You really need to educate yourself about Mockbee Coker and the partnership between Sambo and Coleman Coker. There is another house at Seaside by the partnership more interesting than this one. It is in phase one of the Seaside project. Coleman Coker’s office relocated to New Orleans from Memphis after Katrina. Look up Building Studio. He is currently teaching at UT Austin SOA.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for the heads up but if you’re going to bust my chops, the least you could do is tell me the name of the second unit…

       Admittedly I don’t know as much as there is to know about Mockbee Coker - until I started this piece (yesterday) I couldn’t have told you one thing about the partnership between these two men – something that I have started the process of solving.

      Thanks for letting me know there is more to look for, I’ll see what I can find. Thanks for commenting.

      Bob

      • John Hill

        Bob-
        For what it’s worth, in “Thought and Process,” the monograph on Mockbee Coker from 1995, the Kennedy House has the following project credits:
        Partner in Charge: Coleman Coker
        Project Architect: Farroll D. Hollomon
        Design Team: Sean Bryant, Samuel Mockbee
        That’s the only Seaside project in the book, so I can’t help with the other one Kelly mentioned.
        -John

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          Thanks John,

          So far I haven’t had any luck finding a second residence -

  • Kelly in Austin

    You really need to educate yourself about Mockbee Coker and the partnership between Sambo and Coleman Coker. There is another house at Seaside by the partnership more interesting than this one. It is in phase one of the Seaside project. Coleman Coker’s office relocated to New Orleans from Memphis after Katrina. Look up Building Studio. He is currently teaching at UT Austin SOA.