The Mediterranean House in America
By Lauren Weiss Bricker and Juergen Nogai
Abrams, £25.00

In the US in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, real estate agents promoted California and Florida as the nation’s “Mediterranean”. The railroads and land speculators encouraged entrepreneurs to settle here and grow Mediterranean crops.

It followed that wealthy estate owners would want Mediterranean-style houses. Architects drew on inspiration from Spain, Italy and North Africa to build grand villas where the garden formed a central feature.

In an age before power-hungry air-conditioning, nature was corralled into doing the job: houses were built taking winds and sun into account. Watery courtyards and terracotta floor tiles were cool; thick masonry walls offered good insulation and windows allowed cross ventilation.

Modern architects should take note. The Mediterranean House in America by architecture professor Lauren Weiss Bricker offers far more than humdrum “property porn”. This is not just another coffee-table tome: it is 25 “of the finest Mediterranean revival houses throughout the US” displayed in fine (albeit rather sterile) photographs accompanied with unusually detailed histories, descriptions and floor-plans.

The last house featured is billed as a 21st century take on the Mediterranean house but the similarities are tenuous. The steel and glass-sided rooms do open on to an internal courtyard and pool, it’s true, but otherwise architect Barton Myers’ award-winning house, while looking splendid, seems an anomaly.

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