Well not exactly news actually, but news to me.  My friend Karen is an archivist of sorts…she saves, she bundles, she files…then she purges by sending off the myriad clippings and files she has saved to the people she knows are interested.  The other day this came in the mail…


And she’s right…I love quonset huts, I BRAKE for quonset huts, and of course…I photograph quonset huts.  This an article from a 2007 Architectural Digest by Alastair Gordon on a quonset hut “designed” by French architect Pierre Chareau (1883-1950)…one of two…in a complex for working and living for the artist Robert Motherwell.


Motherwell had purchased a four-acre plot in East Hampton’s estate section in 1945 for $1200.  Motherwell bought two surplus quonset hut kits from the navy in 1950 ($3000) and Chareau and Motherwell designed and imagined them into useful and beautiful structures…in exchange for Chareau being able to build a small cottage for himself on the land.  The article’s author Alastair Gordon suggests the project “was surprisingly sophisticated.  Certain elements suggested a cruder, low-budget version of Chareau’s masterwork, the Maison de Verre in Paris”, pictured below.


The metal structural members in the quonsets were painted Calder red.  The windows Chareau and Motherwell used were re-purposed green house windows.  Motherwell sold the house in 1954 to Barney Rosset, the publisher of Grove Press, who owned the house until 1980.  In 1985 the new owners announced their decision to build an “Adirondack-style” house on the lot.  “Early in the morning of Friday, August 2, 1985, the Motherwell house was bull-dozed and carted off to a local landfill.”  The demolition included both Motherwell’s house and studio (“I did the best pictures of my life there…”) and Chareau’s tiny cottage “La Petite Maison de Repos”…the only three Chareau structures in the U.S.  Thankfully photographer Hans Namuth photographed the structures in 1953.

Here’s Motherwell standing with the first of the “Spanish Elegy” series…






And here’s Rosset’s “remodel (note the spiral staircase and the brick floor)…


Thanks Karen!


  1. bonnie, another happy coincidence. we have always longed for a quonset hut studio/home. whenever we see one we slow down & gawk also even though we know that quonset dream is too far behind us now. i can hardly wait until nic sees this post. drool.

  2. I can only say , WOW! Why do we have such a penchant for tearing down and starting over? I’m glad there are a few, fine people interested in preserving beauty and history like you and Karen.

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. I spent my 4th grade in a quonset hut. Besides the inconvenience of having to walk a ways back into the school building for drinking water and restrooms, it was especially nice when it rained–you could hear every drop on the roof. Overcrowding resulted in all 3rd and 4th graders in 6 huts placed on the perimeter of the school grounds. We pledged the flag and sang “Now Here We Have Idaho” every morning–one way kids will always remember their state song!

  4. And this week Karen sent me an article on the Bloomsbury group – one of my favorite subjects! Among her many files she must also keep one on the esoteric interests of all of her friends!

  5. Pierre Chareau!! Hoorah!! I remember sneaking into the courtyard to catch a glimpse of the Maison de Verre. We got nabbed, but we did get a nice look at a wonderful thing.

  6. Here’s dancer Chloe Scott’s memory of the quonset, Motherwell and Chareau (sent via Norma):
    “Norma! Fantastic. Do I know about this quonset???? We used to eat dinner there all the time, stay up late playing poker with Bob and his darling wife Maria, and otherwise entertain ourselves and the large group of artists, writers and other misfits who lived around EH and Amagansett and Springs and other little towns out there on the end of Long Island.. The motherwells were among our closest friends. And the Chareaus were a cute, somewhat chubby, very sweet older couple. They stayed there for months in 1947 or so. They did/nt play poker! I shall copy this great article and save it. Thank you so much for sending it. Love, Chloe”

    1. Dear Chloe Scott, I wrote the article in Architectural Digest and am very interested in hearing your memories of Bob and Maria Motherwell. I am curating an exhibition and writing a full-length book about the same subject. Could I contact you directly?
      Many Thanks, Alastair Gordon

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