Modernism is not one style fits all. Architects often start with the fundamentals of the style and adapt them to suit their own climate and environment. Tropical modernism is one such adaptation. It takes its oversized windows, high ceilings, and clean lines from traditional modernism, while adding warm woods and emphasizing the outdoors in its designs.
Historic examples of tropical modernism can be found throughout the world, from architect Vladimir Ossipoff ’s Liljestrand House—a Honolulu home built to exacting standards in 1952 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places—to Toro Ferrer Arquitectos’ many Puerto Rican landmarks built in the 1940s and ’50s.
Not surprisingly, many of these tweaks to the style are to capitalize on the sea views in the tropics, says Jan Eric Horn, executive director of the architectural division of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in Del Mar, Calif.
Being able to enjoy sea views and breezes is paramount to buyers from Bora Bora to the Bahamas, he explains. Those desires led to walls of glass and spaces that bring the outside in. Details like beamed ceilings and wood floors are often added to bring more character to the home.
Some adjustments to the traditional modernism style have been out of necessity.