Southampton Village is home to a wonderful assortment of gates. I know this may seem a cliché subject, what with all the gate calendars in the world, but you can’t help but notice them as they are practically everywhere around here, on large and small properties alike. While some may interpret them as elitist symbols of social status, I think of them as being like earrings: lovely accessory embellishments adding a bit of sparkle to one’s public appearance. Some are solid and foreboding saying anything but “Welcome.” Others are light and open with creative scrollwork highlighting their pride and craftsmanship. Others may be contemporary and sculptural testing the boundaries of gate design, and at the opposite spectrum exist rustic gates made with undressed twigs from the property.
The preponderance of the appearance of gates in Southampton Village is relatively recent, I would say about 1920 is when they really started popping up. Of course there were gates before, on very prestigious estates, and on farms to keep animals contained, but by 1940 driveway entry gates were definitely a trend.
Since I began attending the Village Architectural Review Board meetings in late 2008 the board has been relatively open-minded about gate styles and materials, with a few exceptions. Gate posts that have lights are a particularly sensitive subject, and the board prefers gates that are more transparent than solid (so that now we can have a better view of parked cars!). The percentages of transparency aren’t dictated in the codes of course. It’s strange that this board can be so picky and firm about gates and balconies, but then completely spineless when it comes to a house’s appropriateness or harmoniousness within its context. Then again, they’ve been sued for the latter, which might explain things.
I once wrote about balconies because I was frustrated that this board was – in effect - trying to eliminate an historic architectural feature prominent in this village since the 1800s. I am not frustrated by their gate tendencies but would myself prefer that gates weren’t even regulated by the ARB. Why not just open it up and let creativity flourish? How about glass gates (tempered of course) and ranch style gates and blue or pink gates? How about a Zaha Hadid designed gate, or a custom McKenzie Childs gate? How about a gate competition sponsored by the Village every year? In an area rich with architectural marvels, modern and historic, a design competition would be perfectly at home and appropriate. The ARB has a lot of other more pertinent issues to focus on, particularly appropriateness. Let’s let gates have more opportunity for expression.