In 1946, Robertson “Happy” Ward, the famed mid-century modernist, embarked on the Caribbean’s most successful architectural endeavor: erecting the Mill Reef Club in Antigua, West Indies. At a time when images of nuclear war stalked the American imagination and the great American architects were preoccupied with the grimmer strains of modernism—skyscrapers, airports, and bunkers—Ward rebelled: in the Mill Reef Club, he somehow monumentalized American whimsy.
For over sixty years, the Mill Reef Club has been the most celebrated private resort in the Caribbean. Its reputation for prizing grace, rum punches, and unforced intellectualism endures to this day; indeed, this is what people mean by “Mill Reef style.” This achievement is Ward’s; from the first, Ward’s vision was as sociological as it was architectural. All architecture is social engineering. Ward was determined to engineer a society in which pretension was impossible, nature was undeniable, and pleasures were infinite. Mill Reef Style presents an illustrated study of that amazing vision.
Elizabeth Ballantine is a lawyer and journalist living in McLean, Virginia.
Stephen S. Lash is chairman emeritus of Christie's in New York.
Richard Cheek has devoted his career to recording the visual history of American architecture and landscape design through photography. He is the author of fourteen photographic books.