Barry Dierks - Eclectic Architect
Winston Churchill wrote: ‘We shape our dwellings and afterwards our dwellings shape us’. This certainly applied to Barry Dierks and Eric Sawyer, for the house they built into the terra cotta rocks of the Esterel was intertwined in the story of their lives. Even accessing their new home was dramatic. One entered by a simple gate from a slip road off the Corniche d'Or at Miramar, and descended around thirty steps to reach the house entrance, with its panelled double front door framed in stone and heavily nailed, all in the Provençal style. The door handle was in the shape of a sinuous sea creature in bronze, the keyhole underneath framed by the head of a sea nymph, flanked by two fishes – all thoroughly traditional. It was imperative the finished house should act as a showcase for Barry’s talents, a place so striking it would draw potential clients to first admire and then commission his designs. He had trained in the neo-classical style of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris, and this influence was not abandoned. His designs were frequently modern but not purely so. He needed to show his capabilities and in this he was shrewd and far-sighted. The villa would incorporate various architectural details which served as examples of his craft.
Beyond the front door were bedrooms, a servant’s room and a bathroom. Over the narrow bedroom corridor was an exquisite arched and grooved ceiling in Moorish style. Starkly white, the contrast with the black tiled floor below was dramatic, while above the stair head a Moorish lamp hung from the centre of a star shaped vaulting.
Living quarters were on the lower floor. From here French windows opened onto a loggia, again with Moorish influences, having three arches giving onto a terrace which overlooked the rocks and the sea far below.
The roof was a flat solarium, mandatory for modernist villas, but sporting on the sea side a small arch housing a bell in the style of a Spanish mission. A tall, angular chimney stack in art deco style served the indoor fireplaces. Windows and French doors were neoclassical and paned, sometimes with arched frames. A small Venetian-style balcony and protective parapets sported urn-shaped uprights. An outside staircase was strikingly modern. It was all there, prospective clients had only to pick and choose their style. Barry would do much more, but it was here he first laid out his stall.
Barry and Eric named their villa Le Trident and carved an emblem of a three-pronged spear into the keystone above the front door. It remained virtually unchanged for 89 years.
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