Every house-hunter can sympathize with Associate Editor Lee E. Thompson, the discoverer of Moonhole (page 42), for she house-hunts 365 days a year. Lee and her colleagues in our DESIGN FOR SPORT department search for something far more difficult to find than the average couple's ideal little bungalow. "What we want," says Lee, "are houses meant for fun, houses built for or by people who want their favorite sport close at hand, houses that are different from what one might build in a more conventional setting. We look for houses open to the outdoors, comparatively free of maintenance problems and with new design ideas. The owners should be sportif and attractive."
The trick is to find the houses in the first place. To do so Lee exploits many sources: architects and designers ("the most un-publicity-conscious professional people I know—which makes it hell on wheels to find out who is building what"); our own correspondents; architectural journals; and a battalion of friends who are admonished to keep their eyes peeled as they ski, sail, fly or scuba past unusual dwellings.
When the fund of tips is low, Lee goes out scouting herself. Remote targets sometimes require ingenious methods of communication, as in the case of the Moonhole house down in the Windward Islands. Since owners Tom and Gladys Johnston live one island away from the nearest post office, Lee at first talked to them by means of notes sent with passing boats.
But now and again the DESIGN FOR SPORT crew is lucky enough to have a marriage of ideas with an architect. Some of our most successful structures were designed especially for SI. The Perfect House on the Water, Peter Blake's ski chalet, the honeycomb house and the Ideal Yacht Club all were built first for us.
Design for sport also has reported communities built for leisure (Hilton Head), a resort on the water (Sea Ranch), luxury hotels for the beachcomber (Hawaii's Mauna Kea), architecture for spectator sport (the new Madison Square Garden), and an underwater hotel.
The unceasing boom in leisure architecture leaves Lee little leisure of her own in the Thompson weekend home—a beat-up old farmhouse in Mahopac, N.Y. which she and her husband, Edward K. Thompson, the editor of LIFE, fixed up as a get-away-from-it-all haven.
Lee began at Time Inc. as a college trainee in 1942, went on to work 18 years for LIFE as a researcher, picture editor and war correspondent ("That meant a uniform, lots of work in France and Germany, but not much war"). She covered India's fight for independence and civil war with David Douglas Duncan and Margaret Bourke-White, worked on art projects in Italy, toured Greece to check on the efficacy of the Marshall Plan, and stood amazed at the profuse concubinage of the late El Glaoui in Morocco. In 1961 she came to SI.
Many an architectural confidence has been pried out of a contented designer who was wined and dined by Lee. She is something of a gastronome, and claims that knowledge of where to find the latest in leisure living should logically comprise the ability to locate the best in the field of bird and bottle.
DESIGN FOR SPORT'S LEE THOMPSON