Was there ever a more optimistic time in the US of A than the 1950s? Seems like a lot of thought went into the swell future with push-button homes and jet-engined cars (some fly, some don’t) in the garage. Architect Paul Laszlo had his own vision of living in 2004 as seen from 1954:
TIME: Rich Man’s Architect
In a brilliant entry, Build LLC’s Build Blog has posted the “10 Forgotten Lessons” that were fundamental to modern architecture in the Mid-Century.
The lessons were taken from a tour of a well-preserved home designed by Paul Kirk (see another Paul Kirk house here). Here are a few of the 10 Lessons:
- Keep it simple.
- Connecting the inside to the outside creates harmony with the site.
- Let nature do the work.
We think the pics below are good examples of these lessons.
Update – Tour the Ford House
- Save Wright will be holding an open house at the Ford House on July 13 from 3:00 to 6:00. Go to Save Wright for more details.
From LIFE Magazine (1951):
Architect Bruce Goff, one of the few U.S. architects whom Frank Lloyd Wright considers creative, scorns houses that are “boxes with little holes.” But he likes circles, believing that a circle is “an informal, gathering-around, friendly form.” Working on this theory, he designed a house for the Albert Fords of Aurora, lll. which makes most modern houses look quaint.
The house consists of a huge, domed center circle, 166 feet around. and two semicircular bedroom wings, all shaped by steel arches made of standard Quonset ribs. At the base of the center sphere, which is built on three levels, is a curved cannel coal wall, treated against smudging and weathering. For sparkle, this wall is studded with ordinary playing marbles and with numerous 100-pound clusters of bright glass cullets, a hardened waste product periodically cleaned from glass furnaces.
Navy surplus rope covers the horizontal ceilings. Cypress siding, laid in a herringbone pattern, lines part of the domes and walls. There are no windows, so ventilation is provided by hinged louvres and ceiling vents. Chief hazards of the main living space are the glass walls, which carry out Goff’s theory of “space moving inside and out.” To keep guests from trying to follow suit Mrs. Ford is growing succulent plants in ditches outside the glass walls.
The house, which cost $64,000, delights its owners. Mr. Ford, who is a gas-company executive, likes the doorless carport (“No trouble now to put the car away”); Mrs. Ruth Van Sickle Ford, who is the director of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, is pleased to have a balcony studio where she can paint, a gallery where she can hang pictures and plenty of room where she can entertain-all in a house that requires little care. Friends and curious passers-by are often less delighted. While building was in progress so many people came to gape at what they variously called the “big apple,” “birdcage,” “dome” or “hangar” that the Fords posted a sign reading, “We don’t like your house either.”
MidCentArc Ford House Flickr Set
Bruce Goff bio w/More Links
Paul Ringstrom’s Ford House Set on Flickr
Ready for a another athlete’s home? You already got an insider’s view of Willie Mays’ pad from the 60s, so let’s see how Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain pushed the limits of mod living as shown in Life from March 24, 1972 and the January 1974 issue of Ebony. The architect was David Tenneson Rich who has the story of his involvement on his site.
Here’s more info from Big Time Listings when the house was sold in 2007:
“Built in 1971, the five-bedroom, 7,158-square-foot contemporary-style house at 15216 Antelo Place in Bel-Air was built by Chamberlain, who lived there until his death in 1999. TV writers George Meyer and Maria Semple purchased the house from Chamberlain’s estate in 2002 for nearly $3 million, and have owned it ever since. The house has attracted much attention over the years—both with this listing and in 2000-2002, when Chamberlain’s estate was trying to unload it, first for $7.45 million and later reducing its asking price to $4.38 million. The house’s unconventional (some might say tacky) features include a gold-lined hot tub, a retractable mirrored ceiling above the master bed, a swimming pool that flows into the living room, walls of glass, 40-foot ceilings, a wrap-around pool, and a balcony suspended over the living room, according to listing information. Other features include five and a half baths and teak finishes, according to listing information.
The house sits on a 2.58-acre parcel that has ocean and city views, according to public records and listing information.”
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Here we have a home designed and built 63 years ago (1947) by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (designed by William Friedman and Hilde Reiss, Walker staff members, and local architect Malcolm Lein). It was part of a program to demonstrate the museum director’s “art-in-use” belief that a house should be art and that art could be functional.
In 1948, Life magazine selected an average American family to live in the house and provide feedback on modern living. The Stensrud family (Rockwell, Janet, Susan & Rocky Jr), moved from their conventional home to live modern for a week.
Even though they had issues with some elements of modernism, such as not enough decoration, it seems that they were taken by the openness and the connection with the outdoors. It made them realize that their traditional home was poorly planned with dark, boxy rooms.
What I like about this house is that there are no futuristic gadgets or unobtainable materials. It is a straightforward demonstration of what modern architecture in houses could be. It’s a shame that got lost somewhere.
I wonder if this could be done today? It seems strange, but an average 21st Century family living in a traditional home would probably have the same experience if they lived for a week in a modern house.
Enjoy the pictures and the articles below. The first set is from the Oct. 18, 1948 issue of Life with photos by Joseph Scherschel. The second set comes out of McCall’s Book of Modern Homes (1951).
Click on the pics for the whole set on Flickr, where you can view much larger versions:
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