Here’s a gem that was on the Dallas market a year or two ago. This is (was) the Hayes Residence, designed by Harold E. Prinz and LeVere Brooks in 1956. Recently, I discovered some b&w pics taken when the house was new, so I decided to do a little then and now comparison. The b&w photos are by Maynard Parker and are from the Huntington Library. Clicking on the b&w pics will get you a high-res shot and the color ones will take you to my Prinz & Brooks Flickr set to see more.
Another one of our favorites here is George Masumoto’s Lipman Residence. Located in Richmond, Virginia, it was built in 1957. This “split-level” was included in the book Contemporary Houses Evaluated by Their Owners (1961). Here’s a pdf of that article: background-of-simplicity-lipman-residence-matsumoto
When you’ve only seen a house in photos taken 50 years ago, you’re not sure if you want to see it in its present-day condition. So, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the Daphne house looking kept up (if a little overgrown) and still looking like its original self.
Nicholas and Virginia Daphne commissioned Craig Ellwood to design their house in the late 50s after trying unsuccessfully to work with Frank Lloyd Wright on a house design. In 1953, Mr. Daphne had visited and admired Ellwood’s Case Study House No. 16.
Nice article from the folks at The Globe And Mail about the restoration and expansion of an mcm house built in 1956. The architect was Robert R. McKee from Vancouver. There’s practically no info about him online, though the name seems familiar. The expansion was carried out by Nick Milkovich, a frequent collaborator with Arthur Erickson. Wish there were more pics.
The Globe And Mail article:
‘Every time it snows,” says Bruce Stuart, “I put on Mike Oldfield’s recording of Tubular Bells, then watch the snowflakes drift down into the glass courtyard.”
The theme from The Exorcist may be a fitting musical accompaniment to watching flakes dart and dance, but the house pride of Mr. Stuart and wife Marg is the tune that truly resonates here.
We are gazing at the 16-foot-square, glassed-in, snow-collecting courtyard at the centre of their modernist, Palm Springs-style house, designed by Vancouver architect R.R. McKee in 1956 for Stanley Woroway, owner of a beauty supplies company.
Mr. Stuart, a management consultant, and his wife, an interior designer, have restored the Endowment Lands home and added an extension. With its flavour of the 1960s desert retreats of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., the Stuart home stands in stark contrast to a woodsy West Coast-style house next door, designed by Ron Thom.
While the Stuart home’s window proportions and eave-height run of slatted sun-screens are carefully worked out, the plan of this squared-out house on a large lot with spectacular view could hardly be simpler: A square doughnut of living spaces and bedrooms around the central courtyard, the perimeter panorama wall overlooking Burrard Inlet set in continuous glass.
From the get-go, this was a house for light-worshippers, but the daily stream of photons proved too much for the previous owners. “They had three layers of heavy drapes,” recalls Ms. Stuart, “so the first thing we did was get rid of all of them.”
The Stuarts and their two sons moved from a Kerrisdale Victorian ex-farmhouse to this mid-century modern home in 2002. The Modern Movement in architecture wanted to break down previous conventions – even family life itself – in its tradition-questioning cult of the new. For the Stuarts, the open plan and visual connection between rooms meant adjusting to more noise and less privacy.
“At first it was like living in a glass yurt,” says Mr. Stuart, at ease in his luminous living room, “but we all adjusted, then came to love it.” Some things were harder to accept, such as running his globe-girdling consulting business from the only office space available – a windowless basement.
As the couple began planning their renovation/extension, Ms. Stuart drew upon her training at the University of Manitoba, where an interior design classmate was the now-famous Patricia Patkau. The two pursued their studies in the Russell Building, architect Jim Donahue’s superb academic pavilion inspired by Mies van der Rohe. At the centre of the Russell Building is an intimately scaled courtyard, ringed with floor-to-ceiling glass like the Woroway house.
“I guess working day and night as a design student in a modernist building with a courtyard prepared me – I instantly liked the McKee design,” Ms. Stuart says.
In carrying out their home’s extension, the Stuarts’ first commitment was an enlightened one: they engaged neighbour and noted landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander. She meticulously saved and replanted shrubs and small trees elsewhere on site, set the fieldstone pavers, laid out a small formal garden, and helped set the location for the planned addition. As architect for the new wing, Ms. Oberlander suggested a fellow frequent Arthur Erickson collaborator, Nick Milkovich.
He extended the breezeway roof toward the street, placing a new guest room at the end. This wing forms one side of the U-shaped addition, the other side given over in part to one of the children’s bedrooms, but most of its length devoted to a large home office.
Between the arms of the new wings is a large reflecting pool, marked out on one side with thin columns that bear angled aluminum solar slats to temper light from above. This mirrors Mr. McKee’s original sunscreen idea, updated and shifted in texture and materials.
Mr. Milkovich’s only design gaffe, to my mind, is at the end of the reflecting pool, where water from two over-large basins cascades to the formal pool. These basins are scaled for an office or academic building, not a house, and are not well-integrated into Ms. Oberlander’s landscape design.
But the cladding material, window forms and roof/floor heights of Mr. Milkovich’s addition are otherwise respectful, almost reverential, to Mr. McKee’s 1956 design.
This is the best restoration of a modernist house in British Columbia since 2000, when Tom Field revealed his hands-on restoration of Mr. Erickson’s Filberg House in Comox.
The Stuarts were moved to invite media attention to their home after reading about the December demolition of Mr. Erickson’s Graham House in West Vancouver. “In Vancouver, we have so little architectural heritage, so it’s a shame when we don’t hang on to what we have,” Mr. Stuart says.
Maybe the Stuarts inspired renovation will spark the desire in other homeowners to conserve and extend modernist homes, rather than throw them away.
It all starts with reflection and observation, as Marg Stuart did 40 years ago, sitting in a university courtyard with her sketchbook on her lap, gazing at a single tree made more profound by being framed with bold architecture.
Read Article here: Modernist home gets a 21st century update
Interesting post about forgotten architects: Architects We’ve Never Heard Of
Perhaps best known for the design of the Kennedy Center and the controversial building at 2 Columbus Circle, Edward Durell Stone designed this radical house in 1959. It was meant to be a showplace for the Celanese Corporation, a manufacturer of plastics and fibers. It’s present owner, Bruce Capra, purchased the house in October 2006 and performed a complete restoration along with updating.
NYT Article: Stay Put, or Move to a Modern Icon
Time Article about Edward Stone (1958): More Than Modern
Article by Fred A. Bernstein, architecture critic: Private Lives
Seems folks are catching on to the uniqueness and livability of MCM homes. This article from the Hartford Courant tells us that more people are refurbishing these houses in New Canaan, where the pattern has been tear down and throw up a gargantuan mansion. Many of these houses were designed by John M. Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Philip C. Johnson and Eliot Noyes.
Article is no longer available at the Courant’s site, here is the reprinted article:
- August 19, 2007
NEW CANAAN – Just a few years ago, preservationists worried that the town’s collection of modernist houses, one of Connecticut’s historical treasures, was in danger of destruction.The houses’ very design – smaller, one-story structures built with natural materials that flow into the landscape – put them at risk of being torn down to make way for the larger McMansions that have become so popular.
But the death in 2005 of Philip Johnson, one of the most famous of the modernist architects, and the opening earlier this year of his world-famous Glass House in New Canaan for public tours, seems to be turning the tide in favor of the town’s notable modernist homes, according to local history experts and preservationists.
“People are coming looking for these houses, so the tear-downs have slowed down,” said Janet Lindstrom, executive director of the New Canaan Historical Society. “They seem to be much more respected. Many of them are in the process of being refurbished and it could be that maybe five years ago, they would have been torn down and lost to us forever.”
Efforts to preserve the houses, all by noted modernist architects, got another boost recently when the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation provided funds for a $65,000 survey. The survey will focus on houses built by Johnson and four other famous modernist architects and on houses that were built by architects who were influenced by them.
One reason that the survey is important, organizers said, is that no one knows yet how many modernist houses have survived in New Canaan, although estimates put the number somewhere between 80 and 100. The records of tear-downs are also spotty, but historians estimate that as many as 20 have been demolished.
The significance of the survey reaches beyond Connecticut.
“When you look at national preservation standards, there’s verbiage on what makes a Victorian significant or what makes a Georgian home significant, but that language doesn’t exist for modern homes,” said Christy MacLear, executive director of the Phillip Johnson Glass House.
The language developed in the New Canaan survey can be applied across the country to identify significant modernist homes.
“This will highlight moderns in the eyes of our country, signify to the country that these assets are significant,” MacLear said. “When you look at saving a modern home, much of the preservation is reactive, jumping in once a home is threatened. We are working to ensure these assets are highlighted and to put in place protections so they are not threatened in the future.”
A Home For The Modern
New Canaan, a wealthy Fairfield County suburb, has long been known for its modern houses. That’s because of the “Harvard Five,” a catchphrase used to describe the five architects – Johnson, Marcel Breuer, Elliot Noyes, Landis Gores and John Johansen, all from the Harvard Graduate School of Design – who moved to New Canaan in the 1940s to build houses for themselves and their clients.
“It really is such an unlikely thing to happen right here in New Canaan,” said William D. Earls, author of “The Harvard Five in New Canaan” (Norton, 2006). “What they did was incredibly interesting and they were pushing the envelope at the time.”
The houses were built until about the late 1960s. But beginning in the mid- to late 1990s, they became vulnerable as the state’s housing market soared and developers searched for land to build ever larger residences. The modernist homes became easy targets because they were smaller, appealed to only a small group of potential buyers and could be torn down to make way for larger homes.
Among those lost: at least four of Johansen’s houses, including his first, which had been listed on the state’s Register of Historic Places; a Noyes creation known as Stackpole House, which was torn down in 1999 to make way for a new house; and at least two houses designed by Marcel Breuer.
“There’s very little left by Johansen. His own house is gone,” Earls said. “Some of the early homes, the more modest homes that reflected a more moderate lifestyle, have been lost. It’s history that’s gone. A two-room Colonial from the 1700s might not be practical, but it’s still a loss because of the historic significance. So are these.”
The most famous of New Canaan’s modern homes is Johnson’s Glass House – described as the most iconic modern home in the United States and a pioneering residence of the International style. It’s located on 47 acres off Ponus Ridge Road. Johnson lived in the house from 1949 until his death in 2005 at age 98.
The house is made of sheets of quarter-inch-thick glass divided and supported by black steel pillars. It is a simple rectangle, one floor, a total of 1,728 square feet. There are no interior walls, only a circular brick column that houses a fireplace on one side and a bathroom on the other.
The house is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and thousands have clamored to buy tickets to tour it this year. Such exposure, along with extensive media coverage, has helped raise the profile of New Canaan’s modernist houses and bolstered efforts to preserve them.
“The market for these homes is healthier now than it has been for decades,” said Susan E. Blabey, a real estate agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in New Canaan. She credits the opening of the Glass House for much of the change in attitude.
”That was a huge event internationally and it shined a light on our heritage, the value of New Canaan real estate and the purity of this design,” she said. ”These are very special houses.”
Susan Bishop finds herself an unlikely preservationist. As recently as five years ago, Bishop said she’d never really given much thought to New Canaan’s modernist houses, even though she has lived in town for more than a decade. But today, she’s the owner of one — a 1951 Marcel Breuer home that had been sold to a developer and slated for demolition. Now Bishop plans to move her family into the house after an extensive renovation that involves removing an addition to the original Breuer house, which is on 3 acres, and adding her own addition for more bedroom space for her children.
The family is downsizing from a traditional colonial-style home.
”We don’t have a great knowledge of modern history, but since this was a significant modern” — Breuer built the house for himself and lived there with his family — ”that’s why we decided to even go look at it,” said Bishop, who is now president of the New Canaan Historical Society. ”We thought there was potential. We’ve been in a vintage colonial for a long time and thought this would be a terrific direction to go in. It would have been a shame to see it torn down.”
But for the most part, such homes come at a steep price. Real estate in New Canaan is among the most expensive in Connecticut. The median sales price for a house in New Canaan is $1.56 million. The Bishops purchased the Breuer house for $2.6 million, but declined to say how much they are spending on renovations.
Over the past two years, as the collection of modern homes has received more attention and enjoyed a resurgence, prices have increased. A year ago, a modern on Ponus Ridge Road across from the Glass House sold for $3.75 million.
Craig Bloom and Ashlea Ebeling purchased one of New Canaan’s modernist houses in 1999 for $700,000, outbidding a developer — a price that today, would be impossibly low in today’s market, Bloom said.
”The house basically sold for a little over the land value at the time we bought it. That wouldn’t happen today,” Bloom said. ”All the attention the Glass House has been getting has helped broaden the understanding and recognition of New Canaan as a focal point for this type of architecture.”
The home was built in 1962 by architect Hugh Smallen, with an addition built in 1967.
”We were looking for something interesting or different, and a modern definitely fit that category,” Bloom said. ”We loved the windows. We were living in New York City and this has almost floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the woods.”
“Case Study architect Edward Killingsworth’s masterpiece, the 1957 Opdahl House, fell into ruin, but thanks to a musician with a passion for modernism, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary in mint condition.”
Read more at Dwell
Also, Unique California Property has pics of the restoration.
To round out this trifecta, the LA Times interviewed Killingsworth in 2004.