In anticipation of the upcoming fourth season of Mad Men (can’t wait; I just caught up on DVD) , the Washington Post is looking for photos of readers’ homes that have the style of the hit show. “Does your DC-area home have that late-’50s-mid-’60s vibe? Send a photo by midnight, July 11 to enter the contest, and we may document your winning home with photos in our July 24 issue, just in time for the TV series’ new season,” the paper says. Here’s the link to the contest page. I submitted these two photos from our 1956 split-level. We’ll see if they make the cut.
Month: June 2010
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https://www.moderncapitaldc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/modern-capital-logo.png 0 0 Mid-Century Mike https://www.moderncapitaldc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/modern-capital-logo.png Mid-Century Mike2010-06-27 21:47:402020-05-08 12:39:24The Miller House: Mid-Century Modernism at its Finest
The second project J. Irwin Miller and Eero Saarinen worked on in Columbus was the Millers’ personal residence, one of the few residential homes Saarinen designed and the second home he designed for Irwin and Xenia. Saarinen’s first commission for the Millers was a 1952 cottage in Ontario. The Miller House, named a National Historic Landmark in 2000, is a stunning example of mid-century modernism that actually was used as a private residence for the past 50 years. The Millers raised their children in the home and regularly entertained there for business. Alexander Girard designed the interior while Dan Kiley landscaped the 13 acres. The 1957 house was donated by the Miller family to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It is now being renovated and the plan is to open it to the public for the first time next year. As part of the recent tour organized by the Columbus Area Visitors Center, bloggers from around the country were allowed to tour the house but not take pictures as it is being catalogued and prepared to be open to the public.
Suffice it to say, my brief description and the previously published photos you can see here, do not do the house justice. When you walk in and take in the wide open space of the living room and conversation pit, you think, “This is the way a house is supposed to be.” Located on a busy North-South street a few minutes outside of downtown, the one-level, flat-roof rectangular home is not visible from the street thanks to huge modernist blocks of arborvitae planted by Kiley. The exterior is glass with panels of blue-gray slate and white marble. The roof, a steel-truss umbrella, is supported by 16 columns, not by any of the walls. A system of skylights helps bring light into the home, which has interior walls of light-colored marble and floors of light-colored travertine. The open living space is surrounded by four private quarters — a master suite, a children’s wing, the kitchen-laundry area and the guest wing. The central focus in the large open living area is the Girard-designed conversation pit that overlooks a small water-feature pool and Kiley’s grounds. A cylinder-like fireplace contrasts with the flat clean lines of the rest of the house.
While Saarinen and Girard’s design had an impact far from Columbus–it was on the cover of the February 1959 House & Garden–it also influenced a private residence just down Washington Street. David Force, an architect who grew up in Columbus, designed a modern home for his family 17 years ago that can be seen as an ode to the Miller House, including the conversation pit.
https://www.moderncapitaldc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/modern-capital-logo.png 0 0 Mid-Century Mike https://www.moderncapitaldc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/modern-capital-logo.png Mid-Century Mike2010-06-26 08:39:122020-06-12 06:50:51Open House Picks
Before you head out of the town for the holiday this week, here are some brand new listings that are open on Sunday (June 27). Have fun looking and fun travels for the 4th.
1972 contemporary on 2+ acres in Darnestown – $689K
1957 mid-century in Barcroft Lake Shores in Falls Church – $899K
1972 stunning contemporary on a secluded acre in Great Falls – $850K (Note: I assume the classical columns were added later as part of the updating.)
1960 front-gabled mid-century with cool period interior brick screen/fireplace in Stratford Landing – $479K
1951 3/1.5 mid-century in Bannockburn Coop in Bethesda – $599K
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As I noted in my previous post about Columbus, the friendship between J. Irwin Miller and Eero Saarinen resulted in three important projects in the city, all National Historic Landmarks with stunning landscapes by Dan Kiley. The Irwin Union Bank and Trust (1954), the Miller House (1957) and North Christian Church (1964). This post will focus on Saarinen’s bank, which, unfortunately, has been renamed First Financial Bank after the financial company that has taken over the assets of Irwin Union. The bank, a Miesien glass pavilion with a wide roof overhang, is seen as the first glass-walled open plan bank in the country and a key influence on the design of future banks. “We wanted to change — insofar as architecture could change it –people’s concept of banking, which we thought was on the whole unfavorable,” Miller said in an interview with the writers of the bank’s National Historic Landmark nomination. Mr. Miller, I think you achieved your goal. (Note: We did not take pictures of the open teller area to respect the privacy of the customers and bank employees.)
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“Mediocrity is expensive.” This quote by the late J. Irwin Miller sums up the ethos behind the commitment to serious, high-level architecture and landscaping in Columbus, Indiana, a small city of roughly 40,000 people 40 miles south of Indianapolis. This commitment to quality goes beyond the architecture or trees. From spending three days in Columbus and reading more about this fascinating town, the leaders and citizens alike have long demonstrated a commitment to each other and bettering their community through a strong public-private partnership, including in the creation of quality public spaces. This dedication has paid off. The American Institute of Architects ranks Columbus sixth on a list for architectural innovation and design after much larger cities Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington.
This brings me back to the architecture, both building and landscape, and to Mr. Miller–as all the residents still call him. He died in 2004 at the age of 95. ”Columbus, Ind., and J. Irwin Miller are almost holy words in architectural circles,” architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote in 1976. ”There is no other place in which a single philanthropist has placed so much faith in architecture as a means to civic improvement.” (Esquire magazine put Miller on the cover in October 1967 with the headline, “This man out to be the next president of the United States.”)
Miller, the founder and longtime head of Cummins Engine Co., went to Yale and became interested in modern design during that time. In the post-war years, as the population of manufacturing-centric Columbus was booming, Miller was concerned about the quality of the school facilities, and in turn, the quality of students who would seek jobs at Cummins. Facing this conundrum, Miller created a foundation and told the school board that he would pay the architects’ fees of a newly designed school. The catch was the architect had to come from the foundation’s list of young up and comers, which was put together with the help of Eero Saarinen and Pietro Belluschi, the dean of MIT’s architecture school. The program was so popular that it was expanded for other schools and then to other types of buildings in the town.
But even before Miller got what would be become known as the Architecture Program off the ground, he began spreading the modern gospel by persuading a reluctant Eliel Saarinen to design the First Christian Church (1942). This is when Miller, only in his 30s, met Eero Saarinen. Eero would accompany his father to Columbus from Cranbrook for the church’s building committee meetings. Miller and Eero Saarinen were not allowed in the meetings held by their parents, so Miller took the younger Saarinen and Charles Eames to the popular Zaharakos, the old-time soda and ice cream shop which recently reopened after extensive restoration. This friendship between Miller and Saarinen would result in four projects together: The Miller Cottage in Ontario, and three in Columbus: the Irwin Union Bank and Trust (1954), the Miller House (1957) and North Christian Church (1964), which was Saarinen’s last project before he died at 51. All three Columbus buildings are National Historic Landmarks. All three are landscaped by modern master Dan Kiley.
So Why did modernism catch on in small-town Indiana? Will Miller, the son of Irwin and Xenia Miller, said Midwestern values and modernism have a lot in common. “At one level, the notion of modernism as being about finding beauty and elegance in simplicity is a Midwestern notion–and also the economy of modernism, the lack of ornamentation,” Miller said in a Worth magazine article published in 2000. “What appealed to us about modernism was both the sense of simplicity and the sense of value for money, both of which are traditional Midwestern traits.”
I am going to start the tour of Columbus with the First Christian Church, the first modern building in the city. The younger Saarinen designed the light fixtures, which look like biblical oil lamps, while Eames designed the pews.
Look for more posts on the rest of my trip in the coming days and weeks. You can also check out the sites of other bloggers on the trip for their reflections on this unique Midwestern mecca of mid-century modern and modern architecture.
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As part of last month’s “Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ Open House Day,” I toured the embassies of Denmark and Finland. The 1960 Danish Embassy is the first modern embassy in Washington and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. (The embassy staff were all wearing cool t-shirts to commemorate the milestone.)
Located in Dumbarton Oaks, the Danish Embassy—the first modern and carbon neutral embassy and residence in Washington—was designed in 1947 by Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen and opened in 1960. Lauritzen met with Walter Gropius, who, along with students, worked with Lauritzen on the project, which connected the ambassador’s residence to the embassy by a glass corridor. Henrik Kaufmann, the Danish ambassador after World War II, wanted a modern building rather than one of the existing mansions to serve as the office space and ambasador’s residence and to reflect the Danish ethos of modesty and equality. “If the different sections are gathered in one new and modern decorated building the work will be more efficient, several expenses will be reduced and some will even vanish completely,” Kaufmann said. ” The love of work will increase and the number of days lost through illness will go down.”
Leading Danish designer Finn Juhl was in charge of furnishing the interior, using such iconic pieces as Arne Jacobsen’s “Swan” and “Egg” chairs, the lighting of Poul Henningsen and some of his own furniture designs.
While the Danish Embassy was the first modern and carbon-neutral embassy in D.C., the Finnish Embassy, located on Massachusetts Avenue across from the Naval Observatory, is the first LEED-certified embassy in Washington. The embassy was designed by Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen and opened in 1994. The open, granite, steel and glass structure backs up to Normanstone Park and reflects the Finns commitment to openness, the arts and the environment. If you want to go see the Finnish Embassy, check out this short-film fest on June 24, which is being organized by friend, filmmaker and artist Ayo Okunseinde.
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I hope you are following my tour of Columbus on Twitter and Facebook. Had a very unique opportunity to visit Eero Saarinen’s Miller House tonight (more to follow on this) and seeing mid-century modern homes in the area on Sunday morning. In the meantime, here’s a few open houses tomorrow back home.
1976 Cedar contemporary on .76 acres in Falls Church – $850K
1950 3/2 Charles Goodman in Hollin Hills – $599K
Two 1970 5/3 Goodmans in Hollin Hills – both at $779K – 2306 Kimbro and 2318 Kimbro
1945 altered flat-roof in Mohican Hills – $719K
1972 contemporary with two-story foyer and pool in Potomac – $799K
https://www.moderncapitaldc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/modern-capital-logo.png 0 0 Mid-Century Mike https://www.moderncapitaldc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/modern-capital-logo.png Mid-Century Mike2010-06-10 22:46:342020-07-07 15:38:01The Modern Mecca of Columbus, Indiana
I’m headed this weekend to Columbus, Indiana, Middle America’s Modern Mecca. The town of 39,000 people located 40 miles south of Indianapolis has dozens of mid-century modern and modern buildings by the world’s leading architects. Think I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, Eliot Noyes, Cesar Pelli, Deborah Berke, Robert A.M. Stern and Robert Venturi. You’re wondering: How did this happen and why there? The reason is J. Irwin Miller, a wealthy industrialist and patron of modern art and architecture.
Miller, the longtime head of Cummins Engine Co., went to Yale and became interested in modern design during that time. In the post-war years, a foundation ran by Miller agreed to pay the architects’ fees of newly designed schools, but they had to come from the foundation’s list of architects. The program was later expanded to other buildings in the town.
Six buildings are designated as National Historic Landmarks, including Miller’s own house by Eero Saarinen, who Miller met while Saarinen was helping his dad, Eliel, on the First Christian Church (see below.) Alexander Girard did the interior while Dan Kiley did the landscape. The 1957 house, which was featured at the recent Saarinen retrospective at the National Building Museum, was donated by the Miller family to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It is now being renovated and the plan is to open it to the public for the first time next year. I think the highlight of the trip for me will be visiting the house and gardens Saturday evening. Saarinen also designed a bank (pictured below) for the family, which is a National Historic Landmark as well.
The trip, which is bringing modern bloggers from around the country, is being hosted by the Columbus Area Visitors Center, which is picking up the hotel costs, meals and arranging the tours. I paid for my flight and rental car.
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Maybe the auctioneer is calling this Standard Properties 1950s contemporary bi-level a colonial because of the added portico. In any event, it is being sold at an estate auction tomorrow (June 10) at 1 p.m. The auction will be at the property, which is located here in Rock Creek Palisades in Kensington, which also includes Charles Goodman’s mid-century modern community of Rock Creek Woods. Starting price will be determined at sale time. The house looks mostly untouched except for that portico.