Mid-Century Modern

Coolfont Mountainside Half Round Cabin

Modern Capital’s Coolfont Cabin

In the late 1960s, Sam Ashelman, a Washington businessman, and his wife Martha developed the Coolfont resort and private mid-century modern cabins in the woods just outside the town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Today, the iconic Coolfont Mountainside consists of more than 100 contemporary cabins on nearly 400 acres.

After years of looking, my wife and I bought “Half Round” (all the cabin’s have names), a 1975 cabin that is exactly as it sounds. From the front, it has a more typical contemporary cabin construction but the back half of the house is round with walls of glass.
Half Round Cabin Features
The house has 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. The open dining-living room area has soaring ceilings, 360-view fireplace and the walls of glass looking out to the deck and woods beyond. We have brought in mid-century art and furniture, including a pair of restored Jens Risom chairs. The house is one level with ramp access to the front door and wrap-around deck, with seating and gas BBQ grill.
You can rent the house through VRBO.

Coolfont Mountainside Community Features
The community in-ground heated pool and hot tub is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. (Year round indoor pool available at nearby Coolfont Resort for $8pp/day.) Other community features include on-site hiking trails, tennis and basketball courts, rec field and tot-lot.
The Berkeley Springs area of West Virginia is less than a two-hour drive from major metropolitan areas such as Washington, Read More >

Chloethiel Woodard Smith-designed mid-century modern in St. Michael's.

Smith-Designed Mid-Century Modern in St. Michael’s

Talk about a perfect spot for the summer. Take a peek at this custom mid-century modern home designed by Chloethial Woodard Smith. Set on 8.85 acres on Broad Creek in Saint Michael’s, the 1959 sprawling one-level home is nearly 6,000 square feet with walls of glass and has a later added pool and pool house. Check out all of the vintage elements that remain in the house. Smith was one of the country’s premier modernists–male or female–and one of the driving forces and architects behind the urban renewal plan in Southwest, designing such residential complexes as Capitol Park townhomes and apartments  and Harbour Square.
Jennifer Martella of the Talbot Spy has the scoop on the history of the house, which is listed for $2.995 million by Chuck Mangold Jr. of Benson & Mangold.

America's Best

America’s Best Real Estate Professionals Listed

Very thankful to all my clients who put their trust in me. I have been included in this year’s WSJ Real Trends America’s Best Real Estate Professionals list for 2021. Top 100 in the state for individual agents.

Drone Tour of Charles Goodman’s Highland Hills

With so many of this year’s typical home tour events cancelled, Modern Richmond put together a brief, socially-distanced drone tour of the Charles Goodman’s Highland Hills. This mid-century modern neighborhood is located in Central Virginia.
For five years beginning in 1953, Washington’s own modernist Goodman served as a consulting architect for Lafayette, Ind.-based National Homes. At the time, National Homes was the country’s largest prefab home manufacturer.
Located in Bon Air in Chesterfield County, the 80 or so homes in Highland Hills were developed in the mid-50s by National Homes and featured the designs of Goodman. Highland Hills is the only neighborhood in central Virginia exclusively consisting of mid-century homes.
Looks like Modern Richmond plans to do a fuller drone tour of Charles Goodman’s Highland Hills this coming spring. Can’t wait to see.

Modern Richmond Drone Tour – Highland Hills from Modern Richmond on Vimeo.
 

Charles Wagner-designed mid-century modern in Moyaone Reserve.

Demand for Mid-Century Modern Homes Strong

UrbanTurf writes about the continuing demand for mid-century modern homes in the Washington area despite Mad Men being off the air for the past five years.
“Mad Men concluded its television run in 2015 and it seemed like people’s infatuation with mid-century modern design went with it,” writes Nena Perry-Brown. “However, interest in the DC area’s mid-century housing market remains high.”
Read the full article here and explore some of the mid-century modern neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. area.
 
 
 

Chloethiel Woodard Smith-designed mid-century modern in Chevy Chase

Under Contract: Custom Chloethiel Woodard Smith in Somerset

My listing for this custom mid-century modern in Somerset in Chevy Chase by renowned female modernist architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith went under contract in a week with multiple offers. It was listed for $1.385 million.
Smith’s 1950 “upside-down” house design  in the coveted neighborhood of Somerset is unlike any other.
The primary bedroom has walls of glass and looks out to parkland. Photos by Tod Connell.
The house features floor-to-ceiling windows and views from all rooms of the ever-changing landscape of adjacent parkland. Watching the deer, foxes, owls, chipmunks, and array of songbirds, you’ll almost forget you’re walking distance to Friendship Heights metro and Whole Foods. Located a block from Somerset Elementary and the Somerset town pool, this 6-bedroom, 2.5 bath nearly 2,700 square-foot gem was completely renovated while retaining its original mid-century vibe.
The entrance retains the original mid-century materials.
The upper level foyer is flooded with light. The main bedroom has floor-to-ceiling windows facing the park and an adjacent bedroom/study has a brick fireplace.

Two additional bedrooms on this level are located in a separate wing. Two sparkling new bathrooms feature high-efficiency plumbing, lovely marble and glass tilework, and a modern soaking tub.
After descending the elegant wood-paneled stairway you are immediately struck by the expansive view of the perennial garden and forest from all directions. The large living room features windows on three sides and opens to an expansive slate and brick patio.

The original owners, Washington Post Business Editor, Hobart Rowan, and his family hosted many Read More >

Top Agent Modern Luxury Awards

Modern Luxury DC Top Agent Recognition

I am honored to be named a Top Agent in the inaugural Modern Luxury DC Real Estate Awards. Thank you to all of my clients, DC magazine and the team at Compass DMV.
I bring a personal passion for mid-century modern design and architecture and market directly to buyers seeking mid-century modern, modern and contemporary homes.
Since 2009, I have sold more than $100 million in modern real estate, and have been recognized by the Washington Post, Bethesda Magazine, DC Magazine and other publications as a Top Agent and the go-to source for mid-century modern real estate in the D.C. area.
Contact me today if you are looking to buy or sell a mid-century modern home in the DC area.
 
 

Washingtonian Top Agent

Washingtonian Magazine Top Agent Recognition

I am honored to be recognized once again as a Washingtonian Magazine Top Agent. Thank you to all of my clients, family and friends who have supported Modern Capital for the past 14 years. Please reach out if you are thinking of buying or selling a mid-century modern home. Happy to meet and discuss today’s modern real estate market.

Eames lounge chair

Furnishing a Mid-Century Modern Home: Inspiration & Sourcing

A guest post on sourcing mid-century modern furniture from our partner, ATTIC.
Nothing completes a beautiful mid-century home like furniture and decor drawn from the same aesthetic. The simple, sleek lines of MCM furniture pair up perfectly with the modern, open and airy feel that make mid-century homes the gems that they are. The following post provides some inspiration, whether you’re just starting or continuing to furnish your home. We’ll focus on two spaces: dining rooms and living rooms.

We’re also going to introduce you to ATTIC, a one-of-kind resource that will help you find the best mid-century furniture from stores of the DC and Baltimore regions. After all, who wants to buy a “forever” piece of furniture without ever seeing or touching it? ATTIC makes that process so much easier. ATTIC is now available in cities throughout the country, but is owned and operated by a small team based right here in Washington, D.C. Its mission is simple — to make it easier for consumers to shop from small, local businesses.
 
Dinner is Served, In Style
Whether it’s with family or friends, the importance of meal time transcends culture. As such, dining rooms and breakfast nooks are often visual focal points in modern homes. And with pieces like those pictured here, it’s no wonder why. Rectangular, round, “boat-shaped”…small, grand, or expandable…mid-century dining tables come in a vast array of options. Likewise, some of the most famous furniture designs in history are those for mid-century dining chairs.
 

Rosewood Dining Table
Modern Mobler

Walnut Dining Set
Peg Leg Vintage

Teak Read More >

Compass Cares

Market Reflections Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

I hope everyone and their families are healthy and safe during this very frightening and difficult time as we all navigate this global coronavirus health crisis together. As valued clients and subscribers, I want you to know that I continue working with my clients who have current contracts, scheduled closings or who are planning to buy and sell in the coming weeks and months ahead.
While the crisis has quickly upended markets, it is important to take stock of your current needs and plans to determine your best course of action.
During the past week, we still have seen activity with some homes going under contract within days. Obviously, this is a snapshot and can change. Before the outbreak, the market saw extremely low inventory and low interest rates. Prime properties were going within days or not even making it to the open market. In the markets I track, I am still seeing this type of activity.
The government is taking extraordinary measures to bring down borrowing costs, including mortgage rates. While rates are volatile now, experts and economists are expecting the efforts to bring down long-term rates to historic lows.
See this excerpt below from a recent Housing Wire article by Kathleen Howley:

“But for the mortgage market, the [Quantitative Easing] program and the pledge to reinvest [Mortgage backed securities] runoff was the big news because it will increase competition for agency bonds. When demand goes up, yields go down, and that usually translates into lower mortgage rates.
“The Fed is creating liquidity and Read More >

Mid-century modern top producer

Bethesda Magazine: Top Producer Recognition

I am honored to be recognized as a Top Producer by Bethesda Magazine.
“Residential real estate is big business in Montgomery County and Upper Northwest D.C. (ZIP codes 20015 and 20016),” says the magazine in its latest issue. “Last year, 7,388 single-family homes were sold in those areas for a total of $7.9 billion. Not surprisingly, Montgomery County has a large number of real estate agents who live here—8,470 agents, according to the Maryland Real Estate Commission. But not all real estate agents are created equal. A small percentage of the agents sell a large percentage of the homes.”
Thank you to my wonderful clients, family and friends who have supported Modern Capital for the past 14 years. Please reach out if you are thinking of buying or selling a mid-century modern home. Happy to meet and discuss how the market is looking as we face the unprecedented coronavirus.

Hollin Hills Tour Sponsor

Tickets on Sale: Hollin Hills Tour 2020

The 2020 Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour has been postponed. In light of the recent developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic we have made the determination to postpone the 2020 Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour. The welfare and safety of our community and all participants is our primary concern.
We will continue to monitor the situation and work to establish and communicate a new date as the situation resolves. All tickets will be honored on the new date.
 Thank you for your continued support.
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It’s almost Tour Time in Hollin Hills. On Saturday, May 2, 2020, the Civic Association of Hollin Hills will host the 2020 Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour. The biennial tour is the largest mid-century modern home and garden tour on the East Coast. This self-guided walking tour will showcase stunning examples of mid-century modern architecture, landscaping and interior design throughout this unique neighborhood listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places. I am proud once again to be a sponsor of the tour. You can buy your tickets here.
The Hollin Hills Historic District is a residential neighborhood set within a 326-acre wooded landscape of Fairfax County, Virginia. Hollin Hills was developed as one of the first post-World War II planned communities in the Washington, D.C. area. It is one of the few consisting entirely of modern architecture using natural topography and landscaping as an Read More >

Farnsworth House

Modern Snapshot: Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House

Radiant floor heat never felt so good. I had finally made the pilgrimage to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House on the Fox River in Plano, Illinois, 47 miles west of Chicago. It was only November but the Chicago area was hit with winter-like cold and I was not prepared.

As our small tour group walked from the visitor center to the house, we took in the crisp air and view of the river, which has flooded the house several times. As we approached the glass house, the tour guide stopped us and gave his overview of the house, which was finished in 1951 and the subject of bitter lawsuits between Mies and his client, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. Finally, he saw me shivering to death and we finally were allowed to enter the shrine but not before we took off our shoes as we approached the door. With all that glass, you feel as if you are outside even when indoors but the radiant feet on my sock-clad feet was enveloping. Warmed up, I was able to take in the view of the river from inside and appreciate the simple yet complex work by the Bauhaus master. Here are few images to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Spring Lake in Bethesda

Bethesda Modern: Spring Lake Condos

From the low-slung pool house to the decorative breeze block, the Spring Lake condominium community in Bethesda would look right at home in South Florida or Palm Springs.

The community was designed by Robert Calhoun Smith, FAIA. Smith worked with Charles M. Goodman to design Hollin Hills early in his career before striking out to start his own firms. Later in his career, he served as the superintending architect of the Washington National Cathedral. He died in 1992 at the age of 67.

The buildings are three levels. The stairs that go down to the one lower level or up to the two upper levels are accessed via small bridges. The units have balconies to create outdoor spaces in the park-like setting and the facade is made of light brick and white breeze block.

Here is one unit I found that just went under contract.
 

Get Tix: Bannockburn Home Tour This Saturday

The homeowners of Bannockburn in Bethesda are hosting their first ever home tour this Saturday, October 26 from 12 to 4 pm. Proceeds will go toward preserving the neighborhood’s clubhouse. I am a proud sponsor of the tour and hope you will come out to explore the neighborhood.

Most of the houses selected for the tour are all original Merrimack mid-century modern homes designed by architect Arthur Becker. Although these homes have been remodeled, they have kept true to their mid-century vernacular.  Their visionary owners recognized a gem and hired equally visionary architects and builders to execute beautiful reinterpretations of these original Merrimack homes.
The Bannockburn Merrimack houses were commissioned in early 1950 as the Korean War was looming. The original homeowners agreed to set aside $50,000 in escrow so Merrimack Builders could purchase materials in advance of the war.  These materials were stored in the Bannockburn Clubhouse.  The tour will focus on the second group of homes completed in the fall of 1951. The houses sold for approximately $14,000 when completed.
In addition to the Merrimack houses, a Japanese-style mid-century modern  surrounded by beautiful gardens in Bannockburn Estates will be on the tour.
Registration begins at the Bannockburn Pool parking lot at 11:30 am. Tickets are $25 per person; $20 for Bannockburn Community Club Members. Reserve your tickets at (301) 320-0546 or by emailing a1956r@aol.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Endangered: Concrete Association Building in Silver Spring

A brutalist building made of concrete designed to promote the use of concrete is facing the wrecking ball. The Silver Spring headquarters of the National Sand & Gravel Association (NSGA) and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) is slated for demolition.
The building was designed by John H. Sullivan Jr. and reflects the art of Washington, DC craftsman John Earley and his studio. In the early twentieth century, John Earley developed unique and innovated ways to work with concrete, exposing its aggregate to reveal deep color and texture. His work is found throughout Washington and Maryland including in the walls, balusters, and fountains at Meridian Hill Park and in the bold mosaic on the Scottish Rite Temple on Sixteenth Street. His studio was hired to produce the NSGA and NRMCA Headquarters precast panels, using their exposed aggregate technique. 

Docomomo DC (I serve as a board member) is urging for the designation of the building as a historic site within the Maryland-Washington Regional District’s master plan for historic preservation and opposes its demolition.

“The building [at 900 Spring St.] is a strong example of brutalist architecture that merges mid-century modern corporate design with regional craftsmanship and building technology,” Docomomo DC says in a letter to Sandra Heller, the chair of the Montgomery County historic preservation program. “These three themes are all cast (excuse the pun) in its concrete form. The NSGA and NRMCA Headquarters is an outstanding example of brutalist architecture in the county and region.”
 
 
 

Modernist Pre-Fab in Foxhall – $1.775 Million

If you are looking for a new, modernist home in the city, take a look at this one listed by my Compass colleagues The P&rtners. Built using sophisticated aerospace robotics, this innovative pre-fab home delivers unrivaled quality and cutting-edge technology. This extraordinary contemporary home features five bedrooms, four and a half baths, and spacious sun-drenched common areas.

Enter the 4,320 square-foot home from an inviting front porch which opens to a grand foyer and private office. Beyond is a sleek chef’s kitchen that flows into a bright great room with dedicated flexible living and dining areas. A rear glass wall frames the western sky with deep views of Hardy Park.

The second level is composed of three generous bedrooms, one with an en suite bathroom. The third level is devoted entirely to a luxurious owners’ suite, featuring an elegant bathroom, oversized walk-in closet, and exercise studio or additional bedroom. A private roof deck offers expansive views of the Foxhall neighborhood and adjacent Hardy Park.

The home’s lower level is comprised of an additional bedroom with full bath, a modern laundry room/mudroom suite, with utility/dog-washing station, and an airy media/family room. The interior seamlessly transitions into a gracious patio with space for dining al fresco or an off-street parking area.

Explore the Modernist Designs of Roberto Burle Marx in NYC

The two-dimensional modernist designs by Roberto Burle Marx are stunning pieces of art in and of themselves let alone the how the landscape designs come to fruition in the physical world. Three years ago, The Jewish Museum in New York held an extensive exhibit on Marx, who passed away in 1994. (I took these images at the Jewish Museum show in 2016.)

Now running through Sept. 29, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is going further with an actual landscape inspired by the modernist landscape master.
“Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94) was a force of nature in Brazil—through his bold landscapes, vibrant art, and passionate commitment to plant conservation,” the NYBG says. “His powerful modernist vision produced thousands of gardens and landscapes, including the famous curving mosaic walkways at Copacabana Beach in Rio and the beautiful rooftop garden at Banco Safra in São Paulo. Feel his artistic energy and love of plants during our Garden-wide exhibition of lush gardens; paintings, drawings, and textiles; and the sights and sounds of Brazil that inspired his life and work.”
Adrian Higgins has a good piece on Marx and the exhibit in the Washington Post.

New York may not be as exotic as Brazil but you can get a taste of Marx’s brilliance while noshing on some of the best bagels and pizza in the world. Or head down to Miami and see his his work along Biscayne Boulevard.

Fallswood: Funky Contemporary Enclave in Falls Church

Fallswood in Falls Church is a small enclave of funky early 1970s contemporaries with Swiss/ski chalet lines. The neighborhood of roughly four dozen homes right between the Beltway and I-66 was designed by the architect A.G. Mumma and built by R.J.L. Associates. From what I can find, Mumma spent much of his career in the Navy. Here is one house in the neighborhood currently for sale for $749K. It has a very steep roof line with flat-roof carport for contrast.

The Post’s ‘House of the Week’

Kathy Orton of the Washington Post highlighted my listing in Bethesda by award-winning Tom Shiner, FAIA, as the Post’s “House of the Week.” Listed for $1.65 million.  Completed in 2010, the green, modernist house and studio at 4798 Western Ave. in Bethesda were designed was inspired by Scandinavian masters Poul Kjaerholm, who Shiner studied with in Denmark, and Alvar Aalto. (Photos by Tod Connell.)

Constructed of brick veneer and extra thick fiber-cement siding, the two-story house with its separate studio building provides a peaceful sanctuary. Both buildings open onto a fence-enclosed lawn, terraces and gardens situated on a flat 6,000 square-foot lot. The main 1,900 square-foot house has two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms with an additional TV room/office. The 500 square-foot studio has a full bathroom and can serve as an office, guest suite or exercise studio. It also has a small workshop integrated in the back of the studio.

Green Features
One of the primary objectives of the design was to establish dynamic interaction with the change of seasons; each season invites a slightly different way of using the house. During spring and fall, the house relies on operable windows and a whole-house fan for natural ventilation. Passive solar orientation, shading and use of solar-powered air conditioning counter summer heat. High-performance insulation counters and a high-efficiency gas-fired furnace counter cold in winter months.
Because the plan of the house is open and designed to incorporate a central “chimney effect,” cool air is drawn in from Read More >

Flat-Roof Mid-Century Modern in Darnestown – $665K

I’ll call this one Darnestown Modern. Take a look at this 1960 flat-roof mid-century modern with clerestory windows and wood-beamed ceilings on more than two acres in Darnestown, Maryland. It is listed for $665,000. Looks like you can replace siding with more period appropriate materials. Not my listing so if anyone needs a buyer agent for this one please let me know.

Custom Mid-Century Modern in Quaint Acres – $675K

This custom mid-century modern in Quaint Acres in Silver Spring backs up to the Northwest Branch and Rachel Carson Greenway trails. Carson, who lived in the neighborhood, wrote “Silent Spring,” the book that helped spur environmental awareness in this country. The listing says the custom home was “designed by William Shoemaker, a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, and modeled after Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.” The home sits near the end of of a cul-de-sac and backs up to the parkland. The listing says the house is open today from 2 to 4 p.m.
 
 

Open House & Video Tour: Scandinavian Modern by Tom Shiner, FAIA

If you missed my first Open House at my listing at 4789 Western Ave. in Bethesda, you can come see it this Saturday, March 23. I will be holding an Open House from 1 to 4 pm. You can also virtually tour the modern, green house by clicking on the video below. Hope to see you Saturday.

Green, Modernist Home by Tom Shiner, FAIA – $1.5 Million

Completed in 2010, the green, modernist house and studio at 4798 Western Ave. in Bethesda were designed and built by award-winning architect Tom Shiner, FAIA. The design was inspired by Scandinavian masters Poul Kjaerholm, who Shiner studied with in Denmark, and Alvar Aalto. See the Compass listing here. (Photos by Tod Connell.)

Constructed of brick veneer and extra thick fiber-cement siding, the two-story house with its separate studio building provides a peaceful sanctuary. Both buildings open onto a fence-enclosed lawn, terraces and gardens situated on a flat 6,000 square-foot lot. The main 1,900 square-foot house has two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms with an additional TV room/office. The 500 square-foot studio has a full bathroom and can serve as an office, guest suite or exercise studio. It also has a small workshop integrated in the back of the studio.

Green Features
One of the primary objectives of the design was to establish dynamic interaction with the change of seasons; each season invites a slightly different way of using the house. During spring and fall, the house relies on operable windows and a whole-house fan for natural ventilation. Passive solar orientation, shading and use of solar-powered air conditioning counter summer heat. High-performance insulation counters and a high-efficiency gas-fired furnace counter cold in winter months.
Because the plan of the house is open and designed to incorporate a central “chimney effect,” cool air is drawn in from the shaded garden while warm air is vented up through the stair Read More >

Under Contract: Renovated Berla & Abel “Tiffey Townhouse” – $799K

I just relisted this early 1940s modernist Tiffey Townhomes along Arkansas Avenue designed by well-known Washington architects Julian Berla and Joseph Abel for $799,000. I will be holding an Open House on Sunday, Feb. 3 from 1 to 4 pm. The house is located here.
The 2,100 square-foot townhouse features a high-end custom kitchen and full floor Soho-style master suite on the top level while retaining its original wood floors and Art Deco hand railings.

The heart of the three-level brick town house is the middle space with its expansive open kitchen-living-dining area with hardwood floors and signature angled brick and stone fireplace. The living area leads out through large glass sliders to the enclosed front balcony with jalouise windows.

The open kitchen with with double island features custom walnut stained cherry cabinets and basalatina stone countertops from upstate New York, and high-end Blanco sink, Dornbracht faucet, dual-fuel Jenn-Air stainless steel range and Fisher & Paykel refrigerator and dishwasher.

Off the kitchen is a half bathroom and custom-built pantry area that leads to the fenced in backyard and garage, which is decorated with salvaged aluminum grillwork that originally came from a mid-century printing plant in the city.

The top level has been transformed into a full-floor master suite with 11-foot beamed ceilings and a custom, open bathroom with stone and walnut stained cherry double sink vanity, stone and glass-tile 5′ by 5′ glass-walled shower with skylight. The bathroom also features custom medicine cabinets, Duravit toilet and Hansgrohe fixtures. Off the master bedroom Read More >

Free Docomomo DC Happy Hour, Victor Lundy Exhibit – Feb. 21

Join Docomomo DC and the AIA’s Architects Foundation at the Octagon Museum for a free happy hour and chance to experience an exhibit featuring the work of architect and artist Victor Lundy, FAIA. The exhibit, Victor Lundy: Educating an Architect + Preservation of Modern Architecture, is an immersive gallery showcase highlighting drawings, images, and works from Lundy’s Beaux-Arts and Bauhaus education as well as his service during World War II. Featured works from his career include the U.S. Tax Court Building in Washington, D.C., and U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka. The event is free but registration is required.

 
 

Architecture and Design Film Festival Returns to DC

The Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF), which made its debut in Washington last year at the National Building Museum (NBM), is returning to to Washington Feb. 21-24. The ADFF is the nation’s largest film festival devoted to the creative spirit that drives architecture in design. The festival is presented by the NBM with the Revada Foundation. The Opening Night celebration and screening of Frank Gehry: Building Justice, will be held the evening of Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. The festival runs through Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. The museum will be the venue for all films, featuring three separate theaters, two of which will be specially outfitted for the festival, including the Museum’s iconic Great Hall. Other films will explore the work of Dieter Rams, Renzo Piano (his Botín Center in Santander, Spain, is pictured above) and Barbara Stauffacher Solomon.

Private Exclusive: Scandinavian Modern Home by Thomas Shiner, FAIA

During the snow yesterday, all I thought about was this fireplace in my new, private exclusive listing in Bethesda. The green, modernist house and studio were designed and built by award-winning architect Thomas S. Shiner, FAIA. The design was inspired by Scandinavian masters Alvar Aalto and Poul Kjaerholm, who Shiner studied with in Denmark. Did you read that? He studied with Kjaerholm. Enough said.

A central feature of the house is a custom-built brick and limestone wood-burning fireplace integral with the stair to the second floor.  The elevated Scandinavian hearth opens front and side (oriented to a seating area and the living room).  The masonry mass of the fireplace is capable of storing and radiating heat in the very center of the house, provided the fireplace is kept burning for a day or longer.

The main house is 2 bedrooms/2.5 bath with additional TV room/office with over 1,800 square feet. Construction is brick veneer and extra thick fiber-cement siding. The 800 square-foot studio has a full bathroom and can serve as an office, guest suite or exercise studio. The two buildings occupy a flat 6,000 square-foot lot; the two-story house aligns with the separate studio building in the back.  Both buildings open onto a fence-enclosed lawn, terraces and gardens.

Want to enjoy this fireplace space the next time it snows, call or email me for more details, pricing or a private showing.
Photos by Tod Connell.
 
 
 
 

Oregonian Cites Modern Capital as a Resource for Mid-Century Modern Real Estate

OregonLive.com
The Oregonian’s Bridget Otto highlights Modern Capital as a Resource for Mid-Century Modern Real Estate. Modern Capital is a resource not only for those in D.C. but others around the country looking for information on mid-century modern real estate and design.

Thank You from Modern Capital on Thanksgiving

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. As you prepare to sit down for the holiday with you family and friends, I am thankful for all of my wonderful clients and all of Modern Capital’s loyal readers who have supported the site during the past 12 years. Make sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I will be reporting from Los Angeles and Miami in the coming days. — Michael

Washingtonian Top Agent Recognition

To all my clients and readers: I wanted to say thank you for your enduring support during the past year. I have been honored with Washingtonian’s Best Agent distinction. I am so grateful for the trust you consistently place in me—I know that the decision to buy or sell is never an easy one, but it is a responsibility I value tremendously. Here’s to another fantastic–and modern–year. Stay tuned for a new listing in Manor Woods and a Charles Goodman-designed barrel-roof townhouse in River Park.
All the best,
Michael

My Upcoming Listings, Tiffey Townhome Private Exclusive

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend. We are still seeing low inventory and bidding wars on the best properties. In the next few weeks, I will be listing four houses and wanted to give Modern Capital readers a heads up. One listing is in Carderock Springs in Bethesda. It is a split-foyer Hillcrest model with custom carport and screened-in balcony off the back of the house. In Virginia, I will be a listing a two-level Luria Brothers-built mid-century modern with carport in Holmes Run Acres. The two other listings are in DC: one is a contemporary loft-style condo at the Rivendell by Weinstein and Abel. The other is a private exclusive listing, a 1941 renovated, modernist townhouse by Berla and Abel on Arkansas Avenue. It is one of the sought after Tiffey Townhomes pictured in the vintage image above. Please reach out for details if interested. More posts will be coming soon as they hit the market.

Modern Capital on Full Service Radio

Bringing an LA or New York vibe to DC, the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan is housed in the 110-year old former First Church of Christ Scientist building. And right in the lobby, is Full Service Radio studio run by founder Jack Inslee. Full Service Radio is a community podcast network and internet radio station broadcasting live from the lobby. Hotel guests can listen to the feed right in their rooms. Jack recently invited me to stop by and chat about mid-century modern real estate here in the Washington area. Listing to some short clips from our conversation.
 
 

Hollin Hills sign

Hollin Hills Home Tour Tix Giveaway [Sold Out]

Tickets for the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour have sold out. Don’t fret if you did not get tickets for the tour this coming Saturday. As a proud sponsor of the tour, I have four tickets to give away to Modern Capital readers. Just email me at michael@moderncapitaldc.com and tell me how long you have been reading the site and how many tickets you need (max 2). Act fast before they are gone.
The Hollin Hills Historic District is a residential neighborhood set within a 326-acre wooded landscape of Fairfax County, Virginia. Hollin Hills was developed as one of the first post-World War II planned communities in the Washington, D.C. area and one few consisting entirely of modern architecture using natural topography and landscaping as an intrinsic part of the design. The neighborhood was named to the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 30, 2013. The foundation of Hollin Hill’s success was the collaborative interpretation of the traditional large-scale merchant building practices by developer/builder Robert C. Davenport and architect Charles M. Goodman, FAIA.
 

Modern Snapshot: Breuer’s IBM Building in Boca

With it snowing here in DC today, I thought a little Breuer in Boca would be nice to look at as we yearn for spring to actually start. Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje designed IBM’s North American Research and Development facility in Boca Raton, where IBM developed the first personal computer. Built between 1968 and 1972, the Brutalist complex is based on their design of IBM’s research center located in LaGaude, France. Today, it is known as the Boca Raton Innovation Campus. It is a heavy design for the flat topography of Florida, but the myriad of windows and being raised on pilotis allows light to come in and provides a lighter feel as air flows underneath the buildings. The raised structure also serves as covered parking areas, which are important during the summer months.

Hollin Hills sign

Save the Date: 2018 Hollin Hills House + Garden Tour

 
The 2018 edition of the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour will be held April 28. The self-guided walking tour will showcase stunning examples of mid-century modern architecture.
The Hollin Hills Historic District is a residential neighborhood set within a 326-acre wooded landscape of Fairfax County, Virginia. Hollin Hills was developed as one of the first post-World War II planned communities in the Washington, D.C. area and one few consisting entirely of modern architecture using natural topography and landscaping as an intrinsic part of the design. The neighborhood was named to the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 30, 2013. The foundation of Hollin Hill’s success was the collaborative interpretation of the traditional large-scale merchant building practices by developer/builder Robert C. Davenport and architect Charles M. Goodman, FAIA.
The subdivision plan has irregularly shaped lots that embrace the natural topography, winding streets and cul-de-sacs, and communal parks and woodlands that provide shade, privacy and outdoor space. The development was intentionally designed to be a part of the landscape, marrying the modern houses with the existing topographical patterns. A product of the Modern Movement, the buildings were created from standardized plans with prefabricated modular elements and window walls that unite the interior with the outdoors. One of the most identifiable facets of the houses is the contiguous series of floor-to-ceiling, 3-foot-wide window modules, which are free of traditional ornamentation.
 

Architecture & Design Film Festival Coming to DC in 2018

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and is having a wonderful holiday season. I am happy to write about this gift coming next year from the National Building Museum. The museum, with the Revada Foundation, is bringing the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) to Washington for the first time. The ADFF is the nation’s largest film festival devoted to the creative spirit that drives architecture in design.  The Opening Night celebration and screening of BIG TIME, the film about Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, will be held the evening of Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. The festival runs through Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. The museum will be the venue for all films, featuring three separate theaters, two of which will be specially outfitted for the festival, including the Museum’s iconic Great Hall. Other films will  explore the life and work of architects such as Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry and Kevin Roche, and journalist, author and activist Jane Jacobs. For more details and ticket information, click here. Mark your calendars now.

Michael Shapiro Shares Expertise on Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Washingtonian: If You Love Midcentury Modern Architecture, You Have to Check Out Reston
Michael Shapiro is quoted in an article on the mid-century modern residential architecture in Reston, Virginia.

MoCo Modern Tour: The Work of Cohen & Haft

This year’s Montgomery Modern tour on Sunday, Oct. 8 will explore the Montgomery County work of Cohen, Haft & Associates, a leading modernist architecture firm distinguished for contemporary designs integrated with natural often rugged settings.  The tour will visit The Hilltop and Potowmack Preserve and concludes at the Charles E Smith Service Center campus, which includes the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, Jewish Social Services Agency and Hebrew Home for the Aged, all designed by Cohen, Haft & Associates.
Jack Cary Cohen, FAIA (1924-2011) was a native of Washington, D.C. and received his B.Arch from Catholic University in 1949. He began his career as an architectural draftsman
Ronald Senseman, AIA, founding his own firm in 1953. He served as AIA Potomac Valley president in 1961.2 He was invested a Fellow of the AIA in 1969.3 Leonard A. Haft (1926-1984) was a native of Baltimore and received his B.Arch from Catholic University in 1949. He began his career as a draftsman for Leon Chatelaine, Jr. in 19494 before partnering with Jack Cohen in 1958. (The bio info is from Prince George’s Modern. Cohen & Haft were also active in Prince George’s County.
Bus pickup/drop-off and closing reception will be at the Bender JCC (6125 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD).  The tour, which will run from 1 pm to 3:30 pm is presented by the Montgomery County Planning Department, AIA-Potomac Valley, Docomomo-DC and the Bender JCC. You can buy tickets here.
 

Film: Neutra’s Windshield House – 7/15 @ 2 pm

Go see the fascinating–and tragic–story of Richard Neutra’s first East Coast commission, the 1938 Windshield house, which was designed for the real-estate scion and art collector John Nicholas Brown II and his wife, Anne. The film by their granddaughter, Elissa Brown, uses extensive family movies showing the building of the 14,500-square-foot aluminum and steel structure on Fishers Island, New York. Elissa’s late father, J. Carter Brown, the former director of the National Gallery of Art, gives a vivid portrait before he passed away of the the building process, the house and ultimate tragedies that befell this special place. Windshield: A Vanished Vision will be screened in the National Gallery’s East Building Auditorium on Saturday, July 15 at 2 pm. Free admission. Seats are first, come first serve.
 
 
 

DCPL’s Mid-Century Modern Instameet – July 16

The DC Preservation League is holding its first Instameet on Sunday, July 16, to explore the mid-century modern paradise of Southwest DC. Beginning at Arena Stage, the group will tour part of the neighborhood and photograph housing that includes the aluminum domes of River Park and one of I.M. Pei’s lesser known apartments. Afterwards we will cool off at Cantina Marina (cash bar) and enjoy free snacks. The tour will start at 5 pm at Arena Stage entrance (two blocks from Waterfront Metro). Sign up here.

The Beauty of Brutalism

Do you love Brutalism or hate it? Local journalist Amanda Kolson Hurley makes the case for preserving Washington’s bevy of Brutalist beauties.  “It could certainly be that on this side of the Atlantic, the sun-drenched optimism of California in the 1950s holds a broader appeal than the harried mood of the late 1960s and ’70s,” she writes in this week’s cover story in the Washington Post magazine. “The midcentury-modern movement encompassed popular furniture designs and housewares, which encouraged retailers such as Crate & Barrel to revive the look, nodding to icons like the Eames lounge chair in product lines. Brutalism, by contrast, is a self-serious style not known for creature comforts. In Washington, however, Brutalism’s ubiquity means we will have many chances to decide whether it is worth saving.”
If you want to explore DC’s Brutalist treasures, such as the Watergate pictured above, this Blue Crow Media map will do the trick.

Mid-Century Moderns Moving Fast

Mid-century modern homes in the DC area are flying off the market. My two new listings went under contract in a matter of days, not lasting for the planned open houses this weekend. Properties are intense seeing bidding wars, even properties being marketed off the multiple listing service. You have to move quick if you want snag one. Call or email me if you are looking.
My listing in Wheaton, a custom, vintage mid-century modern being sold by the original family went under contract in an intense bidding war. (All photos by John Cole.) The house was designed by Frank A. Dean, an engineer, for his family. The full wall of glass in the living room looks out over the backyard and park.

My listing in Annandale with its unique, two story atrium was snapped up immediately. Talk about a party space or place to display modern art.

Here are few new interesting listings new to the market:

A 1975 Deck House in Fulton, MD for $589,900
A 1970 Deigert & Yerkes-designed house in Truro in Ananndale, VA for $690K
A 1961 Cross & Adreon-design home in Woodside Park in Silver Spring for $975K

 

National Gallery Celebrates I.M. Pei Turning 100

To celebrate I.M Pei, FAIA, turning 100 on Wednesday, the National Gallery of Art will host a discussion at the Gallery’s Pei-designed East Building, which opened in 1978. “Designed at a crucial point in Pei’s long and productive career, the East Building won the American Institute of Architect’s Twenty-five Year Award in 2004, and Pei, considered a living legend, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1983,” the National Gallery said in a statement.
Susan Wertheim, chief architect and deputy administrator for capital projects at the National Gallery of Art, will discusses Pei’s architectural legacy at the Gallery and then will join his longtime associate Perry Y. Chin to share experiences working on the recently completed East Building renovation. The event will be held April 26 at 3:30 pm in the East Building Auditorium. The presentation is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis.
 

Event: Considering Modernist Landscapes – May 15

Springtime has finally hit DC. The cherry blossoms have come and gone and now the azaleas are in full swing. It is a good time of year to think about the natural environment and landscaping. The National Building Museum is holding a free event May 15 from 6:30 pm to 8 pm on 20th-century modernist urban landscapes by the likes of Dan Kiley, Lawrence Halprin and Paul Friedberg among others. Landscape architects Elizabeth Meyer of the University of Virginia and Gary Hilderbrand of Reed Hilderbrand will discuss ideas for how to sensitively honor and adapt these landscapes in a conversation moderated by Brad McKee of Landscape Architecture Magazine. The event is free but registration is required.
 

Sold: Custom MCM in Owings Mills; New Listings

The custom mid-century modern in Owings Mills I listed closed this week.
It was originally designed and built in 1960 by noted architect James Grieves, FAIA, as his own home. It was later (1980s) seamlessly expanded by another noted local architect, David H. Gleason, FAIA. Here’s one more look. (Photos by John Cole.)
I will have a number of new listings coming soon including a Goodman-designed mid-century in Hammond Wood and a three-level townhouse in Mount Pleasant by modern architecture firm Weinstein & Abel.

 

 

Endangered: Silver Spring Library by Rhees Burket

The mid-century modern Silver Spring Library by noted local architect Rhees Evans Burket, AIA, is facing an uncertain future. The county has put out a request for proposals from developers to turn the site into senior housing and child day care facilities through either incorporating the existing building or knocking it down and starting from scratch. Local activists, including the Silver Spring Historical Society (SSHS), are urging any development plan to integrate the existing structure into the future design. Proposals are due Feb. 28.
 
A vintage rendering of the low-slung library. Courtesy of the Silver Spring Historical Society.
 
“Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘organic modernism,’ ‘in harmony with nature,’ his 1957 S.S. Library of stone and glass and brick, integrated into the hilly landscape, was the largest County library at the time., ” the SSHS said in a statement. “This public building is Burket’s legacy to Silver Spring and Montgomery County.”

 
An original clock inside.
Burket (1899-1963), a Silver Spring resident, was a noted architect in the D.C. area for his homes, commercial and public buildings, including schools. His Stratford School in Arlington, Va., is on the National Register of Historic Properties.

Neutra’s VDL House Named National Landmark

Good news for all of you Richard Neutra nuts. The modern master’s studio and residence in Silver Lake in Los Angeles was just named a National Historic Landmark. “The Neutra Studio and Residences (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles, California, is associated with Richard Neutra, a nationally and internationally seminal figure of the twentieth century Modern movement in architecture, ” said the U.S. Department of the Interior’s announcement. “During the 1940s, as Neutra’s work evolved, he also became the well-recognized founder of mid-century ‘California Modern’ architecture. The VDL Research House is the only property where one can see the progression of his style over a period of years and is among the key properties to understanding the national significance of Richard Neutra.”  The current home was rebuilt by Neutra and his architect son, Dion,  in the 1960s after the original house was destroyed by fire. Neutra founded his firm in 1926 while he was still living in his friend, Rudolph Schindler’s, house, which Schindler designed in 1922.
Just to note: D.C.’s one and only Neutra-designed house is the 1968 house (see below) for Ann and Donald Brown. He designed it in mere minutes once he saw the wooded lot overlooking Rock Creek Park. 

 
Here are a few photos of Neutra’s VDL Research House.
The front of the Neutra VDL Research House II. It is located at 2300 Silver Lake Blvd.
Neutra numbers.
The second-floor library/den.
The stairwell and second floor.
Nice windows in the kitchen.
One of the small but well-designed bedrooms.
The 1940 Garden house in the backyard was spared Read More >

Happy Holidays 2016 from Modern Capital

As the sun prepares to set on 2016, I wanted to wish everyone a Merry  Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a happy and healthy New Year. I am very thankful for everyone who reads the site and follows the work I am doing here in DC. With the site now 10 years old, I am working on a complete refresh so stay tuned  for a brand new Modern Capital in 2017. As always, remember to follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for all the mid-century goodness here in the DC area and from my travels. The recent sunset over the Gulf of Mexico in the picture above is seen through the 1960 Siesta Key Beach Pavilion in Sarasota by Tim Siebert, a key member of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

Herman Miller Mecca in NYC

Since the shopping season is now upon us, Eames, Nelson and Noguchi fans should plan a pilgrimage to New York to pay homage in the recently opened Herman Miller flagship store on Park Avenue. It is Herman Miller’s the first retail store in North America. The two-level store is packed with the classic designs by Eames, Nelson, Noguchi and Alexander Girard. I recently stopped into the small store in Tokyo, where these pictures are from. Can’t wait to see the larger store in NYC.

While Herman Miller has had various manufacturer showrooms in New York going back to the early 1940s, it never has had a large direct retail store until now. See this great timeline of Herman Miller’s history in New York.

 

Modern To-Dos for the Holiday Weekend

If you have modernist family and friends coming into town for the holiday weekend, there are number of new exhibits to explore, including at the recently reopened I.M. Pei-designed East Building galleries of the National Gallery of Art.
On September 30, the East Building galleries, which house the museum’s modern collection and several temporary exhibition spaces, reopened after three years of renovation of the existing galleries and construction of new galleries and a roof terrace. Fresh off its debut at the new Whitney in New York, the Stuart Davis: In Full Swing exhibition is now open at the National Gallery. I saw it in New York and highly recommend. (Read the Post’s Philip Kennicott’s deeply intellectual review here.)

Davis’ monumental 1938 Swing Landscape.

When you need a break exploring the reconfigured East Wing, make sure to relax on the newly restored  Mies van der Rohe-designed Barcelona chairs handpicked by Pei in 1978. Local modern maven Daniel Donnelly was selected to restore the lounges and ottomans, which are now available for visitors to enjoy in the public galleries.

Daniel Donnelly restored the original Barcelona chairs and ottomans for the reopened East Wing.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has two exhibits to check out:  one featuring the works of Isamu Noguchi and the other of local Color Field artist Gene Davis. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and has time to enjoy these exhibits.

Mad About Midcentury Modern

Bethesda Magazine: Mad About Midcentury Modern
Bethesda magazine interviews Michael Shapiro about mid-century modern homes in Montgomery County.

Save the Date: MoCo Modern Bus Tour – Oct. 8

This year’s Montgomery Modern bus tour explores the Montgomery County work of Deigert and Yerkes, a leading modernist architecture firm in the Washington, D.C., area, best known for the National Arboretum Administration Building in Washington.  Operating from 1947 to 1967, the partnership of Robert Campbell Deigert and David Norton Yerkes, created distinctive designs with variety in materials and textures, surprising angles, and contrasting spaces. Led by Montgomery Modern author Clare Lise Kelly, the tour will include the rustic modern houses of Tulip Hill (1950-55) and Oak Spring (1966), lunch at Primary Day School (1955, pictured above), and a concluding reception at Pietro Belluschi’s Cedar Lane Unitarian Church (1958). The tour will be held Oct. 8 and will run from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Presented by the Montgomery County Planning Department, the tour is offered in partnership with Docomomo-DC and AIA-Potomac Valley.  Bus pickup and drop off  will be at the Grosvenor Metro Kiss and Ride. Please find more information at www.montgomeryplanning.org/montgomerymodern.

Free MCM on Lake Holiday in Virginia

Thanks to George Smart of North Carolina Modernist Houses for the heads up on this endangered mid-century modern on Lake Holiday, which is is located near Winchester, Va. The house was designed by Henry Dole Norris and featured in a 1967 edition of Better Homes and Gardens. Norris was a plan book architect whose designs were built all over the United States. The owner is willing to donate the home to anyone who can move it within the next couple of weeks. The owner is also willing to let people disassemble pieces before demolition if the house is not moved.  Owner Joanne Kennedy can be reached at (703)727-2595. (The house is not on a public road and can only be seen by appointment.)

Take Action Now: Help Save Breuer’s API Building in Reston

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing tomorrow (July 26) at 4:30 pm to determine the fate of  the American Press Institute (API) building in Reston by modern master Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith. Last month, the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended that a developer’s plan for the site be denied. Take Action Now to help efforts promoting its preservation. Here is a good piece by local advocates on why the building should be saved. The petition has nearly 1,600 signatures as I write this. Add yours now.
The API closed up shop and joined with the Newspaper Association of America, which is based in Arlington. The move left API’s 1972-1978 brutalist headquarters vacant, sitting on 4.6 park-like acres in the Northern Virginia suburbs.  The 42,334 square foot office building is located at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr. A developer wants to build townhouses on the spot amid the Metro expansion to Reston.

Modern Snapshot: The Four Seasons

It is only fitting that one of the most iconic modernist buildings in the world was home to one of the word’s most iconic restaurant spaces as well. Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building housed The Four Seasons, which was designed by Philip Johnson. After 57 years, the restaurant shut down last weekend because the owner of the building wanted to create a new restaurant in the storied and landmarked New York power spot. While the owners will set up a new Four Seasons just a bit south on Park Avenue in a an Isay Weinfeld-designed space, the the Pool Room and Grill Room at the Seagram Building will become a new restaurant.  If you want to own a piece of the original Four Seasons, Chicago-based auction house Wright will be auctioning everything from Mies-designed Barcelona chairs to sauce pots designed by Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable to the signs by Emil Antonucci.

The Ladies’ bathroom shot by my wife.

The Mens’ room.

The stairs going up from the lobby to the dining level.

The bronze sculpture by Richard Lippold above the famous bar in the Grill Room.

The transition from the Grill Room to the Pool Room.

The famous metal chain curtains will remain in place. The Philip Johnson-designed banquets will be sold in the auction.

Appropriate art by Robert Indiana.

The building itself. Spanish starchitect Rafael Vinoly sums it up best: “If you stand in front of that building and look up, it’s like God has touched it.”

 

Sneak Peek: Old Town Modern by Cook Architecture

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend. As we celebrate Independence Day, take a sneak peek into this 1870 rowhouse  in Old Town Alexandria, the stomping grounds of our founding fathers. The latest project by Michael Cook, AIA, of Cook Architecture and developer Steven Wheeler transformed the 19th Century home into a 21st Century modern space. Listing and more details to follow later this week. Enjoy the pictures by John Cole and the holiday.
A view from the Poggenpohl kitchen into the open living-dining room.
The living room with wood-burning stove.
The stunning master bathroom with soaring ceiling and plenty of glass.

Help Save Breuer’s API Institute in Reston

Please sign this petition by June 13 to help try and save the American Press Institute (API) in Reston by modern master Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith. The API closed up shop and joined with the Newspaper Association of America, which is based in Arlington. The move left API’s 1972-1978  brutalist headquarters vacant, sitting on 4.6 park-like acres in the Northern Virginia suburbs.  The 42,334 square foot office building is located at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr. A developer wants to build townhouses on the spot amid the Metro expansion to Reston.
On June 16, the Fairfax County Planning Commission will make a final decision on a local developer’s application for rezoning the property from business to residential and a demolition permit. The Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff has recommended to the Fairfax Planning Commission its approval of the rezoning application and demolition of the building.
The group, Fairfax Library Advocates, is urging that the building be repurposed as as a regional library.
Remember, please sign this petition by Monday, June 13.

Daniel Donnelly Salvages Screen from Mid-Century Giant

Although the mid-century Giant on Monroe Avenue in Alexandria is no more, you can own a piece of the building thanks to Daniel Donnelly.

As he did with another area building some years ago, Daniel salvaged the signature aluminum grillwork from the building. Daniel is offering powder coated finishes that are viable for exterior use such as garden privacy. Prices are $30-$40 a square foot with panel sizes at 60″ x 5″ x 90″ ( 37.5 sq. ft. per panel). The images below show Satin White and Bronze Brown finishes. Contact Daniel if you are interested.

 

Modern Snapshot: Hollin Hills

Another excellent Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour is in the books. While overcast on Saturday, the weather held out so all the visitors would not track water and mud through the meticulous mid-century modern homes. A few days before the tour, mid-century modern fans were sharing around on Facebook an article about how Hollin Hills was considered “communist.” An interesting piece, it did leave out the role of developer Robert Davenport and his earlier nearby project of Tauxemount, which was started as a cooperative community. Davenport’s experience developing Tauxemont led to his partnership with architect Charles Goodman, who spearheaded the groundbreaking design for Hollin Hills. Both Hollin Hills and Tauxemont are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here are a few shots from the tour if you were not able to make it. The excellent tour guidebook was designed by resident Olivia Paek.

One of the highlights. My clients’ house was featured. It is one of the most stunning homes in the neighborhood inside and out.

This stunning two-level below was previously featured in Dwell magazine.

Some nice Knoll Richard Schultz 1966 outdoor furniture to enjoy the lush surroundings.

This stunning house was not on the tour but just came on the market for $1.2 million. It was featured on the tour several years ago.

Congrats to all the residents and organizers. Can’t wait for the tour in 2018.

Carderock Springs, Lake Barcroft and More

The spring real estate market is bringing out some interesting modern homes that were hibernating during the winter. It is warming up but look at the sunken conversation pit in this 1972 soaring contemporary in Columbia. Listed at $499K and open 1-3 pm. Looking for a mid-century modern neighborhood with a stellar pool club? This 1965 Hillcrest model (pictured above) by Keyes, Lethbridge, and Condon in Carderock Springs is listed for $775K.  (The house is listed by my Long & Foster colleague Mary Lou Shannon, who I have teamed up with in the neighborhood.)
Looking in Virginia? I love the vintage kitchen in this 1961 mid-century modern in Lake Barcroft. It is listed for $865K and open 1-4 pm. Here’s a Charles Goodman-designed mid-century modern in Hollin Hills., which is having its home and garden tour on April 30. The house is listed at $685K and open 1-4 pm.

I am holding a an open house 1-4 pm today at my new listing in Potomac. It is a beautifully renovated 1972 contemporary three-level townhouse in Inverness Forest. The 2,100 square foot home has 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms upstairs and 2 half bathrooms. The main-level open kitchen-dining-living area features hardwood floors and walls of glass, with sliding glass doors opening to the large deck and fenced backyard. Listed for $525K.

 

Event: Palm Springs in DC – April 21

 
Alexander House of Tomorrow in Palm Springs by William Krisel, 1962.
Room & Board is bringing Palm Springs to the East Coast. On April 21, the modern furniture purveyor on 14th Street is hosting a conversation and book signing with Heidi Creighton, author of William Krisel’s Palm Springs: The Language of Modernism, which will be available for purchase. Krisel is the living-legend architect who helped pioneer California mid-century modern architecture.
Hillary Kelly, Design Editor for Washingtonian magazine, will lead a lively conversation with Heidi about incorporating mid-century modern style into your home and the design influence from the Hollin Hills neighborhood, which is holding its home and garden tour on April 30.  Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails while exploring the stores goods. The event runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Conversation begins at 7:15 p.m. You can RSVP here

Eason Cross, FAIA, Dies at 90

Leading local modernist Eason Cross, FAIA, who studied at Harvard with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, passed away in late January at the age of 90. Cross worked for Charles Goodman early in his career and was a long-time resident of Hollin Hills. Cross was well-known for his modernist housing designs, including the house pictured above in Mohican Hills in Bethesda, which I listed several years ago.
Read Clare Lise Kelly’s obituary for more details on Eason’s major contributions to local modernist architecture.

Montgomery Modern Book on Kindle, at St. Paul’s

Senior county architectural historian Clare Lise Kelly’s book, Montgomery Modern: Modern Architecture in Montgomery County, Maryland, 1930-1979, is now available in Kindle e-book from Amazon. The book, which chronicles mid-century modern architecture in Montgomery County,  is also available in paperback and hard cover.  This illustrated reference book includes an inventory of key buildings and communities, and biographical sketches of architects and developers.
If you want to learn more in person, you can see Clare on March 30 at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Kensington. The mid-century church, pictured above, was designed by Duane & Duane and finished in 1968. The reception and illustrated author lecture will begin at 7 pm. The event is sponsored by the Kensington Historical Society and the Kensington Park Friends of the Library. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
The publication of the book is part of the county’s Historic Preservation Office’s award-winning Montgomery Modern initiative to educate the public about the architectural heritage of Montgomery County. For information about additional future talks, go to www.montgomeryplanning.org/montgomerymodern
 
The book’s cover showing the Robert Llewellyn Wright House (1957), Bethesda, by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Carol Highsmith.
 
 

Exhibit: Early Women of Architecture in Maryland

The Early Women of Architecture in Maryland travelling exhibit is now on display through May 30 at the University of Maryland’s Kibel Gallery. Researched and created by the Women in Architecture Committee of AIA Baltimore, the exhibition celebrates the women who contributed to Maryland architecture from the 1920s to the ’60s, including DC modernist Chloethiel Woodard Smith and Poldi Hirsch, who brought her European-influenced modernism to more traditional Havre de Grace.
On Wednesday, Feb 17 at 5 pm, the gallery will host a panel discussion featuring the exhibit’s curator, Jillian Storms, AIA.  The other panelists are Anne E. Bruder, Senior Architectural Historian, Maryland State Highway Administration, and Dr. Isabelle Gournay, University of Maryland Associate Professor and author of Modern Movement in Maryland.
The Hirsch House in Havre de Grace by Poldi Hirsch.
This past October on the national  Docomomo US Tour Day,  Women in Architecture and the Historic Resources Committees of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation hosted a tour of modernist projects by Hirsch in Havre de Grace, including her own house. Hirsch, who immigrated from Germany in 1953 was heavily influenced by Le Corbusier , was the first woman corporate member of the AIABaltimore Chapter.
Sketches by Hirsch of rental units she designed and built.
 
 

Palm Trees, No Snow: LA’s Modernist Housing

With the blizzard now passed and the big dig to begin, I thought everyone could use some pictures from the land of palm trees and no snow: Los Angeles. During the holidays, I went to LA and explored the mid-century modern and modern homes throughout the city. From the ever-present modest dingbats to the stunning mid-century modern homes in exclusive Trousdale Estates, it is always fascinating to see the breadth of modern residential architecture in Southern California. The dingbat is one of the most common housing types in LA–two- to three-story boxy structures built over parking space. They typically have cool names, numbers and Googie adornments.

This dingbat in West Hollywood is a bit more staid than others.

 
Besides the raised dingbats, there are plenty of other modest mid-century apartment complexes.  Here is one of my favorites with the walls of glass surrounding the stairwell and the cool screen block on the right.

This one on North Sweetzer in West Hollywood has an asymmetrical front gable that extends on the right side to cover the balcony.

Here’s a single-family Bauhaus-style home in West Hollywood.

Moving up into the hills above Hollywood, Trousdale Estates is the exclusive neighborhood in Beverly Hills packed with custom mid-century modern homes by  leading mid-century architects, such as Wallace Neff, Paul R. Williams and A. Quincy Jones. Always a haven for the stars, today many of Hollywood’s elite live there and have done restorations or major modern renovations. A numbers of houses have also been lost.

Here are some Venice Beach moderns–and Read More >

Happy Holidays 2015 from Modern Capital

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. I also wanted to thank everyone for reading the site during the past eight years. I’m in Los Angeles this week so I thought the Christmas tree with palm tree  and Stahl House image below would be appropriate. Follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for mid-century goodness from California.

Before and After of a Mid-Century Modern Charles Goodman Renovation

Washingtonian: Before and After: This Midcentury Modern Masterpiece Underwent a Shocking Transformation
Washingtonian looks at the before and after of a mid-century modern Charles Goodman renovation project Michael Shapiro did with Michael Cook, AIA, of Cook Architecture.

Post Story Focuses on Renovating MCM Homes

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. In case you missed  this while away, the Washington Post’s Real Estate section ran a piece by Deborah Dietsch about renovating mid-century modern homes. She covers the gamut from a smaller DIY Goodman renovation to the work architect Michael Cook is doing for his clients and in our major renovation and expansion of a Goodman in Alexandria (see before and after pics above and below). A good story, but I still don’t get the headline. In the actual paper, the front page of the Real Estate section had the added main header of: “The cost of aesthetics,” which makes more sense.

 

Prince George’s Modern

As part of growing local efforts to document and preserve local mid-century modern architecture, the Prince George’s County Planning Department has launched its Prince George’s Modern project to help raise awareness of the mid-century treasures in the county. One of the signature buildings in the county is the Hyattsville Public Library. Designed in 1964 by Walton and Madden, it features a concrete and Plexiglass flyer saucer-like structure near the entrance. While a new library will be built next year, the plans include using the saucer in a new garden space.
“The buildings and cultural landscapes of the Modern Movement, especially those from the mid-twentieth century (Mid-century Modern) are among the most under-appreciated and vulnerable aspects of Prince George’s County’s heritage,” the program says. “Since the 1980s, an increasing campaign of demolition and alteration has eroded the physical fabric of the County’s recent past with little consideration of its community importance, design significance, or role in a sustainable future. Identifying these properties and exploring their architectural and cultural significance is the first step to increasing awareness of their merits and fostering advocacy for their preservation.”
If you have information or images of mid-century modern homes or buildings, please reach out to the county’s Historic Preservation office at HistoricPreservation@ppd.mncppc.org or 301-952-5447.

 

Forget Mad Men; Go See These Mod Women

The house designed by Poldi Hirsch in Havre de Grace. Photo courtesy of The American Institute of Architects, Baltimore Chapter.
While men get most of the ink, there are women who left their mark on mid-century modern architecture and design as well. There are a slew of events in our area celebrating some of these female modernists.
On Oct. 10, the national  Docomomo US Tour Day (the DC-centric version is Oct. 24),  Women in Architecture and the Historic Resources Committees of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation will host a tour of modernist projects by architect Poldi Hirsch in Havre de Grace, including her own house. Hirsch, who immigrated from Germany in 1953 was heavily influenced by Le Corbusier , was the first woman corporate member of the AIABaltimore Chapter.
Poldi, along with 11 other architects, are featured in the Early Women of Architecture in Maryland travelling exhibit, which is currently on display in the AIABaltimore Gallery through October 30. The exhibit  also features DC modernist Chloethiel Woodard Smith.
Eva Zeisel (manufactured by Manifattura Mancioli), Belly Button Room Divider Prototype, 1957; Ceramic with metal rods, 60 x 36 in.; Courtesy of Eva Zeisel Archive; Photo by Brent Brolin
Beginning Oct. 30, the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be showing Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today, an exhibition that explores the lasting impact of women artists and designers on Read More >

MoCo’s Vintage Mid-Century Road Signs

During the post World War II boom, Montgomery County grew by leaps and bounds. The new, post war exuberance was reflected in not only the modern architecture sprouting up but by the cool roadside signs as well. The Montgomery County Planning Department’s Montgomery Modern initiative has nice post highlighting some of the remaining signs, including the Weller’s sign in Silver Spring (above), and others that, unfortunately, have been lost.  Take a roadside tour right from your desk or phone.
Just a note: I am roaming around my native New York, so check out my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds for mid-century modern and modern inspiration from the Big Apple.

The Architect of Palm Springs: Donald Wexler, 1926-2015

So sad to hear of the passing of Donald Wexler, who put his stunning architectural imprint all over Palm Springs. He was a classy and modest gentleman who created enduring architecture. It was so cool that he was on the tour I did of Palm Springs a few years back during Modernism Week. I was honored to have met him. Below is a post from several years ago.
This is last in the trilogy of posts on my trip to Palm Springs. (You can read the first two posts here and here. I am devoting this post solely to the work of Donald Wexler, FAIA, who my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting when we were in Palm Springs during Modernism Week.
Mr. Wexler, who is 85, is quite simply put, a rock star without the attitude. His work was feted throughout Modernism Week with the exhibit Steel and Shade: The Architecture of Don Wexler at the Palm Spring Art Museum and the showing of the file, Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler (Speaking of the movie, Modern Richmond is holding a showing of the film at the Virginia Architecture Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m.)
Touring around Palm Springs with Mr. Wexler and his family was an honor.
He attended many of the other Modernism Week events, spoke on a panel and even took one of three-hour architecture tours of the city that he helped build and define. (Luckily, I picked the tour he was on.)
Wexler, Read More >

Documenting the MCM Architecture of Wildwood, N.J.

If you don’t follow architectural photographer Darren Bradley, you should. His photos of mid-century modern and modern architecture are just stunning. As someone who grew up in New Jersey and still goes up to the Jersey shore every summer, I had to link to Darren’s amazing photos and monumental post about the mid-century architecture in Wildwood, N.J. (I took the shot above of the Panoramic years ago.)
Less than 200 miles from Washington, the Wildwoods (Wildwood, North Wildwood, Wildwood Crest) at the Jersey shore have the country’s largest concentration of mid-century commercial architecture from the 1950s and ’60s. The architecture of the motels, diners, restaurants and vintage neon signs reflect the era’s fascination with the automobile, air and space travel and all things Tiki/Polynesian. The architectural style in Wildwood was dubbed Googie. Many of the Doo Wop motels in Wildwood were built by Will and Lou Morey.
With more than 100 Doo Wop buildings having been destroyed amid the boom in real estate, the National Trust for Historic preservation named the Doo Wop motels to its “Most Endangered” list in 2006.
If you plan to go this summer, check out the Doo Wop Preservation League for great information and a map to the area. Also check out this site and this one.

Bike Tour of Modernist Southwest – June 11

If you want to do some cycling and take in some architecture after work this week, join the National Building Museum’s bike tour of Southwest DC. The tour will take place this Thursday (June 11) from 5:30 pm-7 pm.  The tour will take in the area’s mid-century modern architecture, the Wharf development on the waterfront,  historic rowhouses and new mixed-use development.
More than 50 years ago, Southwest  underwent a massive transformation, representing at the time the largest urban renewal project in U.S. history. The effort to create a “modernist Utopia” in the nation’s capital was led by the likes of Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Charles Goodman, I.M. Pei, Morris Lapidus, Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, Marcel Breuer, Edward Durell Stone and Harry Weese. This mid-century modern redevelopment effort was even highlighted in a exhibition at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
So hop on your bike and check the modernist architecture of southwest and the new development taking place along the water.

5 Iconic Modern Houses to Tour

It’s Monday. School is almost out. Summer is almost officially here. Planning for summer vacation?  The Wall Street Journal suggests visiting five early modernist and mid-century modern homes to inspire your own modern spaces. Not a bad idea. Two of those on the list: Phillip Johnson’s Glass House (above) in Connecticut and Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House (below) in Los Angeles. The others are in Brazil, Finland and France. Enjoy if you go to any of these on the list.

Event: Modernizing Mies’ MLK Library

If you want to see what initial plans look like for possible changes to Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the National Building Museum is hosting an event with the architects from D.C.-based Martinez & Johnson and the Dutch firm Mecanoo Architecten. The event will be held Thursday, June 18 from 12:30–1:30 pm at the museum. The event is free but but pre-registration is required. Register and learn more here.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, aerial view. Rendering courtesy DC Public Library.
 
 

Explore Europe’s Modern Embassies – May 9

You will not experience any jet lag as you view some European modernism right here in Washington. The annual tour of European embassies is tomorrow (May 9) with the “Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ Open House Day.” Mid-century modern and modern embassies to focus on are the embassies of Denmark (above) and Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany. Enjoy the trip.

A Cool Virtual Tour of the Eames House

You have seen images of the Eames House online or may have even vistied the site and peeked your head into the famous modernist space. Now, Archilogic, a real estate marketing company, has created a cool interative 3D model so you can further explore the Case Study House #8 in Pacific Palisades from youe desk. You can even furnish the house how you desire. Just don’t let your boss see you playing with this all day.

The ‘Mad Men’ Legacy: Look to the Furniture

With the second of the last seven “Mad Men” episodes airing now, I wanted to make sure everyone saw this interesting piece by Andrew Romano,  the West Coast Correspondent for Yahoo News who lives with his wife in a 1946 Alvin Lustig-designed mid-century modern home in Los Angeles. He says the show’s true legacy will focus on the promotion and celebration of mid-century modern furniture and design. (You should follow him on Instagram here.)
“‘Mad Men’s’ influence on design preferences may well outlast its influence on menswear and cocktail menus. Sure, hard-core design types have already moved on — to 1970s decadence or 1980s Memphis,” Romano writes. “But normal human beings still prefer the Design Within Reach look, and this doesn’t seem to be changing. Enter the hashtag #modern on Instagram, and 2.45 million photos pop up. With more than 325,000 subscribers, Dwell, a monthly love letter to modernist design, is one of the most popular shelter magazines in the country.
“It’s a short leap from retro to retrograde, and surrounding ourselves with artifacts from an earlier age could easily seem weird, or suffocating, or just plain pretentious. I don’t want to ignore new design just because it’s new, and I don’t want my living room to look like a set. But true modernism protects against that. At its best, it doesn’t get old. That’s because it isn’t a historical style — a fad, a trend — like French provincial or Mission revival; it isn’t a predetermined look, Read More >

Modern Snapshot: The National Presbyterian Church

The prominent campus of the National Presbyterian Church on Nebraska Avenue was designed by ecclesiastical architect Harold E. Wagoner, who once said: “The great thing about being an architect is you can walk into your dreams.” The cornerstone of the Brutalist/Neo-Gothic  complex was laid by congregant and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on October 14, 1967, according to a history of the church. The design featured a main sanctuary seating 1,260, a chapel, large central fountain and a soaring carillon tower.  The congregation first worshiped in its new home on September 7, 1969. Here are a few recent black and white shots of the campus.

 

Book Tells Story of Wright’s Pope-Leighy House

The Pope-Leighey House is owned by the The National Trust for Historic Preservation.
To mark the 75th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House,  architect Steven M. Reiss has published the book Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, which tells the fascinating story of the Usonian house. The house, originally built for journalist Loren Pope  and his family, was completed in 1940 in Falls Church. Second owner, Marjorie Leighey, helped save the house when it was threatened by the construction of I-66. She donated it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which moved the house to Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria in 1964. It was later moved again, although only 30 feet, because of soil issues. The house was the first of only three Wright homes built in Virginia. Here’s a short recent review from The Washington Post to learn more about one of our local architectural treasures.

Modern Snapshot: Noguchi’s ‘California Scenario’

With the thermometer on 10 degrees right now, I thought these pictures would be appropriate. Heading south from LA and just off the 405, you can find a small oasis amid the office buildings of Costa Mesa. Located on land that used to grow lima beans, Isamu Noguchi’s “California Scenario” is a 1.6 acre minimalist public garden that highlights California’s diverse natural environment, including its water, farmland, Redwoods, desert and mountains.  Here is the garden’s brochure to learn more. Soak up the sun and the modern landscape design. No snow in sight.

 

Happy New Year from Modern Capital

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thanks for reading and supporting the site during the past eight years. I hope 2015 will be filled with health, happiness and lots of mid-century modern goodness for all. This year architect Michael Cook and I will be developing a Charles Goodman-designed mid-century modern home we found on a private .6 acre lot. So stay tuned for updates on this new project.
Here are just a few shots from my recent trip to California to help warm you up and provide some modern inspiration as we kick off the new year. This first series is from the Stahl House, or Case Study House #22 by Pierre Koenig. This was the first time I did the evening tour. You should do it. It is magical.

Here’s the 1921 Hollyhock House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately, it is currently closed for renovations so no inside tour. Oil heiress Aline Barnsdall picked a nice spot with a view for this Wright design.

Here are some of the Richard Neutra-designed homes in Silver Lake, starting with his own. The second house pictures is the 1957 Yew House. Third is the 1960 Kambara House.

Also in Silver Lake are the Avenel Homes, a 10-unit coop designed by Gregory Ain and built in 1947. The development is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here are a few examples of more standard mid-century housing in Los Angeles.
The Hillcrest in Los Feliz.
I love this mid-century pattern on this balcony in Los Read More >

Event: A Portrait of Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier was designing super-efficient housing seen in today’s trend of micro-apartments, but 60 years ago. This is Unite d’Habitation in Nantes-Reze. Photo by Anthony Flint.
As part of its Portraits in Design series, the National Building Museum on January 11 will explore the work and life of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier (1887–1965).  The son of an engraver, Le Corbusier studied art at a foundation for watch engravers. His first architecture commission came at 18 when he was asked to design a villa for one of the teachers at the school. During the 1.5 hour session at the museum, Anthony Flint, author of Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow (New Harvest, 2014), will discuss the Swiss-French architect’s influence on urban planning and dedication to developing better living conditions in crowded cities. A book signing follows the talk. For more details and to buy tickets, click here.
 
 
 

Finnish Embassy Turns 20

Finnish Embassy is the first LEED-certified embassy in Washington.
Happy birthday to the the Finnish Embassy, which turned 20 this month. Located on Massachusetts Avenue across from the Naval Observatory, it 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.
“The architects chose to marry function with form and created a unique building which reflects some of the values that Finns hold most dear,” the embassy says in its history of the building. “The Finnish taste for modernity resulted in the building’s thoroughly contemporary design. Finland’s commitment to transparency is reflected in the embassy’s wide-open spaces and extensive glass surfaces. By blending harmoniously with the vines and trees of the neighboring park, the embassy reflects Finland’s deep respect for nature.”
Here are a few shots of the embassy.
Finland Hall is a multi-purpose cultural facility.
The soaring space of the hall.
A view from inside. The embassy backs up to parkland.
The glass-enclosed cantilevered balcony on the back of the building.
The balcony is surrounded by lush greenery.
Alvar Aalto stools out on the balcony.

Modern Capital Pine Spring Renovation Is Post ‘House of the Week’

Washington Post: House of the Week
The Post highlights our Pine Spring renovation as ‘House of the Week’

Mies’ Highfield House in Baltimore Marks 50 Years

Mies van der Rohe’s Highfield House in Baltimore this weekend marked 50 years since it opened its doors to residents. Seems like the more traditional-minded neighbors did not approve when it was originally built. The condo (it was originally apartments) building just north of Johns Hopkins Homewood campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. (The only other building in Maryland designed by Mies is the 1962 One Charles Center office building, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places.)
I found one unit currently for sale. The 2 bed/2 bath is listed for $199K.
A view of Mies’ Highfield House from N. Charles Street.
Built in 1964, the 15-story reinforced-concrete and glass structure is perched on columns that shelter a glass-enclosed lobby with its Mies-designed Barcelona chairs, ottomans and coffee table.

Appropriate furniture in the lobby, which features terrazzo floors.

Mies’ plan, originally designed as an apartment building, included the surrounding grounds with a sunken pool and landscaped recreation area.
Mies’ minimalist modern landscape on the back terrace.
Mies’ modern planting beds.
Highland House’s back terrace and sunken swimming pool.
Back lawn area with free-standing screen.
A shot of  the back of Highfield House through the minimalist plantings.

Modern Snapshot: Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J.

Summer is over but the Washington Post Travel section is hanging on with its review yesterday of the “Doo Wop” style Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J. The mid-century modern motel was purchased in 2004 by Carolyn Emigh, an Arlington lawyer and her partner George Miller. The motel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, features a levitating ramp to the second story, canted glass walls, recessed “spaceship” lights and the first plastic palm trees to be used in the Wildwoods.

“The motel in Wildwood, on the Jersey Shore, is one of the items preserved in the beach town’s living time capsule,” Andrea Sachs writes in the Post. “The Doo Wop Motel District, a two-mile stretch between Atlantic and Ocean avenues, is neon-lit with more than 50 motels — including the Caribbean — dating from the era of drive-ins, bobby socks and ­skyscraper-high hairstyles.”

Less than 200 miles from Washington, the Wildwoods (Wildwood, North Wildwood, Wildwood Crest) at the Jersey shore have one of the country’s largest concentration of mid-century commercial architecture from the 1950s and ’60s. The architecture of the motels, diners, restaurants and vintage neon signs reflect the era’s fascination with the automobile, air and space travel and all things Tiki/Polynesian. Many of the Doo Wop motels in Wildwood were built by Will and Lou Morey.
With more than 100 Doo Wop buildings having been destroyed amid the boom in real estate, the National Trust for Historic preservation named the Doo Wop motels to its “Most Endangered” list in 2006. Check out the Doo Wop Preservation League’s good website for more info on Read More >

Open Houses in Truro, New Mark Commons and More

Here’s a round up of some open houses for tomorrow (Sunday, Sept, 14), including three in Truro in Annandale that are all open from 1 to 4 pm. My real estate partner Sean Satkus is holding an open at our 1971 Forestview model listed at $599K. This expanded Glenview model is listed at $647,500 and this new listing for a Ridgeview model is priced at $649,888. Built by Miller & Smith and designed by Deigert & Yerkes—one of the leading mid-century modern architectural teams in the D.C. area, Truro is a beautiful wooded community of nearly 400 contemporary homes.
If you want something on the water inside the Beltway, go see this untouched mid-century modern in Lake Barcroft, which is listed at $1.2 million.
In Maryland, this 1972 contemporary by Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon in New Mark Commons is listed for $629,900 and is open from 1 to 4 pm. If you have a bigger budget, check out this 1968 award-winner in Bethesda by post-modernist master Charles Moore. It has been reduced to $2.35 million.

Modern Snapshot: The Primary Day School in Bethesda

Featured in Progressive Architecture in 1958, the Deigert & Yerkes designed Primary Day School in Bethesda opened in 1955. The stark white, sprawling hexagonal design with touches of–how appropriate–primary colors is hard to miss if you are driving on south on River Road from the Beltway.

“The school flourished, and in the 1950s it began planning for a more permanent home,” the school’s web site says. “A parent donated land for a school building, a local foundation awarded a grant, other parents helped guarantee a mortgage, and eventually construction began on a new school. In the fall of 1955, Primary Day welcomed the first students to its new campus on River Road in Bethesda, Maryland. It remains the school’s home today.”

David Norton Yerkes and Robert C. Deigert were partners their leading modernist firm from the mid-1940s to mid-1960s. They also designed the National Arboretum Administration Building and the contemporary neighborhoods of Manor Woods, Wessynton and Truro. They also designed this round elementary school in Wheaton.
 

Midwest Modern Road Trip

It’s summer, so time for a good old road trip. The Wall Street Journal has a short piece highlighting the plethora of mid-century modern and modern architecture between Cleveland and Chicago. “Thanks to preservation efforts and the museum-building boom of the past decade, America’s hot zone for modern and contemporary architecture is still the Midwest,” Dan Rubinstein writes. “And driving is the best way to see it all, including the star attraction, Chicago.” The article highlights the new such as Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland to Eero Saarinen’s 1957 War Memorial in Milwaukee, which is pictured above and I highlighted here, and his Miller House in Columbus, Ind.

Ken Freeman Designs in Bethesda, Rockville

Ken Freeman was a New York clothing designer who moved his family to Maryland in the 1960s to become a real estate developer. He briefly worked with his brother Carl M. Freeman, who introduced the “California Cottage” to East Coast when his company built an award-winning community in 1947 in Carole Highlands, Maryland, and became a major developer in the DC area.
This house pictured below is located in Lake Normandy Estates in Rockville. It is listed for $795K. About two dozen of Freeman’s designs remain with a few more having been altered or lost.

The vintage house pictured below is located in Bradley Park in Bethesda. It is listed for rent for $3650 per month. Freeman designed and built more than 100 mid-century modern homes in Bradley Park in the 1960s. Most remain but the the neighborhood continues to lose Freeman’s original designs to new, larger homes.

Like his brother, Ken sought to mix things up here in Washington. “He was nontraditional. He didn’t like the brick Colonials in Washington. He said they all looked the same. He said they were boring, very closed-in, old ideas. He just liked houses being different . . . clean lines, simple and tailored. It was like a religion to him,” Freeman’s daughter, Judith O’Callaghan, was quoted as saying in this 2005 Post story on Bradley Park in Bethesda. Freeman also built homes in Mantua in Fairfax.

Exploring the Pre-Fab Designs of Blu Homes

If you are thinking about a pre-fab modern home, Modern Capital sponsor Blu Homes has a couple local opportunities to explore the firm’s designs. The company, based in Vallejo, CA,  focuses on green homes with foldable steel-frames that allow for easy transport and open floor plans. If you are out by the water this Memorial Day weekend, the firm’s first  Breezehouse in Maryland on beautiful Round Bay in Severna Park will be open Saturday, May 24 from 11 am to 1 pm. You can register here.
If you can’t make the open, join Blu Homes on June 12 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Westin Georgetown Hotel. Enjoy drinks and appetizers while learning about Blu’s unique design and construction process.  A local Sales Consultant will be on hand to answer questions you may have about building with Blu. You can sign up for that event here.
Enjoy the holiday weekend.

From the Archive: The Gropius House

To mark Walter Gropius’ birthday (May 18, 1883) I thought I would pull this post out from the archive. When Gropius first came to the United States in 1937 to teach at Harvard, he and his wife rented a Colonial in Lincoln, Mass. Thankfully, philanthropist Helen Storrow provided Gropius with four acres of land and provided financing so the founder of the Bauhaus could construct a proper modern house for his family, albeit with touches of New England. “In designing the house, Gropius combined traditional elements of New England architecture such as clapboard, brick, and fieldstone, with new, innovative materials, some of them industrial, such as glass block, acoustical plaster, and chromed banisters, along with the latest technology in fixtures,” according to a history of the house by Historic New England, which owns and operates the property. “The design of the Gropius House is consistent with Bauhaus philosophies of simplicity, functionality, economy, geometry, and aesthetic beauty determined by materials rather than applied ornamentation.”

A shot below of the entrance, protected by a wall of glass block. The curved stairway leads to the room Gropius’ daughter, Ati, who wanted her own entrance. The window near the stairs is Gropius’ office so he could keep an eye on her comings and goings.

Unfortunately, pictures are not permitted inside the house. The interior and the furnishings are kept closely to how Gropius and his wife, Ise, maintained the house. (Ise lived there until she died in 1983; Walter died in 1969.) Gropius’ eyeglasses Read More >

Appreciation: Harold L. Esten, FAIA

Sad news to report. Harold Esten, FAIA, one of Washington’s leading modernist architects, passed away in February at the age of 94. I was lucky to meet with Hal and his wife Alice before they moved to California to be closer to family. I was honored to list their house in Hammond Wood, which Hal was instrumental in designing when he worked for Charles Goodman.

The Esten family home in Hammond Wood. I listed the house in 2011.

Here’s a look back at Hal’s award-winning career, which thankfully left the Washington area with some very elegant and stunning mid-century modern design.

Esten, who was born in 1920 in Philadelphia to Russian immigrants, studied civil engineering at the University of Alabama and George Washington University before the World War II. After Pearl Harbor, he worked for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the Coast and Geodetic Survey, identifying landing strips, landmarks and obstacles to aerial navigation until he was called up for active duty.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, on the USS Wasatch as a cartographer and photographer. He participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf; in landing operations in Lingayen and Polloc Harbor in the Philippines and in Balikpapan, Borneo; in the Occupation of Japan; and in peacetime operations in China.
After the war, he entered the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology on the G.I. Bill. The Institute of Design was founded by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1937 as the New Bauhaus, after the Nazis shut down the original Read More >

Reminder: Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour May 3

Hope everyone had a good Easter and Passover. I wanted to remind you that the May 3 Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour is fast approaching. Make sure you buy your tickets now if you have not done so already. Beyond the main event of touring 10 homes and gardens, tour organizers will host a pre-tour lecture and a new  “Ask the Expert” opportunity. During the tour, participants will be able to ask a  panel of designers and architects questions on the neighborhood and designs of architect Charles Goodman. The experts’  table will be stationed outside of 7420 Hopa Court.

The lecture, “Early Goodman Architecture and Influences through the Design and Development of Hollin Hills,” will run from 11 am to noon in the Hollin Meadows Elementary School cafeteria. Patrick W. Collins, Chief Architect of the Department of State, Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, and  John A. Burns, Chief Appeals Officer for Cultural Resources in the National Park Service, will discuss the influences on Goodman’s groundbreaking work in Hollin Hills. Collins grew up in the neighorhood and Burns has been a long-time resident.

You will not want to miss this chance to learn more about Hollin Hills.

 
 
 
 
 
 

A ‘Mad Men’ Peek into the Time & Life Building

While the promos and articles about the new season of Mad Men focus more on the action in Los Angeles, I thought this Time magazine peek into the Time & Life Building in good old New York was a nice way to celebrate the return of the show. (I took the above shot of the building in January.)
“The Time & Life Building, designed by the Rockefeller family’s architects, Harrison & Abramowitz & Harris, opened in 1959, meaning that Don Draper et al. were some of its earliest (fictional) occupants,” the magazine’s intro to the slideshow says. “Time Inc. magazines like TIME, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated still call the building home—but it must be said that, six decades later, hardly anything seen there today can match the sleek, ambitious style that defined the place, and the people who worked there, when 1271 Avenue of the Americas first opened its doors.”
Enjoy the show.

Design Destination: Tour the Danish Embassy

Danish mid-century design is hot. You can get a taste of it right here in Washington by touring the Danish Embassy on May 10 as part of the EU’s open house day.
The 1960 Danish Embassy is the first modern embassy in Washington. It 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.
A glass bridge connects the ambassador’s residence to the right with the offices on the left.
Marble-floored foyer of the ambassador’s residence. The interior and exterior marble is from Greenland.
A view from inside the foyer.
Very rare Poul Henningsen lighting.
Designs by Arne Jacobsen, including this Egg Chair, and other Danish designers can be seen throughout the residence.
The dining room Read More >

MCM Pocket in McLean

Chilton Court is a cul-de-sac of mid-century modern homes just off Old Dominion Drive in McLean. Seven of the homes retain their mid-century modern exterior while one of the home has been altered. While I’m not sure who designed the homes, which are in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, the mostly post-and-beam designs definitely evoke Eichlers in California. One of the homes (which has some updates) currently on the market for $869K features clerestory windows, extended eaves, open staircase and prominent fireplace in the living room. A nice outdoor space continues the California vibe. Looks like the house is open Sunday from 1 to 4 pm.
 

Area Mid-Century Vacation Homes

It’s spring–at least that is what the calendar says–so it is time to get out of the house, explore and get ready for summer. I thought I would post some mid-century homes not too far from DC that could be nice weekend retreats — or full time residences if you want to feel like you are on vacation all year. This looks to be a 1980 Deck House in Arnold, Md. but the original design is more mid-century modern. It is listed for $479K. This 1976 A-frame sits on more than an acre in New Oxford, Pa. and is listed at $134K. I like this 1966 mid-century modern listed for $1.060 million near the water in Severna Park, Md. Here’s a 1965 beach house right on the Severn River. It is listed at $899K. And how about this 1978 passive solar and earth shelter home on more than 12 acres in King George, Va.? Listed for $359K.
 

Redevelopment Ready to Hit Southwest Waterfront

The major redevelopmet of Southwest DC’s waterfront is slated to kick off later this month. (See the recent Washington Post piece here.) More than 50 years ago, Southwest  underwent a massive transformation, representing at the time the largest urban renewal project in U.S. history. The effort to create a “modernist Utopia” in the nation’s capital was led by the likes of Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Charles Goodman, I.M. Pei, Morris Lapidus, Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, Marcel Breuer, Edward Durell Stone and Harry Weese. This mid-century modern redevelopment effort was even highlighted in a exhibition at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
As the new round of redevelopment begins, mid-century modern buildings that contribute to the unique architectural heritage of Southwest will be lost, including the 1966 Saint Augustine Episcopal Church by Alexander Cochran of the Baltimore firm, C, S & D, Inc. (pictured above). From the preservation point of view, the question remains: how will this development ultimately impact the mid-century modern architetcure and aestehtic of Southwest. While revitalization of the area is needed, how can it be done in a way that complements the existing architecture?

In recent year, local activists have worked hard to have local residential complexes recognized as historic, including Tiber Island, Harbour Square and most recently, I.M Pei ‘s Town Center East (above). The expected formation of a local Docom0mo chapter will hopefully add another voice in these efforts to preserve the architecture of Southwest amid the major changes to the area.

Take Action: Help Save the Wheaton Youth Center

 

A Feb. 25 Montgomery County Council public hearing on the early 1960s Wheaton Youth Center may be the last time for supporters to make a pitch to save the building from demolition. Montgomery County would like to demolish the building and construct a new library/recreation center facility on an adjacent parcel. Historic designation is supported by the Historic Preservation Commission and the Montgomery County Planning Board. However, the County Council has the final say on the building’s future.
While some are concerned that preservation of the historic building will prevent the planned new library and recreation center from being constructed, the Planning Board has found that it is possible for preservation and redevelopment to occur at the same time. The preservation community believes that a new use can be found for the Wheaton Youth Center, and the new library can be constructed on the site without any impact to the planned program for the new facility.
The award-winning Japanese-inspired design was done by Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon. The center is said to have served as a premier spot for concerts back in the day, including Alice Cooper, Bob Seger and Rod Stewart. Some even say that Led Zeppelin played a show there in 1969.
The Feb. 25 hearing will take place at 7:30 p.m. at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. Written comments/testimony may be emailed to Council President Craig Rice at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov and County Executive Ike Leggett at ocemail@montgomerycountymd.gov or by mail to the Council’s Office of Legislative Information Services, Read More >

Exhibit: The Landscape Legacy of Dan Kiley

Dan Kiley at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO.Photograph courtesy Aaron Kiley.
Dan Kiley, one of the most influential modernist American landscape architects, worked with the giants of modernist architecture: Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Louis Kahn and Gordon Bunshaft. Locally, he partnered with the likes of Charles Goodman (in Hollin Hills) and Chloethiel Woodard Smith (Capitol Park in Southwest).
To honor his impact on modernism and to call attention to the need for effective stewardship of his work, the Cultural Landscape Foundation has produced The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley, a traveling photographic exhibition celebrating Kiley’s life and career. The exhibition features 45 photographs documenting the current state of some of Kiley’s most significant designs.
The exhibit will open at the National Building Museum this Saturday. Feb. 8 and will run through May 18.
Here’s an excellent online resource about Kiley and his work, including two projects here in DC: Banneker Park and the National Gallery of Art.
The Miller Garden in Columbus, IN. Photograph © Millicent Harvey, 2013, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
 

Examining the Eames @ the National Building Museum

Want to learn more about how and why Charles and Ray Eames had such an important impact on modern design? The design duo will be highlighted as part of the museum’s  upcoming Portraits in Design lecture on Saturday, Feb. 15, by Patricia Kirkham, professor at the Bard Graduate Center. Kirkham will examine the couple’s enduring legacy and how they “propelled modern design into the mainstream through their furniture, textiles, and architecture” and how “their Case Study House #8 stands today as an emblem of the southern California lifestyle, blurring inside and outside through a fresh, dynamic architectural composition.” You can buy tickets here for the 11 a.m. program.

Finalists to Present MLK Library Ideas

Happy Martin Luther King Day. I thought it was appropriate to give an update on the expected renovation and modernization of Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in DC. In late December, three architecture teams were selected as finalists to present plans for the library. Each firm will present two ideas: “One of a stand-alone library and one of a mixed-use building with additional floors,” according to the library. “Both design ideas are intended to show each team’s vision and approach to renovating the central library. No decisions have been made on the type or extent of the renovations or additions to the library.”
The three firms selected are: Mecanoo/Martinez + Johnson Architecture; Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross with Krueck +Sexton; and STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group.
In early February, the firms’ design ideas will be displayed at the library, in neighborhood libraries and on the library’s website. The three teams will present their design ideas and approach at a public meeting Saturday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. in the MLK Library’s Great Hall at 901 G St. NW.
The only Mies-designed building in Washington, the library was designated in 2007 by the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board as a historic landmark–both the interior and exterior. It was also listed that same year on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mies-designed MLK Library was designed in 1968 and finished in 1972. Experts are examining what should be done with the historic building.
 

Metro Wins 2014 AIA 25-Year Award

While Washington’s Metro has its share of problems as anyone who has ridden it knows, its stunning yet simple brutalist design by Harry Weese still stands the test of time and is a true architectural symbol here in the nation’s capital. The mid-century modern design has now garnered the 2014 American Institute of America’s Twenty-five Year Award, which recognizes architectural design of enduring significance.  “The Twenty-five Year Award is conferred on a building project that has stood the test of time by embodying architectural excellence for 25 to 35 years,” according to the AIA. “Projects must demonstrate excellence in function, in the distinguished execution of its original program, and in the creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards.”
See what the jury had to say:
“The striking design of the prototypical Washington Metro station revolutionized public perceptions of mass transit in the mid-to-late 20th century. The station designs have held up remarkably well despite the phenomenal population growth of the Washington region and accelerating pressures on the system.
“The stations are airy and spacious, avoiding the claustrophobic qualities of so many older subway facilities in other cities. They are quintessentially modern while maintaining a certain grandeur befitting the nation’s capital. The original stations are now–and have always been–largely free of graffiti and litter, thanks in part to thoughtful planning on the part of the original architects–the designs actively discourage the sort of degradations that plague many other mass transit systems.”
The award will be presented this June at the Read More >

Lost: Rockville’s ‘Pink Bank’ Building

The “Pink Bank” in Rockville at 255 N. Washington St. will be no more. Work has started to take down the 1964 former Suburban Trust Bank building. Despite the city’s Historic District Commission’s recommendation that the building be spared and that a historic designation process be allowed to begin, the Rockville City Council voted 3-2 to allow the condo developer Kettler to raze the building, which was designed by Washington architect Arthur L. Anderson.

“Anderson’s design is strongly reminiscent of contemporaneous works by Edward Durell Stone, whose designs for Lincoln Center in New York (1962), and the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (1963) are recognized as landmarks of New Formalism, a style pioneered by Stone and others who introduced monumental form, ornamentation, and classically-inspired design into the modernist canon” architectural historian Dr. Teresa B. Lachin wrote in a 2006 piece about the building. “In the Suburban Trust building, Arthur Anderson combined the use of urban scale, modern classical form, color, and ornamentation in his interpretation of the New Formalist style.”

Happy New Year; Mid-Century Modern Churches

River Road Unitarian Church by Francis Donald Lethbridge.
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2014. I also wanted to thank everyone for reading the site during the past seven years and for continuing to support my wonderful sponsors. During this time of year, I thought a collection of images of the varied mid-century modern church design seen throughout the country would be appropriate. Here’s just a few of the dozens and dozens of churches I have snapped during the past seven years. Enjoy and Happy New Year. Just click on each photo to view in a larger format.
1. Church near Joshua Tree, CA
2. St. Paul’s in Kensington, MD
3. Waikiki Baptist in Honolulu
4.-5. St. Mark in Honolulu
6. St. Mary’s in Rockville
7. Church near Alexandria
8. Fort Washington Baptist
9. First Christian in Columbus,  IN (By Eliel Saarinen)
10. North Christian Church in Columbus, IN (By Eero Saarinen)
11. Episcopal Church Center, University of Miami campus
12. St. Mary’s in Rockville
13. Church in Los Angeles
14. Cedar Lane Unitarian in Bethesda (By Pietro Belluschi with Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon)
15. Belle View Baptist Church in Alexandria
16. Church in Palm Springs

Victor Lundy Film, Tax Court Tour Jan. 25

The life and work of Victor Lundy, FAIA, who studied with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at Harvard and became a leading member of Paul Rudolph’s Sarasota School,  is being celebrated in a film produced by the General Services Administration. The film, Victor Lundy: Sculptor of Space, will be screened to the public for the first time at the National Building Museum on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. Tickets are free but you must register. Mr. Lundy, 90, has been invited to attend.
A tour of his nearby National Register-listed U.S. Tax Court will take place following the film. The tour is reserved for members of the museum.

The U.S. Tax Court (designed in 1965; built in 1974) is an intriguing mid-century modern building. As you are rushing to work, you can easily pass the blocky-glass-walled sides of the building without taking too much notice. But when you actually stop for a second and look at the building from the front, you will see a deconstructed cube with four parts, the most striking of which is the 4,000-ton cantilevered courtroom block on the front held up by an innovative cable system.

The most powerful space in the building is the open, four-story Hall of Justice with walls of glass on the front, clerestory windows at the top and natural materials: bronze columns, granite floors and walls and vertical slats of teak and hemlock ceiling. I took the pictures during a tour in 2010. I highly recommend seeing the Read More >

Modern Snapshot: Honolulu’s Tropical Modernism

With the snow and ice that we had here the past couple of days, I thought some images from Honolulu would help take your mind off the dreary weather. Honolulu is one of the best cities in the United States to find such a concentration of mid-century modern architecture. “In the middle of the 20th century, Honolulu boomed,” architectural writer Scott Cheever wrote in Honolulu magazine piece in 2006. “New buildings sprang up like mad, and the architects of the mid-century designed them to excite people with endless possibilities. Definitely modern, these buildings seemed to float in the concrete dreams of a new era.”
Hawaii’s brand of modern architecture is exciting and exotic, taking the ideas of modernism and putting a tropical spin on the designs so they fit with the beautiful natural surroundings. Here are some of my favorite shots from my recent trip in August.
Here’s the portico of the 1964 Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall by Merrill, Simms, Roehrig. Man made and natural architecture (the palms) together.

 Love the appropriate design on these apartments near Diamond Head.

The banks are beautiful in Honolulu. I like how the columns on the American Savings bank evoke the shape of palm trees.

The 1967 Atlas Insurance Building on King Street was designed by Ernest Hara. I love the concrete planters.

The 1960 King Center (1960) on South King Street was designed by Takashi Anbe. It features a  free standing expressionist portico and metal screened façade.

Below is the former Hawaii Life Insurance building (1951) by Vladamir Ossipoff. Unfortunately, the original rainbow Read More >

Johnie’s Coffee Shop in LA Landmarked

Some good preservation news from Los Angeles. Johnie’s Coffee Shop, designed in 1955 by Armet and Davis, was landmarked by the LA City Council last week. The original drawing for the Googie coffee shop first built as Romeo’s Time Square is part of the Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940–1990 exhibit currently at the National Building Museum. Here are a few shots from a couple of my trips to visit the Googie landmark, which was featured in movies such as “The Big Lebowski” and “Resevoir Dogs.” Hopefully, the vacant building can be turned into a cool coffee shop once again amid redevelopment plans for the area around the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax.

Modern Mobler Opens New Shop in Kensington

 

Finally. A taste of mid-century modern on Kensington’s Antique Row. I am excited to report that Doug Meyers of Modern Mobler (a Modern Capital sponsor) has opened up a second location at 3730 Howard Ave.  Named Mobler at Kensington, the shop will feature mid-century modern and Danish modern furniture, accessories and art among the more traditional shop offerings along the strip.  Doug’s new shop is in a new space that also includes Sage Style, which specializes in vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories from the 1930s to ’80s. Store hours are Monday through Saturday 10:30 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday from noon to 5:00 pm.

Exhibit Explores Driving Forces of LA Architecture

 

If you were not able to make it to Los Angeles earlier this year to see the variety of exhibits that made up  Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., the National Building Museum is bringing at least one of them to Washington. Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940–1990 “traces the city’s transformation into an internationally recognized destination with its own design vocabulary, canonized landmarks [see the Stahl House above and below], and coveted way of life.” The exhibit, co-organized by the Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, explores five key subjects: car culture, urban networks, engines of innovation, community magnets and residential fabric.  The exhibit opens Sunday, Oct. 20 and runs through March 10, 2014.

 
 

Modern Snapshot: Vintage Photos of Rock Creek Woods

Today, Rock Creek Woods is known for its park-like setting and explosion of cherry blossoms in the spring. While architect Charles Goodman and the builders sought to keep the topography and trees when they were developing the neighborhood, the land was much more barren than it is now, some 50 years later.
As the original 1959 brochure for the neighborhood says: “The architect begins his concept with the beautiful, rolling, wooded terrain of Rock Creek Woods, and the homes have been designed to fit the rise and fall of the of the land, disturbing it as little as possible. All trees not actually in an excavation of street have been saved…the houses become part of the natural surrounding.”
Here are some vintage photos (circa 1960) of the Holland House, my current listing under contract, which is being sold by the original family.

Here’s a shot of the neighborhood when it was first being built. This view is looking northwest on Rickover Road.

Here’s a shot in the neighborhood from last spring when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

 

Breuer-Designed House Highlight of MoCo Modern Tour

I am posting  a few photos for those of you who missed the Montgomery Modern Bus Tour this past Saturday. The tour was organized by the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Historic Preservation office in partnership with the American Institute of Architects Potomac Valley Chapter. As part of Docomomo’s Tour Day 2013, the tour focused on mid-century resources in Friendship Heights and the western side of Bethesda. You can view the excellent tour booklet with more information and pictures of the sites explored.

We started off at the GEICO headquarters in Friendship Heights. The 26-acre campus was designed by architect Victor Kling and first built in 1959. The taller office tower was added in 1964. GEICO has approved plans to demolish the whole complex and build new office space and housing, although there is no set date for such work to begin.

Love the huge saucer fountain out front.
The tour also included visits to two Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon neighborhoods: Potomac Overlook and Carderock Springs, one of Montgomery County’s four National Register of Historic Places-designated modern neighborhoods. In Carderock Springs, we saw three models, including one of the rare flat-roof Atrium homes pictured below, and toured the community club house.

Participants also toured the 1965 River Road Unitarian Church by Francis Donald Lethbridge and had lunch compliments of KONST, a kitchen and interior design firm based in Bethesda.

The highlight was a private tour of the 1958 Seymour Krieger House by Marcel Breuer, with landscaping by Dan Kiley. The house, which was Read More >

Get Your Tickets: Montgomery Modern Bus Tour Oct. 5

Get your tickets now and hop aboard the Montgomery Modern Bus Tour on Oct. 5 to explore various modernist sites in the county. As part of Docomomo’s Tour Day 2013, Montgomery County Planning Department’s Historic Preservation office, in partnership with the American Institute of Architects Potomac Valley Chapter, will host the tour from 10 am to 2 pm.  The tour will include, among other stops, visits to two Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon neighborhoods: Potomac Overlook (a house in the neighborhood is pictured above) and Carderock Springs, and a custom home by Marcel Breuer in Bethesda. Participants will also enjoy lunch compliments of KONST at the River Road Unitarian Church, also by Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon, and tour the building as well as the compatible recent addition. You can purchase tickets for the tour here.

Film Exploring Zeppelin, Wheaton Rec Center at AFI Aug. 30

The film Led Zeppelin Played Here, which explores the debate about if the legendary band played a show in 1969 at the endangered Wheaton Community Recreation Center, will have a one-time showing at the AFI in Silver Spring on Aug. 30. The Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon-designed Wheaton Community Recreation Center, originally known as the Wheaton Youth Center, served as a venue for bands in the 1960s. The building was mentioned in the 1965 A Guide to The Architecture of Washington, D.C., which was edited by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA.
Montgomery County is planning to demolish the building and replace it with a new community center. The county’s Historic Preservation Commission will be evaluating the Wheaton Youth Center for potential historic designation on September 11.  The county’s Planning Board review is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 17.

Blu Homes Model in MD Opening to the Public

Dwell’s recent issue devoted to modern pre-fab homes highlighted  Blu Homes, the Waltham, Mass.-based builder of modern, green homes designed with foldable steel-frames that allow for easy transport and open floor plans. If you have been thinking about a pre-fab and want to see one in person, you have an opportunity this Sunday to get a sneak peek of the company’s first Breezehouse in Maryland. The house is located on beautiful Round Bay in Severna Park and will be open for the first time to the public this Saturday and Sunday. If you want to be one of the first to view the model home, click the links to register for Saturday or for a tour on Sunday.

 

Modern Snapshot: Breuer’s Vacant American Press Institute

In early 2012, the 66 year-old American Press Institute in Reston closed up shop and joined with the Newspaper Association of America, which is based in Arlington. The move left API’s 1972-1978  brutalist headquarters by Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith vacant, sitting on 4.6 park-like acres in the Northern Virginia suburbs.  The 42,334 square foot office building is located at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr. Cushman & Wakefiled is representing the property and pitching that it is located close to two of the new Metro stops coming to Reston. What will be the fate of this brutalist building by one of the great modern masters?

Event: Building Museum Explores ‘Miesian’ Architecture

The National Building Museum’s Architecture 101 series will explore “Miesien” architecture on July 20. Kevin Herrington, professor of art & architectural history at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), will examine the architecture of, or influenced by, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe which is characterized by large expanses of plate glass, visible steel framing and minimal structural decoration. The discussion runs from 11 am to 12:30 pm. You can sign up here.
Mies’ Crown Hall at ITT.

Art @ Archer: Mid-Century Work of Benjamin Abramowitz

I went to Archer Saturday afternoon to see the exhibit of mid-century art by Benjamin Abramowitz. If you have not made it yet to Georgetown to see the colorful and bold abstract pieces done between 1960 and 1970, hurry to the store. You can also plan on attending the closing  party for the exhibit, which will close Tuesday, July 16. The finale , ABRAMOWITZ x WASHINGTON ART MATTERS, will include an exclusive book signing by Jean Cohen and Elizabeth Tebow, two authors of the newly published and highly acclaimed WASHINGTON ART MATTERS: Art Life in the Capital 1940-1990. The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Enjoy the views.

Modern Snapshot: Hal Esten’s Halex House

The Hal Esten-designed Halex House at 814 Thayer Ave. in Silver Spring, which served as the headquarters of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) for 35 years, is slated to become a four-story apartment building.

The NAD sold the building for $4 million in 2006. The Planning Board approved plans for the apartment building in 2008. The plans were revised last year after the property owner changed hands and partnered with Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The new owner is seeking  to develop the property as an affordable housing tax credit project. The original design for the proposed building looks very cool and modern; the new proposal not as much.

Esten, who worked for Charles Goodman before launching his own successful firm, designed many award-winning homes throughout the DC area. He not only designed the building but had an office there as well.

Here is a vintage shot from one of Esten’s marketing books that I received from the family when I sold Hal’s own house in Hammond Wood in Maryland.

Endangered: Wheaton Rec Center

Looks like Montgomery County is moving ahead with plans to demolish the award-winning 1964 Wheaton Community Recreation Center designed by Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon. The county is looking to combine the rec center with the nearby Wheaton Library on Georgia Avenue. Two public meetings are scheduled on June 5 and June 24.  The June 5 meeting will take place from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Wheaton Library in Meeting Room 100. The center is said to have served as a premier spot for concerts back in the day, including Alice Cooper, Bob Seger and Rod Stewart. Some even say that Led Zeppelin played a show there in 1969.

A close up of the wavy window screens.
The side of the gym. Did Led Zeppelin play in there?
 

Docomomo Highlights Modernism of Southwest D.C.

Docomomo US, the American chapter of Docomomo International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement, highlights the architecture of Southwest DC in its latest newsletter. The piece is by architectural historian Dr. Richard W. Longstreth, a professor at George Washington University where he directs the program in historic preservation. Dr. Longstreth gives an overview of the ambitious urban renewal project and raises concerns about its future.
Charles Goodman’s River Park (top) and Chloethiel Woodard Smith’s Capitol Park (above) in Southwest.
“Southwest is now a threatened area,” Longstreth concludes. “Zoning for its blocks ignores the implemented plans of the 1950s and 1960s, allowing for considerably denser development. Already one of [Dan] Kiley’s major spaces in Capitol Park has been lost for two medium-rise apartment blocks that insult the spatial order around them. Another portion of the same project is threatened by new construction and insensitive alterations to the adjacent apartment slab. [Hideo] Sasaki’s waterfront park may be destroyed. Two projects, Tiber Island and Harbour Square, have received local landmark status, but residents in some other compounds are wary of such protection, fearing a rise their assessments. The current municipal administration seems to regard the copious amounts of planned open space in the Southwest more as a potential cash cow emanating from new commercial development than a singular and distinguished area worth protecting. In the months and years ahead, it is likely to be the scene of prolonged, heated debates.”

Mid-Century Modern in McLean

I spent some time this week exploring neighborhoods in McLean. Most people associate McLean with mega McMansions. While that is by and large the case,  there are many mid-century modern and contemporary homes in the area. I love the mix of mid-century modern homes in Braewood on Shipman Lane and Nesbitt Place, which are located here.
Braewood in McLean has a variety of mid-century modern style homes. The house pictured at top is on Nesbitt Place. This home is on Shipman Lane.
However, this small cluster is seeing its mid-century homes get torn town and replaced with you know what. See the changes that occurred at 6807 Nesbitt Place and 1104 Shipman Ln.

The Grass Ridge neighborhood is filled with funky mid-century split levels, including this four-level split pictured above that is listed for $695K.

MCMs with Wood-Beamed Ceilings

I hope everyone had a good Easter and Passover. While inventory is still very tight, I have seen a bit of an uptick in mid-century modern and other contemporary homes coming onto the market during the past week or so. We’ll see what happens as spring kicks into high gear. The theme for today’s post is wood-beamed ceilings, a common design element seen in mid-century modern homes. Check out the extensive wood and wood-beamed ceilings in this mid-century in Lake Barcroft listed for $699K. The soaring wood-beamed ceilings in this house in Cabin John listed for $1.79 million have been painted. If you want your wood-beamed ceilings with more acreage, take a look at this vintage 1958 home on 23 in Boyds. It is listed for $719K.

Modern Snapshot: Three Eichlers in New York

I just watched the excellent documentary on Joseph Eichler, who developed more mid-century modern tract houses than any other builder in the country. During his career, he built more than 11,000 modernist homes, mostly clustered around the Bay Area.  The film, People in Glass Houses, was produced by Realtor Monique Lombardelli, tells the story of the Eichler phenomenon and interviews homeowners in various Eichler communities in California. In reading more about Eichler, I came across an article about three homes he built in Chesnut Ridge, New York. Three Eichlers in Rockland County, just north of New York City? Well, I had to go see them. Here they are, including one double A-frame design.

 

Lecture Series: Modern Living in Rockville

Peerless Rockville is kicking off a series of events this Saturday exploring various communities in Rockville, including the mid-century modern neighborhood of New Mark Commons, whose entrance is marked by the totem pole pictured. The wooded community, a Planned Urban Development, was developed by Edmund J. Bennett and designed by the  modern architectural firm of Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon. The series will also explore Twinbrook, Woodley Gardens, Carl M Freeman’s Americana Centre and King Farm.
“Free and open to the public, the series [titled Modern Living for a Modern City] will highlight five neighborhood communities from the early postwar housing boom to mid-century planned development to the ‘new town’  movement popular at the end of the century,” the local preservation group says. “The series will culminate in an evening lecture and panel discussion at Rockville City Hall, offering guest lecturers and residents an opportunity to discuss the factors that influenced modern development, the significant elements of each time period and the special features of each community that have contributed to its success and left lasting imprints.”

Modern Snapshot: The Washington Post Buildings

While recent stories about how the Washington Post is looking to sell its current home discussed the mid-century modern nature of the architecture, they did not discuss who designed the buildings or the interesting story of the headquarters that was never built. The original 1951 Post building at 1515 L St. was designed by the firm of Albert Kahn, who was the country’s foremost industrial architect of the early 20th century. He died nine years before the Post building was constructed.
The original 1951 Washington Post building on L Street was designed by the firm of Albert Kahn a number years after master industrial architect died. Photos by Agustin Cruz.
In the 1960s, as the Graham family was looking to construct a new building at 1150 15 St., they paid I.M. Pei $2 million for a design. Pei came up with a building shaped like a typewriter, but it was never built. (Read Carol Felsenthal’s good piece on this here.) The current 1972 building was eventually designed by the same firm who designed the original building, Albert Kahn Associates.
The 1972 Post building was also designed by Albert Kahn Associates.
With the location prime for redevelopment, local preservationists such as the D.C. Preservation League are raising concerns that the spot where the Watergate stories were produced could meet the wrecking ball.  Thanks to my friend Agustin Cruz for the pictures of the buildings.

Harbour Square Deemed Historic

The Historic Preservation Review Board voted Feb. 28  to list Chloethial Woodard Smith’s Harbour Square in Southwest in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. The designation recognizes Harbour Square for its modern architecture by Smith and modern landscape design by Dan Kiley. Harbour Square will now be nominated to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.
“Built between 1963 and 1966, Harbour Square marked the beginning of Washington’s recognition as an incubator of first-rate architectural talent in the face of previous disrespect and skepticism,” says the community’s web site. “Its construction was a significant step in the redevelopment of Southwest Washington with its highly innovative design, mixed housing types, and effective use of green space.”
Designed as an upscale component of Southwest’s urban renewal during the 1950s and ’60s, Harbour Square  is a complex of 448 apartments and seventeen townhouses, including seven historic townhomes from late 18th and early 19th centuries, built around a monumental reflecting pool as part Kiley’s landscape design.

Some of the most breathtaking views in Washington can be had from the top of Harbour Square along the Southwest waterfront.

Smith and Kiley’s work is just steps away from Hideo Sasaki’s Waterside Park along the Washington Channel.

Here are a couple of shots of the lobby of one of the buildings. Large expanses of glass bring the outside in while new versions of period appropriate furniture are ready for you to relax in after a hard day of taking  in the views from the roof. I see one Read More >

Post Highlights MoCo Modern Preservation Effort

The Washington Post is out with a story today on the efforts of  Montgomery County historic preservation planners Montgomery Modern effort to catalog and preserve mid-century modern buildings (such as the school in Takoma Park pictured above) and communities. “The challenge is always preserving the recent past,” says Clare Lise Kelly, research and designation coordinator in the county’s Historic Preservation Section. “It’s easy to look at things from 100 years ago and see them as historic. .?.?. If we don’t act now to assess resources from this time period, they’ll be gone, and then it’s too late to say, ‘That apartment complex was really special.’?” Check out the slideshow here to see some of the iconic mid-century modern resources in the county. There are even a few shots inside our mid-century split in Bethesda.
 

DCPL Lecture: Shaping Southwest; Feb. 26

The D.C. Preservation League is holding a lecture Tuesday, Feb. 26 on the mid-century modern architecture of Southwest D.C. The program, Shaping Southwest: Understanding the Past and Envisioning the Future, will be held 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Jefferson Middle School at 801 7th Street, SW. Speakers will be Richard Longstreth, professor at George Washington University, and Todd Ray, architect at Studio Twenty Seven Architecture. The panel will “explain how the neighborhood came to look as it does and why both individual buildings [such as the Chalk House by Morris Lapidus pictured above]  and the overall planning and development are significant.” They will also “look at the role that architects such as I.M. Pei, Harry Weese and Chloethiel Woodard Smith had in shaping the neighborhood and its architecture.”
Harbour Square was designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith.
 

Help Preserve Mid-Century Glenmont

Planners are working on a new sector plan for Glenmont that looks at past recommendations and reflects the community’s vision for a transit-oriented, revitalized community. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the draft plan this Thursday (Feb. 14.) here in Silver Spring.
Glenmont Forest (the former Americana Glenmont) was built by Carl M. Freeman, who helped introduce modern residential architecture in DC. Photos courtesy of Clare Lise Kelly.
As part of this review, two important mid-century modern resources will be subject to the hearing this week.  One is Carl M. Freeman’s 1961 Americana Glenmont modernist garden apartment complex (now called Glenmont Forest). Freeman was a leading innovator in modern housing, bringing “California contemporary”-style to Washington.
The Georgia Avenue Baptist Church was designed in the 1950s by Theodore R. Bennett. An early 1960s education wing was designed by Vosbeck-Ward Associates.
The other is the 1956 Georgia Avenue Baptist Church, which uses TECFAB panels that were developed by Charles Goodman, and manufactured in a Goodman-designed plant in Beltsville. The church was designed by Theodore R. Bennett. An early 1960s education wing was designed by Vosbeck-Ward Associates.
Here is an excellent resource for more information on Americana Glenmont and the church.
Clare Lise Kelly, research and designation coordinator for the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Section (HPC), says the HPC’s staff believe the apartment complex and church are highly significant resources, merit historic designations and should be protected amid the proposed development of the area. She adds that the Read More >

Ft. Lauderdale’s ModWeekend: March 15-17

Tired of the cold? Want to see some mid-century modern architecture at the beach? Book a ticket down to Florida for the inaugural ModWeekend in Fort Lauderdale. Spearheaded by John T. O’ Conner, editor-in-chief of Tropic Magazine, the event will kick off Friday, March 15 with a “Mod Men” party. The weekend will include two double-decker bus tours of  the city’s landmark buildings, including Sea Tower by Igor Polevitzky (below) and Dan Duckham’s own home and studio (pictured above). You’ll also find a mid-century antique fair, architecture film and lecture series, a boat cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway and vintage car show.
Sea Tower by Igor Polevitzky
The weekend will come to a close with a party at the world-famous Mai Kai (pictured below), a classic Tiki restaurant by South Florida architect Charles McKirahan. The weekend’s events will be centered in North Beach Village, a gentrifying area packed with mid-century modern hotels and apartments. Get the full schedule and the details here. And get your tickets now.
The world famous Mai Kai by Charles McKirahan.
 

Formica Celebrating 100 Years of Cool

Formica, the staple of mid-century modern kitchens and bathroom counterops is turning 100 and getting some notice. To celebrate its 100 anniversary, Formica has launched a new retro-inspired line. Retro Renovation has all the news and pictures here. The radio program Marketplace gave Formica  a shout out for being an affordable and green product for your mid-century restoration project. I know I always love seeing the vintage patterns when I am out exploring the mid-century modern houses in the area.
Vintage boomerang Formica for bathroom (top) and kitchen.
 
 
 

Dan Kiley: Hollin Hills, the Miller House and More

If you are interested in learning about the early landscape designs of Hollin Hills and want to learn more about landscape architect Dan Kiley, I recommend picking up a copy of Daniel Urban Kiley: The Early Gardens. The slim but informative book discusses Kiley’s career and focuses on his work in Hollin Hills and the garden of the Eero Sarrinen-designed Miller House in Columbus, Ind. (A fascinating tidbit I did not know: Kiley took over for Saarinen as the chief of the Design Section the Office of Strategic Services and designed the courtroom and furniture for the Nuremberg Trials.)
A few of Dan Kiley’s plans for Hollin Hills. Images from Daniel Urban Kiley: The Early Gardens.
Kiley, often dubbed the dean of American landscape architects, was the second of three in Hollin Hills, where developer Bob Davenport required home buyers to purchase a landscape design. Lou Bernard Voight helped Charles Goodman and Davenport design the community did individual landscape designs for residents until he died in 1953. Kiley took over and designed plans until 1955 when Eric Paepke, who worked for Kiley and then started his own office, took over to help finish out the community. Kiley designed nearly 100 gardens during his tenure. While none were fully implemented and none survive today as much of the neighborhood has “gone back to the woods” as seen above, Joseph Disponzio writes in the book that “Hollin Hills was the experimental ground on which Kiley transformed his design language into the masterful modern Read More >

Post Highlights “1950s Vibe” of Raymondale

The Washington Post’s regular “Where We Live” column featured the “1950s vibe” of Raymondale, a mid-century modern community in Falls Church.  The 142-homes neighborhood was first developed in 1955 and was marketed as the “‘New Look in a Brick Rambler.” The community surrounds Holmes Run Stream Park and is accessible from Annandale Road.
“Except for one cul-de-sac of 1960s custom homes, Raymondale was built in the mid-1950s by Westwood Properties Inc. and promoted as the ultimate in modern living,” writes Cheryl A. Kenny. “Home styles range from the one-story ‘Raymondaire,’ with large windows and a low roofline, to the ‘Mark II’ brick rambler. Most homes, originally about 900 to 1,200 square feet, sit on quarter-acre lots.”
No homes are currently listed for sale in the neighborhood.

Modern Snapshot: The Schindler House at Night

In Washington, tourists often take tours dubbed something along the lines of “Monuments by Night.” When I was in LA, I did the Schindler House by night. After a packed day, I finally made it to the house in West Hollywood on the way to the airport. Early modernist Rudolph Schindler built the house in 1922 after moving to Los Angeles to oversee the building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. A return trip during the day along with a visit to Schindler’s Mackey Apartments are in order. At night, the one-level home made of wood, canvas and poured concrete had the feeling of a Japanese lantern. The house was was  “designed as live-work space for two couples with a shared kitchen and an apartment for guests. Schindler’s work focused on the integration of interior space and exterior space using complex interlocking volumes and strongly articulated sections.” Here are a few quick shots.

 

Modern Snapshot: Beverly Hills

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. With the weather dreadful today here in Washington and the local market quiet, I was looking through recent pictures from LA. Here are a few shots of the modernism in Beverly Hills to warm you up. Above is a shot of the 1965 Union 76 Gas Station by Pereira Associates. Alan Hess, in his book Googie Redux, writes that the gas station was “originally designed for the entry to Los Angeles International Airport as a counterpoint to the Theme Building.”
The former Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce. Ground was broken in 1948 for this building on South Beverly.
Art Deco building with pharmacy along South Beverly Drive.
This building on the corner of South Beverly and Wilshire was built in 1968 and designed by Langdon and Wilson originally for Glendale Federal Savings and Loan. Classified in the New Formalism-style, the high-rise has a flat roof with wide overhang featuring distinctive stained glass filled eaves that are supported by concrete rafters.

Below is the Wilshire Beverly Center by Victor Gruen Associates.
Wilshire Beverly Center

Modern Snapshot: The Eames House

Ray and Charles Eames’ “stuff” is almost all back in their house. The contents of the living room were famously removed last spring and displayed as part of LACMA’s  exhibit “California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way.” While the living room contents were on display in the museum, the Eames Foundation did some much needed preservation work. Herman Miller, the producer of the Eames’ furniture line, also used the empty living room as the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot of he couple’s designs. See if you can spot the house in these amazing photos. Or you can just take a peek at the pictures I took last month.

 

Event: Daniel Donnelly to Launch Ceramic Lighting Line

Daniel Donnelly loves clay. After shaping it as a kid and majoring in the medium in college, he is now launching a new line of Decorative Ceramic Lighting. The shapes of the lamps are inspired by mid-century modern lines such as the  classic shapes of La Gardo Tackett.  “While my oldest son attended the Corcoran, I  rediscovered my love of clay and created a clay studio in the back of of a 1979 Volkswagen Van,” Daniels says.

Daniel was creating so many ceramic pots that he began to make them smaller while keeping the proportions the same. “I accidentally cut the bottoms out of several pots while doing the final shaping and decided to start stacking them one atop of the other,” he says. “Next thing, I’m making plans to create table lamps.” Daniel will launch his new creations at an opening day party this Saturday (Dec. 15) from 12-6 p.m. at the Daniel Donnelly showroom in Alexandria. Light refreshments will be served.
Dozens of the lamps will be on display, including wheel-thrown vessels that are stacked totem pole style–“Cones and Spheres”–as well as hand-formed cubes, balls and “chunks,”along with groups of his ceramic miniatures and scaled furniture models. All the pieces are made and fired entirely by Daniel at his home studio. Make sure to stop by the showroom this Saturday for these custom, functional pieces of art.

 

Thank You on Thanksgiving

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. As you prepare to sit down for the holiday with you family and friends (wouldn’t it be nice to sit around this table in this house?), I am thankful to all of my wonderful clients and to Modern Capital’s readers and sponsors for supporting the site during the past six years. As you are traveling this week or as you are lying on the couch after all that turkey, check out all the goodies from out here in Los Angeles on Facebook and Twitter.
The Eames House

Modern Snapshot: Two MCM Churches

There are so many mid-century modern churches, synagogues and others houses of worship that dot the Washington area, that I have been trying to force myself to take time to stop and take some pictures as I am rushing around. Bauhaus master Water Gropius even designed a synagogue near Baltimore. Here are just two that I recently took shots of: one in Virginia and one in Maryland. See how both buildings incorporate stained glass in different ways. The Belle View Baptist Church, which to me evokes the shape of a soaring ark,  is just south of Hollin Hills on Fort Hunt Road. See its thin ribbon of stained glass down the end of the sanctuary.

The other church is the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, which is tucked into the woods at the corner of Cedar Lane and Beach Drive in Bethesda. The building, which extensively uses stained glass for its walls of windows, was designed by Pietro Belluschi, the dean of the MIT School of Architecture in the 1950s and one of the most prolific modern architects. I also have seen references that mention that local modern architects Francis Donald Lethbridge and Arthur Keyes of Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon worked with Belluschi on the design.

Which are your favorite mid-century modern houses of worship in the DC area?

Modern Snapshot: Vintage Touches Galore

While many mid-century homes in the area have been updated for the better–or in many other cases for the worse, so many homes that I see still have interesting vintage touches from lighting to kitchens to bathrooms. Here’s a round up of pictures from recent months to give you inspiration to hunt down similar vintage items or newer products inspired by the real mid-century designs. Which is your favorite?
A variety of lighting.

A vintage Westinghouse oven.

Wall clock radio.

Here are some indoor planters.

Here are a few vintage bathrooms, including Formica boomerang vanity.

Monday Night Event: Southwest DC: Then and Now

River Park by Charles M. Goodman.
If you want to squeeze in some DC architecture before the final presidential debate, the Southwest Heritage Project will be holding  a program on Southwest DC’s history, architecture and public parks at Monday night’s Southwest Neighborhood Assembly meeting. The event, entitled Southwest DC: Then and Now, will be held Oct. 22 from 7-8 p.m. in the Molly Smith Library at Arena Stage.
Chalk House West by Morris Lapidus, Harle & Liebman.
Cecille Chen of the Southwest DC Heritage Project will be making a presentation on the history of Southwest with a focus on urban renewal and our modernist architecture, and historian Hayden Wetzel will present his research on Southwest’s public parks. There will be a digital exhibit of historical images of Southwest, including Garnet Jex’s slide presentation, “The Bulldozer and the Rose,” which chronicles the destruction of old Southwest between 1958 and 1964.The event is open to the public and is sponsored by the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, with generous support from The Humanities Council of Washington DC.

Help Save D.C.’s Wire Office Building

The 1949-50 Wire Building or Wire Office Building at the corner of Vermont Avenue and K Street, NW, is in danger of being torn down. The building was designed and constructed by Alvin L. Aubinoe and Harry Edwards for owner and developer Preston Wire, after whom the building was named. The Wire Building was one of the first buildings constructed in what would become a major wave of post-World War II commercial development in downtown Washington, particularly along K Street. In 2010, the D.C. Preservation League (DCPL) sponsored a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
The owner recently filed a raze permit and the nomination will be heard by D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board on Oct. 25. The DCPL is urging that the building be included in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, which are “deemed worthy of recognition and protection for their contribution to the cultural heritage of one of the nation’s most beautiful and historic cities,” according to the city’s Historic Preservation Office. Please email Catherine Buell, Chair, D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board at  historic.preservation@dc.gov, to make the Board aware that there is support for preserving this building and mid-century modern architecture in the city.

Here’s more information from the National Register nomination:
“Designed by Alvin Aubinoe and Harry Edwards and constructed by Alvin L. Aubinoe Inc., the building marked a transition between an earlier period of Streamline Moderne and the period of Corporate International style that dominated commercial office building architecture during the 1950s. Aubinoe and Edwards built their reputations on the Read More >

Archer Launches The Jacobsen Collection

The clean lines of the Jacobsen-designed furniture grace the living room of I.M. Pei’s Slayton House in DC. Photo courtesy of Wright20.

Good architecture needs good furniture. Award-winning architects Hugh Newell Jacobsen and Simon Jacobsen have understood this throughout their careers, designing furniture for private clients around the world. Now Modern Capital sponsor Archer, in collaboration with the Jacobsens, is launching the 50-piece Jacobsen Collection. The father-and-son team’s lifework is distilled into a collection of living room, dining room and bedroom furnishings now available to the public. Both Jacobsen’s are members of Architectural Digest’s AD100, the magazine’s list of the top designers in the world. You can see the furniture and meet the Jacobsens this Thursday evening (Oct. 18) at Archer in Georgetown from 6 to 10 p.m. Please RSVP to Christopher Boutlier at chris@archermodern.com.

The Jacobsens have designed furniture for clients all around the world. Photo courtesy of Archer.

“The collection bridges a lifetime of  designs for private clients on the coasts of Florida, The Dominican Republic, Europe, Asia, Colorado, Washington, California, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in a cohesive and effortless discipline that evokes style, elegance, and simplicity,” says Archer owner Robert Chapman. “Original and iconic, this exclusive collection for ARCHER is timeless, speaking to a vision that has evolved over a long and prestigious career devoted to excellence in architecture and design.”

Make sure to head to Archer to meet the Jacobsens, DC’s own modern architectural legends, and to experiences the launch of furniture once only available to their private clients around the world.

Endangered: Harry N. Hirshberg Jr. House in Bethesda

The front door of the house.
When I saw this vacant mid-century modern house in Bethesda come on the market earlier this year, I knew it was likely not going to survive. Surrounded by $1 million+ McMansions, this 1948 one-level, 4 bed/4 bath home on an acre just inside the Beltway was prime land for a developer. I sent it out to a number of people who were looking, but it went under contract and sold  for $960K (cash) to an LLC in less than a month. I recently saw this sign on the front yard.

Earlier this year, I reached out to Clare Lise Kelly of the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Section (check out Montgomery Modern)  to see if she had information on the house. She did.
Here’s what she sent:
The 3,400 square foot house was designed by Arthur H. Keyes and Basil Yurchenko for  Harry N. Hirshberg Jr., the chairman if Hect Co. Hirshberg died in 1996.  The house was featured in Architectural Record (November 1951) as a successful solution to privacy issues, with the living areas pushed back from the street.  The design received an award of architectural excellence from the Washington Board of Trade in April 1951.  The jury included Louis Skidmore of Skidmore Owings & Merrill; John W. Root of Holabird Root & Burgee; and Pietro Belluschi, dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning.
This house by Cohen & Haft I recently posted is around the corner. Maybe the lower price point will help someone save it from becoming a another McMansion. Just what Bethesda Read More >

Preserving DC’s MCM Architecture

Interested in what is happening in efforts to preserve Washignton’s mid-century modern architecture? If you are, pick up tickets for an Oct. 4 event at the National Building Museum (NBM) that will explore the issue.  Six years ago, the D.C. Preservation League, working with Robinson & Associates, a research and consulting firm specializing in architectural history and preservation, took a comprehensive look at Washington’s mid-20th-century architecture, such as the Pan American Health Organization building by Uruguayan architect Roman Fresnedo Siri (above). D.C.’s Historic Preservation office published  a 20-page brochure based on the larger study “DC Modern: A Context for Modernism in the District of Columbia. The publication examines the rise of modernism in a more classic architectural town, the urban development of Southwest and the reaction against modernism in the city.
The NBM panel of architects, developers, and preservationists will look back at  Washington’s history of mid-century design and discuss the progress made on preserving this building stock, while upgrading it for current use. Panelists include Graham Davidson, FAIA, Hartman-Cox Architects, former Washington Post architecture critic Benjamin Forgey (moderator) and David Maloney, State Histroic Preservation Officer, D.C. Office of Planning.

Modern Snapshot: The Gropius House

When Walter Gropius first came to the United States in 1937 to teach at Harvard, he and his wife rented a Colonial in Lincoln, Mass. Thankfully, philanthropist Helen Storrow provided Gropius with four acres of land and provided financing so the founder of the Bauhaus could construct a proper modern house for his family, albeit with touches of New England. “In designing the house, Gropius combined traditional elements of New England architecture such as clapboard, brick, and fieldstone, with new, innovative materials, some of them industrial, such as glass block, acoustical plaster, and chromed banisters, along with the latest technology in fixtures,” according to a history of the house by Historic New England, which owns and operates the property. “The design of the Gropius House is consistent with Bauhaus philosophies of simplicity, functionality, economy, geometry, and aesthetic beauty determined by materials rather than applied ornamentation.”

A shot below of the entrance, protected by a wall of glass block. The curved stairway leads to the room Gropius’ daughter, Ati, who wanted her own entrance. The window near the stairs is Gropius’ office so he could keep an eye on her comings and goings.

Unfortunately, pictures are not permitted inside the house. The interior and the furnishings are kept closely to how Gropius and his wife, Ise, maintained the house. (Ise lived there until she died in 1983; Walter died in 1969.) Gropius’ eyeglasses sit on his desk in his office while the collection of early furniture by Bauhaus alum and neighbor Read More >

Modern Snapshot: Manufacturers Trust Building

The space may now house a Joe Fresh, but it will always be the Manufacturers Trust building, the elegantly, minimalist International Style structure designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

“When it opened in 1954, the public marveled at the steel vault boldly displayed on the ground floor behind a facade of clear glass and aluminum, on one of New York’s busiest streets,” according to the World Monuments Fund. “A metaphor for honesty and transparency in banking, and a symbol of a self-confident era, the building influenced the design of commercial architecture worldwide.” The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1997; the interior was landmarked in 2011. While the the building owners were allowed to make some changes, including reorienting the escalators that used to run parallel to 5th Avenue, Harry Bertoia’s two pieces of art–the massive sculptural screen and the cloud-like mobile–are now back in the building. (View a short video I shot of the screen as I came up the escalators to the second floor.)
Take a look at these great images from the building’s original welcome brochure. See more of my shots below.
The “Golden Arbor” screen is 70-feet long, 16-feet high and more than 5 tons of 800 bronze, copper and nickel panels welded together.

Bertoia “cloud” mobile back in the store.
A view from the second level looking out toward 5th Avenue.
The Manufacturers Trust buildings iconic vault Read More >

Modern Snapshot: The Colony of Wellfleet

“A very special sense of place.” That is the appropriate tag line of the The Colony of Wellfleet, 10 Bauhaus-style cottages nestled among soaring pine trees just across the road from Wellfleet Bay. Designed and built in late 1940s by architects Nathaniel Saltonstall and Oliver P. Morton, the originally named Mayo Hill Colony Club was operated as a private club and art gallery for artists and their patrons.  In 1963,  Loris and Eleanor Stefani acquired the mid-century modern cottages and have rented them out to those seeking a quiet summertime retreat with a twist of modernist architecture on the more traditional-minded Cape. (There is more mid-century modern architecture on the Cape as well.) Many of the guests have been high-profile writers, actors and intellectuals.

Eleanor still owns and manages the property. She greeted us when we arrived and told me Saltonstall went on to work with Walter Gropius (whose house I will highlight in another post). We rented one of the four 2-bedroom cottages (#5).
A view from the master bedroom in our cottage (#5).
Modernist sea horse sculpture on our cottage.
The cottages, decorated in vintage furniture and art, are simple with block concrete walls, flat roofs and slate flooring in the entrance that continues into the kitchen and bathrooms. Walls of glass allow for excellent views of the views of the surrounding nature. The cottage is pretty much untouched with no air conditioning, no WIFI and no TV. We introduced our kids to Pictionary, one of the Read More >

Pocket of Mid-Century Moderns in Alexandria

I drove through a nice pocket of mid-century modern homes in Alexandria the other day on my way to see Charles Goodman’s Severeid House. Turning from North Pickett onto North Pegram, you’ll find a number of mid-century homes on large lots. This 10,000 square foot home from 1967 is on an acre and has a center atrium. The mostly vintage home has 8 bedrooms and 6 full bathrooms and 2 half baths. It is for rent for $9,500 a month.

Here are few shots of some of the other homes that dot the street. These are not on the market.

These homes were built by Edmund Bennett and designed by Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, the team responsible for Carderock Springs and Potomac Overlook in Bethesda and New Mark Commons in Rockville. This area in Alexandria is called Potomac Overlook.

Further down Pegram, a steep driveway marks Goodman’s Sevareid House, which sits on 1.5 acres on a hilltop overlooking Seminary Valley.

Architecture Golf, Kevin Roche at Building Museum

Looking for a place to beat the heat? Head to the National Building Museum for some architectural mini-golf and an exhibit on the work of Kevin Roche. Kicking off today (July 4) and running through Labor Day, you can play a one-of-a-kind mini-golf course designed by some of the region’s most creative architects, construction firms, urban planners and designers. “Challenge your friends and family to a round of mini-golf in air-conditioned comfort, packed with enough fun to make Augusta National Golf Club green with envy,” the museum says in prescient marketing copy. Cost is $5 per round per person. With purchase of full-price Museum exhibition admission ticket, the price per round is reduced to $3. Museum members play for $3.
Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche working on a model for the TWA Terminal, c. 1958. Courtesy of Eero Saarinen Collection; Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.
After a round of golf, head upstairs to see the exhibit Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment, which highlights the work of modernist and Pritzker Prize-winner Kevin Roche. Originally known as Eero Saarinen’s right-hand man, Roche along with John Dinkeloo took over and expanded Saarinen’s practice after he died unexpectedly at 51. Roche, who just celebrated his 90th birthday, and Dinkeloo finished the iconic projects of the TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, the Gateway Arch and Dulles Airport. Roche’s clients ranged from IBM, Union Carbide, and Merck to the United Nations, the Ford Foundation, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Ford Foundation Headquarters, New York, New York, 1968. ©Ezra Stoller/Esto
“Roche came into his own in the 1960s and quickly established himself as a big-picture thinker,” Read More >

Modern Snapshot: The University of Miami

In Washington, Chloethial Woodard Smith was a trailblazing female modernist architect that left a major imprint on the area: the urban renewal plan in Southwest, the National Building Museum, townhomes in Reston, office buildings downtown and custom homes in the suburbs. In Miami, Marion Manley, the first female architect in Florida, left an important imprint as well, especially with the master plans and building designs for the University of Miami in Coral Gables, the first post-war modernist collegiate campus. Designed with Robert Law Weed, the school was transformed from a 1920s Spanish Revival campus that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1926 into a campus that reflected the optimism of the mid-century era.
Here’s a nice description by Tom Austin in Ocean Drive magazine of the simple flats pictured at the top and first three pictures below: “After the war, the GI Bill brought students bearing government-subsidized tuition checks, and 27 low-rise Le Corbusier-style ‘flats’ were erected in 1947. Built without air-conditioning, they have cantilevered ‘eyebrows’—meant to modulate the Miami light—over large windows for ventilation; originally, the lower floors were entirely open breezeways. To reclaim its Bauhaus heritage, the UM School of Architecture painted the buildings white with trim (door frames and such) done in such Bauhaus primary colors as yellow, red, and blue. The flats are pure charm, the best part of the UM campus.”
Here a few pictures from my recent and (brief) visit to the campus.

The 1957 Albert Pickwick Music Library by Robert Little (above and below)

Entrance to classroom building
Episcopal Church Center
Christian Science Read More >

Modern Snapshot: Saarinen’s War Memorial Center

To mark Memorial Day, I thought I would highlight Eero Saarinen’s 1957 War Memorial Center in Milwaukee. The center was designed to “create a new home for two previously separate art collections and a veterans’ memorial,” according the center’s web site. “The modernist building is shaped like a floating cross, with wings cantilevered from a central base. Saarinen’s innovative design won praise for its dramatic use of space; Time magazine called it ‘one of the country’s finest examples of modern architecture put to work for civic purposes.’”

The western face of the building features a mural by Wisconsin artist Edmund Lewandowski, a mosaic of 1.4 million pieces of marble and glass.

A 1975 addition designed by David Kahler expanded the museum’s gallery space. In 2001, Santiago Calatrava’s post-modern Quadracci Pavilion opened along with the Cudahy Gardens,  a network of gardens, plazas, and fountains created by landscape architect Dan Kiley.

The Allure of Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Huffington Post: Mid-Century Modern Homes For Sale In The D.C. Area
Michael Shapiro highlights mid-century modern homes for sale in the area and discusses the allure of MCM architecture.

Modern Mobler Garners City Paper Reader Award

Congrats to Modern Capital sponsor Modern Mobler. The readers of the Washington City Paper selected Doug Meyers’ vintage mid-century modern store on Georgia Avenue in Northwest as one of the three Best Places to Buy Home Furnishings in the paper’s annual “Best of D.C.” poll.  Last year, the  City Paper chose Modern Mobler as D.C.’s Best Vintage Furniture Store less than a year after the it opened. Make sure to check out the store and website on a regular basis to see Doug’s latest finds.

Modern Snapshot: Silver Spring’s American National Bank Building

When you walk into the lobby of the former American National Bank Building in Silver Spring you think ‘Mad Men.’ The preserved mid-century lobby (terrazzo floors and marble walls) evokes Manhattan mid-century skyscrapers featured prominently on the show. I learned more about this building and others from Montgomery County historic preservation planners who have begun exploring, analyzing and recording local mid-century modern buildings and communities. Their project is called Montgomery Modern.

A recent recent post by Clare Lise Kelly focuses on the building now known as the Zalco Building, which features green porcelain panels that recall Gordon Bunshaft’s groundbreaking 1952 Lever House in New York City. “Designed by architect Edwin Weihe in 1960, the American National Bank Building, at 8701 Georgia Avenue, is a fine example of an International style office building,” Kelly writes. “When it opened in 1961, it was the tallest building in Silver Spring and featured several design innovations.”
So make sure to follow and help support the endeavors of Montgomery Modern as the team works to document and preserve the mid-century modern architecture throughout the county.

DWR Event: Hollin Hills and the Lasting Influence of Charles Goodman

With the biennial Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour just a few weeks away, the DWR Georgetown Studio will be hosting a panel discussion from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 12. The panel, which I will be moderating, will explore the groundbreaking neighborhood and architect Charles Goodman’s influence on mid-century modern residential architecture.
Charles Goodman
The panel will include two award-winning architects: Eason Cross, FAIA, and Michael Cook, AIA. Eason lives in Hollin Hills and worked for Goodman from 1952 to 1959. Michael, of Cook Architecture and Modern Constructs, lives in a Goodman home and has won a historic preservation award for a remodel of a Goodman in Hammond Wood. Cocktails and light snacks will be served.
I hope you will buy tickets to the Hollin Hills tour (Modern Capital is a proud sponsor) and come to Design Within Reach in Georgetown for the panel. I look forward to seeing you at these two events, which are great opportunities to mingle with other modernists here in DC.
To RSVP for the DWR event, please send an email to Jennifer Mannelli at jmannelli@dwr.com.
 

Vote for ‘Mad Men’ Look Finalists; Join Post’s MCM Chat

Only a few more days until ‘Mad Men’ returns to the air. You can now vote for your favorite finalist in the Washington Post ‘s second ‘Mad Men’ Look contest. The winner will be revealed Monday, March 26, the day after the two-hour season premiere of the show. Want to learn more about mid-century style?  Two of the Post’s judges for the contest will host a live discussion at noon tomorrow (March 22) about interior design and the ‘Mad Men’ Look. Vern Yip, a columnist for The Washington Post Real Estate section and an HGTV star, will join an hour-long chat taking your questions with Post interior design writer Jura Koncius.

Get Your Tickets Now for Hollin Hills Home Tour

Spring is in the air (as it has been for much of this winter) and the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour is fast approaching. The biennial tour will be held rain or shine on April 28. Organizers tell me tickets are selling fast and are limited in number, so don’t miss out on your chance to see the homes and gardens of  the award-winning modernist community south of Alexandria designed by visionary architect Charles Goodman. For information and to purchase tickets before price increases on April 15, click here. You can also like the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour page on Facebook or get news about the event on Twitter.

Also, stayed turned for more details on an event I will be moderating at Design Within Reach in Georgetown on Thursday, April 12. The event will explore the influence of Goodman on local residential architecture here in the DC area.

Last Chance to Enter Post’s ‘Mad Men’ Look Contest

 

The last day to enter  the Washington Post ‘s second ‘Mad Men’ Look contest is Monday, March 12, so make sure to submit photos of your D.C.-area mid-century modern digs. Judges will pick the finalists and then readers get to choose the winner, who will have their abode featured online and in the paper. (Here is the article from last time; my wife and I came in second place. Above is a shot from our living room.) Good luck to all those who enter. And thankfully, only two weeks left until the show returns to the airwaves with a two-hour premier.

Led Zeppelin and the Modernist Wheaton Rec Center

When most people talk about the 1964 Wheaton Youth Center (now the Wheaton Community Recreation Center), they are likely discussing the question of whether Led Zeppelin played a show there in 1969 or not. (The center is said to have served as a premier spot for concerts back in the day, including Alice Cooper, Bob Seger and Rod Stewart.) I was more interested in learning who designed the modernist rec center on Georgia Avenue, so I called Clare Lise Kelly, research and designation coordinator of  the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Section.
Clare said the structure was designed by one of the area’s leading modernist firms: Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon. The team, which was responsible for Carderock Springs, Potomac Overlook, Tiber Island among others, won a local AIA award of merit for the design. I love the roof line of the main gym, with its aquatic feel. The same design is carried through in the covered walkway. Reminds me of the Marina-style Safeways, some of which still dot the area. The one a bit south of the rec center on Georgia was torn town. Could the rec center meet the same fate? It could. There is discussion now about combining the rec center with the nearby library in a new structure, although it looks like the County Council has delayed decision on the proposed $35.9 project for now.

A close up of the wavy window screens.
The side of the gym. Did Led Zeppelin play in there?
 

Dinner with a View

Do you want to have your breath taken away and eat dinner at one of the most iconic mid-century modern houses in the country? For $5,500 you and three friends can do just that at the 1960 Stahl House (Case Study House #22) by Pierre Koenig. “You and three friends will enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres, a gourmet sit-down dinner, live music, a breathtaking view of LA, and the experience of a lifetime in the Stahl House,” the invite says. “Your hosts for the evening will include Eric Bricker, director of VISUAL ACOUSTICS: THE MODERNISM OF JULIUS SHULMAN, a member of the Stahl family, and a notable guest speaker (think architect, actor, musician, artist….). What better setting for engaging conversation, good friends, food, drink and a memory to last?” Enjoy if you decide to do this. If you need a fourth, I’m available.
 
 

Post Highlights MCM Hoods; Cool Listing Near Baltimore

The Washington Post‘s new real estate blog did a nice post on some of the mid-century modern neighborhoods in the DC area. I love all the comments from people mentioning the many other neighborhoods that I try to regularly highlight that were not mentioned in the brief piece. While it is nice to see our local mcm hoods getting recognition, check out this listing a bit farther north near Baltimore. This flat-roof mid-century modern with a pool is on almost four acres in Owings Mills. The 5 bed/4.5 bath 4,100 square foot home is priced at $599K.  The listing says it is a “Classic Menefee-designed mid-century modern.” I found this obituary for Lawrence Ashton Menefee Jr., who died in 2005. He joined his father’s firm Menefee & Associates in 1964, 10 years after this houes was built so it looks like this home was designed by the senior Lawrence Ashton Menefee.

Washington DC’s Mid-Century Modern Neighborhoods

Washington Post Real Estate Blog: Washington’s mid-century modern neighborhoods
Writer Amanda Abrams interviews Michael Shapiro about the area’s mcm neighborhoods.

Enter WashPost’s New ‘Mad Men’ Look Contest

With the new season of ‘Mad Men’ kicking off next month, the Washington Post is celebrating by holding its second ‘Mad Men’ Look contest for D.C.-area residents. So do your spring cleaning, get your vintage mid-century modern furniture arranged just right and take some good pictures to submit for the contest last held in 2010. (No ‘Made Men’ season last year; no contest.) If you are picked as one of the top winners, you will be featured in the Post. (Here is the article from last time; my wife and I came in second place.) Good luck to all those who enter.

50 Years of Saarinen’s Dulles

The current issue of Washingtonian has a  fascinating piece on the construction and politics behind Eero Saarinen’s groundbreaking Dulles airport terminal that opened 50 years ago this month. Sudip Bose explores the architectural wonder that ushered in the Jet Age in Washington. Despite its beauty, many people wondered: Would this soaring building really take off? Would anyone actually use it? An excerpt from Bose’s piece below:
“‘At long last,’ wrote Washington Post architecture critic Wolf Von Eckardt, ‘Washington has a truly outstanding modern building by a truly outstanding modern architect.’ In the estimation of some critics, the opening of Dulles was the biggest thing to happen to Washington architecture since Charles Bulfinch reconstructed the US Capitol after the British set it ablaze in the early 1800s.”
“And yet it wasn’t clear whether anybody would actually abandon National or Baltimore’s Friendship Airport—which could also accommodate jets—in favor of the new facility. As Post columnist Drew Pearson put it, ‘Will [Dulles] remain empty, its ticket counters barren of business, its skycaps idle, its escalators with no more than a trickle of suitcases? . . . Some people are wondering whether Dulles Airport, with all its beauty and all its perfect aeronautical techniques, may become another white elephant.’”
It took many years, but Dulles has now come into its own.
“Sure enough, Dulles endured some lean years,” Bose writes. “Passenger traffic rose from 50,000 at the end of 1962 to just 2.5 million in 1975—this at a time when 11.7 million travelers were passing through National. Even in the mid-1980s, traffic Read More >

Two Mid-Century Moderns Near Baltimore

For those looking for mid-century modern homes near Baltimore, you need to check out these two new listings. While some of the interior updates to this 1969 Glen Arm mid-century might not be to the taste of many mcm fans, the flat-roof, cantilevered design should grab your attention. Did I mention it also has an atrium and sits on one acre? It is listed for $450K. This 1965 mid-century modern in Owings Mills is listed for $780K. The 4- bedroom home features lots of glass, wood ceilings and walls and a big stone fireplace. It sits on more than two acres and has a pool to complete that Californian modern vibe.

Are you ‘Sitting on a Small Fortune?’

The stock market got hit again today, but what about the value of your vintage mid-century modern furniture collection? Check out this CNBC piece examining the booming market for mid-century modern designs. “[I]n the late 1990s, the Internet boom put serious money in the pockets of 20-something programmers and Baby Boomer entrepreneurs. Neither group was interested in filling their Silicon Valley mansions with museum pieces; these inventors of the future wanted a look that that leaned forward,” the article says. “They discovered the sleek, industrial-chic work of the Mid-century masters — the California modernist Charles Eames and his wife Ray; the Italian-born, Michigan-educated designer Harry Bertoia; and European scions of the Bauhaus movement.” If you are in the market for the work of these and other mid-century designers, please visit my sponsors: ARCHER, Home Anthology, Modern Mobler and Daniel Donnelly, where the annual Herman Miller runs through Dec. 12.
 

Modern Snapshot: Mies’ Crown Hall at IIT

1961 bust of Mies by Hugo Weber.
I saw this tweet posted yesterday: (CREATION/DESTRUCTION – S. R. Crown Hall’s interior during finals week at Illinois Institute of Technology) along with this picture. I had a chance to stroll through Crown Hall–designed by Mies in 1956–during a quieter time this summer. There was no one else on the top open floor with 18 foot-ceilings, which is used to hold various classes simultaneously. I did spot a few students in the library downstairs and some models scattered throughout the work rooms. A National Historic Landmark, the building underwent major exterior renovations in 2005. All I could think as I toured the building was: What a space to study architecture. (If only I was better at math and a bit younger.)

Below are various views of the building’s top floor.

I could use some terrazzo floors like these.

The Untold Story of Edward Durell Stone

Edward Durell Stone (think Kennedy Center, MoMA, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, Busch Stadium, the former Standard Oil building in Chicago (see above) among others) was an early and leading modernist architect and educator who later in life moved away from the strict International Style of his early work (I love his 1934 Richard Mandel House in New York). His later use of more classical inspirations and forms would bring scorn from the architectural elite despite his commercial success. Now Stone’s youngest son, Hicks Stone, himself an accomplished architect, has written “a  personal and authoritative biography of one of the most controversial figures of twentieth-century architecture,” publisher Rizzoli says about the 336-page tome.
If you want to learn more about Edward Durell Stone, head to the National Building Museum on Jan. 11 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. for a lecture by Hicks Stone, who will be talking abut his new book and his father’s life and career. (Don’t see details online yet but price for members is $12; non-members are $20.)
Oh, and if you have $7 million you can by a home in D.C. designed by the elder Stone. The 1939 modern home with some traditional touches such as the roof line has been on the market for a couple years. The home was originally built by George Marshall, the then-owner of the Redskins, and his wife actress Corinne Griffith.

The Future of Mies’ MLK Library

Interesting post from DCist about the debate over the composition of a panel that is looking into what should be done with the Mies van der Rohe-designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The eight-person panel convened by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) has no DC residents. The question is: Is that a good thing or not ? Residents were invited to give comments to the Board of Library Trustees at a public meeting Wednesday evening and the panel’s presentation of findings and recommendations will be open to the public. The presentation will be held, Friday Nov. 18 from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of the MLK Library if you want to go hear for yourself.
The only Mies-designed building in Washington, the library was designated in 2007 by the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board as a historic landmark–both the interior and exterior. It was also listed that same year on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mies-designed MLK Library was designed in 1968 and finished in 1972. Experts are examining what should be done with the historic building.

Exploring Charles and Ray Eames

If you are obsessed with the the designs of Ray and Charles Eames or you want to learn more about the famous husband and wife design duo, this is a good time to do some exploring. First, you can see the Eames House living room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for its exhibition California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way.”  The entire living room was packed up and moved to the exhibit as The Eames Foundation performs preservation work on the house, pictured above. The living room will eventually be re-staged according to vintage photographs taken during earliest years of the home. The exhibit runs until March 25, 2012.
When you are in California, you can also check out the 450 Eames pieces at JF Chen for “Collecting Eames: The JF Chen Collection.” It is the largest collection of original Eames pieces shown together. The exhibit runs through Jan. 14, 2012.
The documentary Eames: The Architect and the Painter is now making the rounds of film festivals. The film, narrated by James Franco, opens theatrically in New York and L.A. on Nov. 18, and will have its broadcast premiere Dec. 19 as part of the PBS American Masters series. It will be screened at the National Gallery here in D.C. on Feb. 12, 2012.
 
If you can make it to LA or can’t wait to see the movie, check out these vintage images from Life magazine.
 

Curbed LA’s Case Study House Map

If you are planning a trip to LA anytime soon and want to check out the city’s modernist architecture, Curbed LA created this nifty map of all the Case Study Houses in the city. The map includes addresses, pictures and info on the homes built between 1945 and 1962 as part of the Arts & Architecture program. Above is a shot I took at the 1960 Stahl House (Case Study House #22 by Pierre Koenig) when I was out in LA a couple years ago.  Read the original Case Study announcement.

Ralph Rapson Exhibit at Archer; Opening Reception Nov. 4

Frank Lloyd bought two. That’s a good endorsement of the bentwood rocking chair known as the Rapson Rapid Rocker. The chair was originally designed in 1939 by Ralph Rapson, a leading American modernist architect and furniture designer, who is known for his unique sketches and for designing Case Study House #4 (unbuilt; modified versions available here).

To learn more about Rapson’s furniture designs, head to Archer in Georgetown for the upcoming Ralph Rapson: The Architect as Chair Designer, the first exhibit dedicated to the furniture designs of the award-winning Rapson. The opening reception for the exhibit is Nov. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit, which will run until Dec. 4, is curated by architectural historian and co-author of Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design, Jane King Hession. (I recently sold Jane’s custom Goodman in Hollin Hills. Jane and her husband are now building a modern home in Minnesota.)
The show will feature highly sought-after vintage Rapson chairs, produced in the 1940s for H.G. Knoll, as well as sketches–crafted in Rapson’s famous and inimitable style (see above)–for dozens of unrealized furniture designs. The event will showcase chairs from Rapson-Inc.’s new production line of Rapson classics, available exclusively at Robert Chapman’s ARCHER.

“We are thrilled at the depth and breadth of the ARCHER event and exhibit,” says Rapson-Inc. owner Toby Rapson, who is scheduled to attend the opening night reception. “Robert is deeply knowledgeable about Modernism, and the ARCHER space is beautiful. It’s a Read More >

AT’s Design Evening on Mid-Century Modernism in D.C.

 

If you were not able to make it to the recent Apartment Therapy design evening on mid-century modernism, here is a link to AT’s write up. The panel discussion was lead by organizer Desiré Greene and featured Robert Chapman, owner of Modern Capital sponsor Archer, Suzanne McLees, former northeast director of Design Within Reach and chair of the 2012 Hollin Hills Home and Garden Tour (stay tuned for more details) and myself. We talked about the local mid-century modern architecture, real estate and furniture/design scene (the Esten House I sold, pictured above, comes to mind) with a good group of  modern aficionados.

The Homes of Tomorrow, Today

I hope you were able to get to the National Building Museum’s Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s, which closed recently. The first-of-its-kind exhibit highlighted the innovative design displayed at the world’s fairs of the 1930s. One of the most interesting sections of the exhibit was on homes featuring the latest in modern technology and convenience  that were introduced and marketed to the fair goers. The 1933 fair in Chicago–the theme was a Century of Progress–highlighted the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition, a dozen, mostly modern-style homes that sat along lake Michigan.
Florida Tropical House by Robert Law Weed.
After the fair, developer Robert Bartlett purchased five of the homes, the Wieboldt-Rostone House, the House of Tomorrow, the Florida Tropical House, the Armco-Ferro House and the Cypress Log Cabin, loaded them on barges and floated them across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana, where is was developing a new resort community. (The log cabin was dismantled and trucked to Indiana.)  Bartlett bought the homes so he could use them as a marketing device to bring people to see his development.
Today the houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are in various states of repair. The houses have been leased to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. In turn, private individuals or families have leased the homes and are rehabilitating them. On my my way back home from my recent visit to Chicago, I drove through  Beverly Shores to see these landmark homes. In addition to these homes, Read More >

Walking Tour: Chloethiel Woodard Smith’s Southwest

Washington Walks will be holding a walking tour of Chloethiel Woodward Smith‘s archtiecture in Southwest DC on Saturday, Oct. 22. The tour starts at 11 outside the Waterfront Metro. No reservations are required for the $15 tour. “A look at how a remarkable architect used the vocabulary of modernism to design enduring residential buildings in Southwest Washington, D.C.,” the description of the tour reads. “Urban renewal forced stark elimination of the 19th-century Southwest built environment, yet Woodard Smith’s architecture exemplifies why planners placed great hope in redevelopment.”  Smith was one of country’s premier modernists–male or female–and one of the driving forces and architects behind the urban renewal plan in Southwest, designing such residential complexes as Capitol Park townhomes and apartments (pictured above) and Harbour Square (pictured below). She collaborated on both projects with  the dean of modernist landscape architects Dan Kiley‘s modernist landscape. Seth Wilschutz of Hartman-Cox Architects will be a special guest on the tour.

DCPL Tour: The Modernism of Southwest D.C.

As part of its DC Modern program, the D.C. Preservation League will be holding a walking tour of Southwest D.C. on Oct. 22 with local architect Dean Hutchison. Here’s from the DCPL:  “This neighborhood boasts the greatest concentration of mid-century resources in the city. We’ll be visiting many of the buildings and landscapes that transformed this area nearly 50 years ago, and learning about the designers and architects behind the grand vision. The tour will include Capitol Park, River Park (pictured above), Tiber Island, and Harbor Square.” Meeting location is the southwest corner of 4th and I Street, SW. Starts at 10 a.m. and runs to noon.
$15 DCPL Members
$25 Non-Members
Register for the tour.

Apartment Therapy D.C.’s Mid-Century Madness Meetup

Washington is typically seen as a very conservative town in terms of architecture and design. Despite its reputation, I and others have tried to show that we have our good share of mid-century modern architecture (see the 1965 Pan American Health Organization building above), design shops and passionate aficionados. If you are interested in learning more, make sure to attend Apartment Therapy’s upcoming Design Evening event: Mid-Century Madness: Exploring DC’s Love Affair with Mid-Century Modern.
I will be speaking on the panel with my friends Suzanne McLees and Robert Chapman. Suzanne  opening Design Within Reach’s first location in Washington Cady’s Ally and managed the Adams Morgan studio before being promoted to DWR’s Northeast Area Manager. Suzanne currently lives in Hollin Hills and is chairing the  2012 Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour, which will be held April 28 so mark your calendars.
Robert Chapman is one of DC’s leading purveyors of mid-century modern furniture. Many of you know him from his years running Modernicus. He is now preparing to open his new store in Georgetown. ARCHER (a sponsor of Modern Capital) aims to be an inspiring retail experience that highlights 20th Century design and fine art alongside a permanent collection of high quality customizable modern furnishings for the home.
Here are the details for the Design Evening. Hope you can make it.
Tuesday, Sept. 27
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
The Dunes
1402 Meridian Place NW, Top Floor
Washington, DC 20010
 

2011 Solar Decathlon, Invite to Hirshhorn Event

Every two years since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy has held its Solar Decathlon on the National Mall to challenge collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. One of the 11 teams competing in the competition is a team of students from two schools: Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology.

The team’s design is known as CHIP, which stands for “Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype.” CHIP, as you can see from the photos, is is a prefab, net-zero solar-powered house that the team says despite its futuristic look can be ” injected into the Los Angeles landscape after it returns from Washington, D.C.”  If you want to learn more about the project and meet those involved, please come to a special event sponsored by the Vinyl Institute at the Hirshhorn Museum next Thursday. See details below:
Thursday, Sept. 22
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Lerner Room
RSVP to: rsvp@sciarc.edu
(213) 356-5385
Hope to see you there.
 
 
 
 
 

Modern Snapshot: Davis Memorial Library in Bethesda

The mid-century modern Davis Memorial Library on Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda sits on what is left of the Davis family farm, once a 400 acre estate called Rock Spring. Designed in the mid-1960s by Bethesda-based modernist architect Stanley Arthur, the sprawling 16,000 square foot library features a side-gabled roof, extended eaves, clerestory windows and variety of brick and stone on the exterior. The extensive use of field stone evokes “the rural heritage of the property,” according to the library’s website. (The library sits just down the street from this church by Charles Goodman.)
Arthur, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 86, designed  a number of area libraries, churches, office buildings and more than 60 schools, including Winston Churchill High School in Potomac and Cabin John and Pyle junior high schools in Bethesda. More to come on Arthur and his mid-century modern work.
The front of the library facing Democracy Boulevard. The large front lawn is a green reminder of the 400 acres Davis farm.

A shot of the right side of the building.
The back of the 16,000 square foot library.
The left side of the library. You can see the mix of exterior materials, including brick, large field stone and panels of smaller stones around the windows.
 

Building Your Own Modern Home

A number of clients, friends and readers have been asking me lately about the process of building their own modern home, including prefabs. One of the best resources on the web for learning the ups and downs of building a modern prefab is the blog by Chris Johnson and Sarah Johnson, the owners of the modern vacation rental and Modern Capital sponsor Lost River Modern. Chris and Sarah documented the whole process of building a Res4 prefab (pictured above) on 30 acres in West Virginia. Go back to the beginning the read the whole site if you are thinking about buying land and putting up a prefab.  If you are thinking of building a modern home from scratch and working with an architect, check out the new blog Minnesota Modern. The site is written by clients of mine who just sold their custom Goodman in Hollin Hills and are now building a modern home in Edina. They are just at the beginning so you can follow along to see how the entire process evolves.

Modern Capital in Chicago; Early Moderns in Bethesda, DC

I am exploring the modern architecture of Chicago (you can follow posts from the trip on Facebook and Twitter), but have been keeping my eye on activity back home. I found a couple of earlier modern style homes on the market.  Take a look at this 1939 Streamline Modern house in Bethesda with its curved, shiplike form. View a slideshow of the house, which is listed for $995K. Also, check out  this 1942 house in North Cleveland Park listed for $895K. It is open on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
 

Post on Prefabs, Lost River Modern

The Post’s Real Estate section has a story out on modern prefabs, including Modern Capital Sponsor Lost River Modern.   The article gives a good overview of  story behind how Chris Brown and Sarah Johnson built their  Res4 vacation retreat/rental home on 30 acres in West Virginia. “The cabin is part of a mini-slice of the prefab world: stylish, higher-end houses designed by architects interested in homes that are built in a way that’s more labor and energy efficient and less wasteful than site-built houses,” the story says. Here’s a post on my family’s visit. If you want to get a taste of what living in a prefab is like, you can book your visit here.
 

Modern Constructs Ad

Home Anthology Ad

Lost River Modern Ad

Modern Mobler Ad

Daniel Donnelly Ad

The Unbuilt Modernism of Washington

What could have been? This is the question an upcoming (November 2011) National Building Museum exhibition (entitled “Unbuilt Washington”) will explore as it looks back at some of the designs for buildings, bridges and monuments that were never built in Washington. Some of the these designs also happen to be by some of the country’s leading modern architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Edward Durrell Stone, Chloethiel Woodard Smith and Kevin Roche. I came across one of these–a proposed aquarium by Roche in collaboration with the Eames Office–several years ago so I am excited to learn more about it along with the other projects. Can you imagine  an aquarium on Haines Point in East Potomac Park designed by  proteges of Eero Saarinen (Roche and John Dinkeloo continued Saarinen’s practice) and Ray and Charles Eames.  Unfortunately, it did not happen.  “In 1962 Congress approved construction of the National Fisheries Center and Aquarium for East Potomac Park,” the Washington Business Journal writes. “Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC designed the project, slated to cost $10 million at the time and include a 60-foot greenhouse for living ecologies. The project fell victim to the economic and political turmoil of the time. The aquarium today makes its home in the Herbert Hoover Department of Commerce headquarters.”
Another interesting part of the aquarium story is that Smith, who was the leading force in the redevelopment of Southwest DC, designed the Channel Waterfront Bridge. The bridge was  to link the Southwest waterfront to West Potomac Park and the aquarium. Read More >

Building Museum Examines Prairie School, The Glass Box

Here are a couple upcoming lectures at the National Building Museum that may be of interest. As part of its annual Three Movements in Architecture series, the museum will hold a session on July 16 on the Prairie School of Frank Lloyd Wright. David Bagnall, director of interpretation for Sites and Collections at the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, Oak Park, Illinois, will discuss the Prairie School phenomenon through the work of Wright and his contemporaries. On July 23, G. Martin Moeller, Jr., the museum’s senior vice president and curator, will looks at the resurgence of The Glass Box in contemporary architecture and how glass curtain walls can be used in a greener way than in the past.
 
 
 
 

Mid-Century Manhattan: Manufacturers Trust Interior Gutted

The interior of the landmarked Manufacturers Honover Trust building has been gutted.
So much for preserving the1954 Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building on 5th Avenue by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Curbed New York reported this week on the gutting of the interior of the landmark modernist building by Gordon Bunshaft. Despite the fact that the the interior of the building  was landmarked, Joe Fresh, the Canadian shmata retailer, was given permission to “renovate” the interior. I snapped the above picture a couple of weeks ago and wondered why the interior was ripped apart. I thought it was protected. Sadly not.
 

Modern Snapshot: Rollingwood Elementary School Building

During and after World War II, the population of the Washington area boomed. There was a great need, especially in the growing suburbs, for libraries, houses of worship and schools. Most of it was basic modern design of the time, or as one of my favorite sites calls it: mid-century mundane. One example of this 1950s public architecture is the former Rollingwood Elementary School in Chevy Chase. (It is now a private French International School.) I drive or cycle by this almost everyday. I finally got off my bike the other day to snap a few shots. I like the the Neutra-like raised metal letters and numbers and the screen block on the side of the building.

Homes as Individualistic as Their Buyers

Washington Examiner: ‘Homes as individualistic as their buyers’
The cover story of the May 19 Home Guide  highlights “niche” real estate markets, including the mid-century modern market here in the DC area.

Events: Modernism for the Masses, Eames Movie

Here are a couple upcoming modern-related events that I thought might be of interest. On June 7,  Alexandra Lange, critic, architectural historian, and co-author of Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes, and Russell A. Flinchum, Ph.D., archivist of the Century Association Archives Foundation, professor, and author of American Design, will discuss the rise of industrial design during the 1930s, its relationship to the democratization of “good design” in consumer products, and the contemporary version found in mass-market stores such as Target and IKEA. On June 9, you can head to the Room & Board store on 14th Street for a cocktail party and to see the short film, Powers of 10, by Charles and Ray Eames. The film will be followed by a discussion led by the Eames’ grandson, author and Eames Office Director, Eames Demetrios. RSVP here.

MCMs in Bethesda’s Kenwood Park, Flint Hill

Edmund Bennett was one of the leading builders of  mid-century modern (or “contemporary” as they were called at the time) homes in the DC area.  In addition to Carderock Springs, New Mark Commons and Potomac Overlook, his team of architects–which included at various times Arthur Keyes, Chloethial Woodard Smith, David Condon, Nicholas Satterlee and Francis Donald Lethbridge–designed homes in Kenwood Park and Flint Hill in Bethesda.  The house pictured above is in Kenwood Park and listed at $885K. it is open on this coming Sunday. This 1961 mid century listed for $845K is in Flint Hill, a community of 40 homes designed by Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon.  The National Association of Home Builders gave Bennett a design merit award in 1959 for the community.
 

Neutra’s Rice House Renovated

Work on Richard Neutra’s Rice House in Richmond is now complete and available for retreats and private events. You can see the recent Richmond Times Dispatch story and slideshow here. (Here’s a slideshow of images I took during a fall 2009 tour of the house before the work was started.)  The exterior of 1964 home designed  for Ambassador Walter Rice, a top Reynolds Metals Corp. executive, and his wife, Inger, a native of Denmark, can be seen as part of monthly tours of the oasis where the home is located: a man-made 12-acre island overlooking Williams Dam. The only International Style home in Richmond, the Rice House is perched 110-feet above the James River. The 6,000 square foot house is made of marble from Georgia and is stretched out along a granite ridge running parallel to the river.  Walter (who died in 1998) and Inger Rice, who still lives in Richmond, donated the home to the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation in the 1996. You can read more about the history of the house in the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Design or Size: Which Matters?

“Why We’re Shunning McMansions.” This is this headline from a recent article from U.S. News and World Report. I had just come across an article with a similar theme, but it was from 1962. “What This Country Needs Is More Small Houses.” This is the headline on a Better Homes & Gardens article highlighting the design for a mid-century modern home with only 1,104 square feet. “Small houses as good as this one aren’t easy to find, the article begins. “It takes real know-how to create a home that will work hard for every member of the family. But if you start with a good design like this, you’ve got half the battle won. Best of all, you don’t need a budget as big as the job your house is built to do.” Design matters. Size does not.

Peeking Inside D.C.’s Modern Embassies

The annual week of embassy tours kicks of this Saturday (May 7) with the “Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ Open House Day.” Mid-century modern and modern embassies to focus on are the embassies of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Germany. I saw Denmark and Finland last year and plan to see the mid-century modern German Embassy’s chancery this year. The 1964 building on Reservior Road was designed by renowned German architect Egon Eiermann.
On May 14, another 35 embassies are open to the public, including the Brazilian Embassy, which has been undergoing major work the past few years. I have not driven by in a while but I assume the renovations are done and ready for the public to see. I am excited to explore the 1971 embassy’s chancery (pictured above)  on Massachusetts Avenue. The Miesien floating box was designed by Brazilian architect Olavo Redig de Campos.

 

Modern Snapshot: The Endangered Marvel Cleaners Building

The mid-century modern Marvel Cleaners sits empty at its perch near the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road in Colesville. It has been sitting vacant for a year and is slated for redevelopment. The rendering in the window shows a “Marvel Plaza” but it does not look like anything to marvel at like the current building. The Colesville Patch reported last November that owner  Bruce Albaugh planned to keep the “charatcer” of the space: “But what about the building’s distinctive look? The site, Albaugh said, is a bit of an architectural icon. He plans to work with future tenants to ensure that the building, which will be redeveloped to suit their needs, will also retain its beloved character.” Really?

Albaugh mentioned bringing in a coffee shop or restaurant. Could you imagine if someone opened up a retro diner in the space and actually kept the walls of glass and used similar style signage? Our own Googie diner. Wish I had a few million bucks.
Flat roof with walls of glass.
 
Tile and brick facade with vintage lighting.
 

Arts & Architecture Highlights the Work of Harold Esten

I’m looking forward to the open house tomorrow (or today, if you are reading this on Sunday) at the Esten House from 1 to 4 p.m. As I mentioned in my post about the listing, you will have the opportunity to see more of Harold Esten’s work displayed in the house (see above picture of his office.) I did want to link to one cool item here:  A September 1963 Arts & Architecure piece highlighting the Galblum Residence (see below) on Crail Drive in Bethesda.

Modern Snapshot: Universalist Church of Silver Spring

I was heading home from Crest Park this weekend (stay tuned for another Goodman listing I have coming up) and remembered that I had taken some shots last year of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring on New Hampshire Avenue.

This interesting Dwell piece discusses why Unitarian Universalist congregations have been drawn to modern design for their churches. “Frank Lloyd Wright was the first modern architect to design a Universalist church,” the article says. “He volunteered to design a replacement for Unity Church in Oak Park, Illinois, the morning after it burned down. The result is the beloved Unity Temple.”
D.C. own leading architects designed Unitarian Universalist churches here. Goodman designed one in Arlington. The modernist team of Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon along with Pietro Belluschi designed the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda, which I wrote about here.

What You Can Learn from Just Buying Books

You can learn a lot from books even if you do not read them. I picked up a stash of modern architecture books at the annual Stone Ridge Used Book Sale. Many of the books I purchased were from the library of Alan Hamilton Rider. I had never heard of Rider so I did some research. I mean, I Googled him. Sure enough he was an architect who graduated with a master’s degree in design in 1953 from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Here’s from the Washington Post‘s obit in June 2010:  “Early in his career, Mr. Rider was an associate in the architecture firm of John Carl Warnecke. Among the projects he worked on with Warnecke, who died last year as well, was the memorial for President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. Rider also helped develop a master plan for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the hangar for Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base.”
Rider, who retired in 1994, was also one of the designers of the brutalist Lauinger Library at Georgetown University. Ah, a library. Now if I could actually find time to read a book.
 

Mid-Century Modern-Style Dining at the Jersey Shore

Teplitzky's Coffee Shop
I am sick of this weather and ready for summer and the beach. Did you catch the Post’s story the other day about The Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City and its retro-style diner Teplitzky’s? It warmed me up a bit. My wife is from Atlantic City and the restaurant is named after her friend’s grandparents, who owned the original Kosher hotel. We have stopped by to nosh on hipster Jewish and American comfort food. The blintzes were legit, although I do not see them on the menu anymore. (Too bad. They may have been even better than my late grandma’s, dare I say. ) Enough about the food.
The Chelsea Hotel and Teplitzky's Coffee Shop in Atlantic City.
To create The Chelsea, the owners combined the  Holiday Inn Atlantic City-Boardwalk and the adjacent Howard Johnson Hotel Atlantic City (formerly the hotel owned by the Teplitzky’s). The hotel sits at the corner of Chelsea and Pacific Avenues, hence the name.
Classic mid-century motel lines can be seen from the pool area.
You can lounge at the pool like a mid-century movie star.
The coffee shop has all the retro-touches of a classic mid-century diner from the planters, lighting, redwood walls, terrazzo floors and counter seating.
Retro planter in a booth at Teplitzky's.
Some vintage-style lighting.
The counter looks like it would fit in any Googie diner in LA.
Retro photo wall at Teplitzky's. You can see a picture of Hyman and Ester Teplitzky in 1963 in the bottom right-hand corner.
If Read More >

Celebrating the Neutra Practice’s 85th Anniversary

If you will be in LA this coming weekend, you may want to include on your agenda a stop at the Neutra VDL Research House in Silver Lake for a tour and festivities to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Neutra Practice (Richard and son Dion). Here’s a note I received from Dion, who worked with his father to rebuild the family home in the 1960s after the original house was destroyed by fire.
“Join us to celebrate ‘Neutra Practice at 85 weekend’ April 8-10, 2011. Richard Neutra founded this firm in 1926 while he was still living in the Schindler House. Shortly thereafter, came the birth of his second son, Dion. At about this time, he was working on his first major project, the Jardinette Apartments (1927) in Hollywood. A couple of years later, [he designed] the Lovell Health House (1929). After a distinguished 40 years, his architect son joined as partner and vice president in 1965. Dion has carried on the firm since his father’s death in 1970. … This is what we celebrate on this occasion. Join us!”
During my recent trip to LA, I stopped at the Neutra House for a tour and some photo taking. Here are a few shots:
The front of the Neutra VDL Research House II. It is located at 2300 Silver Lake Blvd.
Neutra numbers.
The second-floor library/den.
The stairwell and second floor.
Nice windows in the kitchen.
One of the small but well-designed bedrooms.
The 1940 Garden house in the backyard was spared from the fire.
The penthouse solarium.
View of Silver Lake Reservoir from rooftop balcony.
 

City Paper: Modern Mobler Best Vintage Store in D.C.

Congrats to Modern Capital sponsor Modern Mobler, which opened last May. Doug Meyers’ vintage mid-century modern shop on Georgia Avenue in Northwest was just picked by Washington City Paper as D.C.’s best vintage furniture store. So stop by to check out Doug’s latest finds, especially his Danish pieces by Arne Vodder and Jens Risom, who will turn 95 on May 8. I’ve been eying a few myself. (See a full list of Modern Capital’s sponsors. Please support our local modern businesses.)

Preserving Iconic Mid-Century Modern Homes

As part of the 75th anniversary celebrations this year for Fallingwater, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is holding a symposium on April 5 at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater about preserving iconic modern homes throughout the country. Private Domains/Public Displays: The Modern House Interpreted will bring together an “international gathering of directors and curators … in Pittsburgh to discuss strategies for preserving and interpreting nine of the world’s iconic modern house museums.” The homes to be discussed include Phillip Johnson’s Glass House (pictured above), Eero Saarinen’s Miller House (which is opening to the public for the first time soon) and  Mies’ Farnsworth House. You can register here if you want to learn more about efforts to preserve this icons of modernism.
Miller House, Columbus, Indiana, circa 1957. Photographer Ezra Stoller. © Ezra Stoller / ESTO.

Daniel Donnelly Vintage Modern Action This Saturday

If you are planning to participate in Modern Capital sponsor Daniel Donnelly’s Vintage Modern Auction this Saturday (March 12) make sure to hit his showroom this week to check out the available items. The official preview runs through Friday.  (You can register here and see the lots online here.) The more than 300 lots range from vintage Eames, Saarinen (see above) and Nelson pieces to items from the 1952 USS United States, which Daniel and his wife personally salvaged from the luxury liner in the 1980s. The auction will kick off at 11 a.m. in person and online. If you can make it or won’t be by a computer, you can submit an absentee bid. Hope to see many Modern Capital fans in Alexandria on Saturday.

Building Museum Panel to Explore Architecture of Harry Weese

Harry Weese was a larger than life figure. He dominated Chicago architecture in the 1960s and ’70s and then had a sorry descent at the end of his life. (See this detailed Chicago magazine article from this past summer.)  He also had a major impact on the landscape of Washington (think Metro and Arena Stage).  The National Building Museum will hold a panel, The Architecture of Harry Weese, on March 9 from 6:30 to 8 pm. Robert Bruegmann, historian and author of The Architecture of Harry Weese (Norton),and Roger Lewis, The Washington Post‘s “Shaping the City” columnist, will explore the life of Weese, focusing on his local. A book-signing will follow the panel discussion. Weese also had a major impact on Columbus, Indiana, which I explored last year. Here are a few photos of Weese’s work in Columbus, a mecca of modernism in the Midwest.
Weese’s 1965 First Baptist Church in Columbus is a National Historic Landmark.
The soaring sanctuary of the First Baptist Church.
Weese’s 1957 Lillian C. Schmitt Elementary School was the first building in Columbus to be built under J. Irwin Miller’s effort to foster excellence in civic design.
Custom home by Weese in Columbus. It originally had a flat roof.

More Moderns on the Water in Maryland

Following my post yesterday on a house by noted Seattle architect Wendell Lovett, here are two more modern homes on the water in Maryland. You can tell I am dreaming about summer and buying a place on the water. Both these homes–one is from the early ’70s and one is from the late ’80s–are more what people consider “contemporary”-style homes rather than your classic mid-century moderns from the 1950s and 1960s. This house from 1989 sits on almost an acre right on the Chesapeake Bay. The price has dropped from $1.3 million to $1.099 million and needs work. It has been on the market for nearly 1,000 days. This 1972 home is listed for $700K and sits on nearly a half an acre on Lake Ogleton near the Severn River. It has dropped $100K and been on the market for more than 200 days.

Modern Snapshot: Mid-Century Wheaton Woods Baptist Church

Some shots from today of the Wheaton Woods Baptist Church located here in Rockville. Nothing spectacular, but a solid mid-century modern church. Or, as this site I discovered recently would call it: Mid-Century Mundane. The site “was created to explore a specific genre of architecture that has largely been ignored. While architecture of the mid-century and recent past have become more appreciated in recent years, there is a category of vernacular building that uses a modern architecture vocabulary and contributes to a sense of place, but is generally not considered significant or as a candidate for preservation.” Scroll the site’s images. I found a number of shots from the D.C. area.

Biscayne Boulevard: ‘Tropical Modern’ Paradise

When I was down in Florida for the holidays, my wife and I left the kids with grandma and grandpa and took a cruise along Biscayne Boulevard to take in the MiMo (Miami Modern) architecture. In 2006, the city of Miami designated Biscayne Boulevard from NE 50th Street to NE 77th Street as the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District. “Before the rise of Brickell Avenue, Biscayne Boulevard was Miami’s prestigious suburban address, ” the authors of MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed write. “A string of stylish Subtroprical Modern office buildings lined the street side by side with colorful motels. The strip fell into a long period of desuetude during the 1970s.” The area suffered from “benign neglect” with little new development keeping the mid-century modern structures intact, although many we saw were vacant with lease signs out front. While the area has seen a bit of gentrification, it is still rough around the edges.
Our first stop was the  1963 Bacardi Building by Cuban-born architect Enrique Gutierrez. The iconic blue-and-white ceramic tile floral patterns were done by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennard. Ten years later, Bacardi added more office space in the annex, a two-story office building cantilevered of a central core. The glass murals are a abstract depiction of the rum making process.
There are 28,000 hand-crafted tiles on the building.

Just down the block from the Bacardi complex, we found a vacant mid-century modern apartment building and a cool office building with metal brise-soleil (sun screen).

Further north, we found the 1965 Read More >

Chloethiel Woodard Smith’s Modernist Harbour Square

Some of the most breathtaking views in Washington can be had from the top of Chloethiel Woodard Smith’s mid-century modern Harbour Square (1960-1966) along the Southwest waterfront. During the D.C. Preservation League’s tour of Southwest in October, the group had a chance to take in the views from the roof of the complex. (One of the participants on the tour lives in Harbour Square and escorted us up.)

Designed as an upscale component of Southwest’s urban renewal during the 1950s and ’60s, Harbour Square has nearly 450 condos around a monumental reflecting pool as part of Smith and Dan Kiley’s modernist landscape.

Smith, who was a major force behind the redevelopment of Southwest, and Kiley’s work is just steps away from Hideo Sasaki’s Waterside Park along the Washington Channel.

Want to have a piece of this view? I see close to a dozen units on the market, ranging from this 1 bed/1 bath for $195K to this 3 bed/2.5 bath unit with water views, Poggenpohl cabinets in the kitchen and contemporary bathrooms. It is listed at $1.175 million. This unit listed for $610K gets a special mention because the agent mentions Smith in his marketing and because of some very nice pictures.
Here are a couple of shots of the lobby of one of the buildings. Large expanses of glass bring the outside in while new versions of period appropriate furniture are ready for you to relax in after a hard day of taking  in the views from the roof.

Saving the 1970 Brown Planetarium

Named as one of Arlington County’s most endangered historic places for 2010, the 1970 David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington is facing closure amid much needed capital improvements that the county’s school district said it cannot fund. The mid-century facility is the sole freestanding school planetarium open to the public in the D.C. area. While a $100,000 gift to a local group working to keep the facility open has achieved the goal for now, $160,000 is still needed. You can help support the group’s efforts here.

New Year Modern Calendar Contest

Happy New Year. I hope you have a very happy, healthy and modern 2011. To start the new year off, I am running a contest for a 2011 MoMA Chairs calendar as seen above. (Actual chair not included.) All you have to do to enter is post a comment below, on Facebook or send me a message on Twitter telling me about your modern New Year’s resolution. Do you want to visit homes designed by your favorite architect? Buy that piece of mid-century modern furniture you have been pining for? (Eames Lounge Chair for me.) Or do you plan to read every issue of Dwell ever published? All who enter will be placed in a hat and picked at random. Submissions due by midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 4. Good luck.

Mid-Century Modern Foreclosures in Baltimore

Hoping these mid-century modern homes and the people who owned them have a better year in 2011. These foreclosures in and near Baltimore could be opportunities for others in the new year.  Here’s a 1958 mid-century with an asymmetrical gabled roof listed for $299K, down from $319K. This house, also from 1958, sits on nearly three acres in Caves Park in Owings Mills. It is listed for $577K. The Caves Park area features many mid-century modern homes on large lots.

Mid-Century Modern in the Sun

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. I took a holiday hiatus but am back blogging now. As is typical for this time of year, not many new modern listings have hit the market during the past few weeks. I’ll bring you all the latest listings as the spring market heats up. Talking about heat, I was down in South Florida and did some mid-century modern exploring. Here are few shots from two buildings that sit across from each other on North Federal Highway (U.S. Route 1) in Boynton Beach: a bank and a church.  South Florida is a treasure trove of mid-century architecture. Building boomed after World War II. The advent of air conditioning and the highway system, such as Route 1, allowed those from the north to flock south. I spent some time exploring the MiMo (Miami Modern) architecture along Biscayne Boulevard, also Route 1.  Another post to follow soon from that excursion, including shots of the 1963 Bicardi Building by the Cuban-architect Enrique Gutierrez.

I like the church's mod stained glass.

Giving the Gift of the Glass House

Johnson's library/study. Johnson called it an "event" on the landscape.
Are you looking for a gift for the modernist who has everything?  The folks at the Philip Johnson Glass House have an idea. Think private tour of the Glass House and then dinner at the Johnson and Mies-designed Four Seasons in New York. The modernist experience is $400 per person. In August, I visited the Glass House for the first time. I went on the Modern Friends tour that allowed photography and access to more of the buildings on the 47-acre property. The tour was close to private; there was only two other people there on a weekday in August. And no Four Seasons for me. I had a veggie burger at a local burger joint.
The classic shot of the Glass House.
I know Johnson’s work had major influence on introducing the International Style to residential modernism,  but I did not have a strong reaction to the Glass House itself (or at least when compared to the feeling I had when I visited the Stahl House and Miller House.) Maybe I had seen too many pictures of it. Or maybe that is the really just the point of the minimalist design, with the house disappearing against the greenery of the property. Seeing structures I was less familiar with such as Johnson’s Library/Study (1980) and the Painting Gallery (1965), which was inspired by the Treasury of Atreus, a tomb in Greece, was more interesting. These had some more personal touches that allows a Read More >

Corcoran Show Explores Danish Modern Design

If you are craving the warmth of Danish modern design to soothe you in this frigid weather, stop by the Corcoran’s Gallery 31 through Dec. 20 for its show Origin to Icon: Exploring Danish Design. The show “will explore the correlation between design inspiration and design outcome. Examples of iconic Danish designs will be showcased in juxtaposition to the elements that motivated their designers to create them.” Think an egg for Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair like the one above I photographed during a tour of the Danish Embassy. A reception will be held at the Corcoran on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Saarinen’s Soaring Legacy of Dulles Airport

Dulles International Airport Terminal, Chantilly, Virginia, circa 1963. © Balthazar Korab Ltd.
I wanted to make sure people saw this weekend’s column by architect Roger K. Lewis, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland and long-time Washington Post architecture columnist. Lewis’ column reflects on the Finish Embassy’s recent exhibit highlighting Eero Saarinen’s work in the D.C. area and a recent flight Lewis took from the Saarinen-designed Dulles airport. (The brochure for the exhibit was designed as individual “tickets” in the type of paper holder that passengers used to get at airports before the advent of e-tickets.)
“Perhaps Saarinen’s most well-known project, the iconic Dulles terminal is recognized and admired by millions, even people who have never visited it,” Lewis writes. “Architects continually cite it as one of America’s greatest works of modern architecture. Designed as a jet-age threshold and gateway, the terminal is a kind of super-scaled pavilion, a place of transition between movement on land and movement through the air.
“Two characteristics, in particular, make Dulles unique. It has proved functionally durable because of the terminal’s flexibility and adaptability to changing needs. Owing to the clarity of its dynamic, metaphoric geometry, its aesthetic quality also has endured, transcending shifting architectural trends.”
You can read the full column here.

Modern Snapshot: Giving Thanks for Little Modern Details

I look at a lot of houses online and in person. I write about many of them here. In this post, I want to highlight some of the smaller mid-century modern details I have come across during the past several years.  Scrolling through the 3,000+ pictures on my phone (all of food, architecture and my kids), I found many pictures that have not made into the posts over the years that I wanted to share with you, including the picture above in the backyard of the Hamilton House in Columbus, Indiana. Thanks for reading. Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Give thanks for your family, friends, good health and those little modern details that make life richer.
Original pink bathroom in a mid-century split in D.C.
Original Formica boomerang vanity.
The Essex condo on Connecticut Avenue in D.C.
The mid-century planter in The Essex lobby.
Hairpin vanity legs in Bethesda.
Original counter and backsplash in a Charles Goodman home in Hollin Hills.
Cool raised-patterned coat closet door in 1960s Potomac home.
Original color swatches for Harry Weese-designed home in Columbus, Indiana.
Modernist patio in Columbus, Indiana.
Appropriate furniture in the lobby of Mies' Highfield House in Baltimore.
Original closet pull in unit in Mies' Highfield House.
Original kitchen cabinets in a condo in Mies' Highfield House in Baltimore.
This last picture is one of the most peculiar things I have seen. This scene was painted on the wall of a powder room in a very cool mid-century modern home in Bethesda. Thankfully, I have not seen too many of these. Happy Thanksgiving.

Religious Innovation: Saarinen’s North Christian Church

With the Eero Saarinen exhibit running until Nov. 28 at the Finnish Embassy (I hope to go this weekend), I figured it was a good time to finally finish my trilogy on Saarinen’s mid-century modern designs in Columbus, Indiana. All three, North Christian Church, the Miller House and Irwin Union Bank and Trust were worked on closely with J. Irwin Miller, the town’s modernist patron. From the pictures I had seen of North Christian Church, I always thought the spaceship-like structure was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by acres and acres of lush Midwestern land. It is actually just a couple miles north of downtown Columbus and surrounded by homes.
The 1964 church, Saarinen’s last design before his premature death in 1961, was crafted as a hexagon (reflecting the six-point Star of David) with a long spire, symbolizing Christianity’s roots in Judaism. Playing off  title of the Finnish Embassy exhibit, Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation,  Saarinen was very innovative with the design of the church, moving well beyond the constructs of the typical structure of the time. He spent so much time perfecting it that Miller and the rest of the church board grew a bit tired of his delays. In the end, he delivered a stunning building reflecting the individual congregation and religious history.
The church’s tapestry, candelabra and colors were the work of Alexander Girard. The landscaping for the church, a National Landmark, was done by Dan Kiley. Here are some historical photos from the church’s web site, Read More >

The Tome for Eames Addicts

If you are an Eames addict and your loved ones are looking for gift ideas for the holidays (I hope my wife reads this), send them a link to this post as a not so subtle hint on a what they can get you. (You can also try to win one here.) The Story of Eames Furniture was written and designed by Marilyn Neuhart together with her husband John. Both worked at the Eames Office in various capacities since the 1950s. They spent the past 15 years compiling this two-volume, 800-page book with more than 2,500 images that tells the behind the scenes story of the office and the designers and manufacturers that helped create the iconic brand. Check out this excellent video below about the book and the Neuharts produced by publisher Gestalten.

Finnish Embassy Highlights Saarinen’s Work in Washington

Dulles International Airport Terminal, Chantilly, Virginia, circa 1963. © Balthazar Korab Ltd.
To mark the 100th anniversary of Eero Saarinen’s birth year (Aug. 20, 2010), the Finnish Embassy is hosting a free exhibit at the embassy until Nov. 28. The exhibit, “Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation,” is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sundays. The exhibition is a tribute to Saarinen’s work in Washington, which began with the 1939 winning design (with Charles Eames and Ralph Rapson) for the Smithsonian Gallery of Art, a modern art museum on the Mall that was never built, and ended with the nation’s first jet airport, Dulles International Airport. Dulles was completed one year after Saarinen’s death on Sept. 1, 1961 at the age of 51. Saarinen also spent time in D.C. during the war years as the head of the Office of Strategic Services’ Presentation Division responsible for all exhibits work. One of his jobs while at OSS was designs for the Situation Room at the White House. Looks like a good opportunity to learn more about some of Saarinen’s less publicized work and to check out Finland’s modern embassy.

Modernist Rental Getaways

Modernists going on vacation or looking for a once-in-a-lifetime getaway often have a hard time finding the right place to stay. Is Le Corbusier more your style than Conrad Hilton? If it is, check out the webiste, boutique homes, which promotes dozens of modern homes for rent by the likes of yes, Corbusier, Alberty Frey and Frank Lloyd Wright. Modern Capital sponsor Lost River Modern, a modern pre-fab “cabin” on 30 acres in Lost River, West Virginia by Resolution: 4 Architecure, also is on the site here.

Julius Shulman Day: 10-10-10

View from inside the Stahl House.
Julius Shulman was born 100 years ago today. The legendary photographer, who died last year on July 15 at the age of 98, played an instrumental role  in capturing on film the essence and beauty of mid-century modern architecture for all to see and appreciate. So to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, I am picking some of my favorite shots where I tried to channel the spirit of Shulman. (See the film Visual Acoustics for more inspiration.) I think my favorite is the shot of the Stahl House below, which Shulman made famous with his iconic image of two young woman sitting in the corner of the cantilevered home dangling off a cliff high above Los Angeles. Just to note:  If you have $2 million, you can buy Shulman’s Raphael Soriano-designed home in Los Angeles, which has been on the market for almost a year.
The Stahl House by Pierre Koenig, Los Angeles.
The Eames House by Ray and Charles Eames, Pacific Palisades.
The Beverly Hilton by Welton Becket, Bevery Hills.
The Lever House by Gordon Bunshaft, New York City.
Irwin Union Trust by Eero Saarinen, Columbus, Ind.
River Park by Charles Goodman, Southwest D.C.

America’s World’s Fairs: Introducing Modernism to the Masses

U.S. Government Building, Century of Progress Exhibition, Chicago 1933-34. Photo by Kauffman & Fabry, Co. Collection of Jim Sweeney.
As the nation was gripped with the Great Depression, the world’s fairs held in six cities across the United States promised a better future for the country replete with cool modern design and technological advances. Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s, a first-of-its-kind exhibit, will open Saturday at the National Building Museum and highlight the impact the fairs had on introducing modernism to the country.
“Participating architects, eager for new projects at a time when few new buildings were being financed, populated the fairgrounds with an eclectic modern architecture,” the museum says in a description of the exhibit, which runs until July 10, 2011.  “Pavilions housed innovative and dynamic exhibitions that paid tribute to factory production, technology, and speed. Exhibits forecasted the houses and cities of tomorrow and presented streamlined trains, modern furnishings, television, and talking robots.”
One of the most popular exhibits/ride, was Futurama in the General Motors Building at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Architect Albert Kahn and designer Norman Bel Geddes created a 35,000 square-foot of model of a city and its countryside in 1960. Visitors experienced a guided ride/ tour into the future.
General Motors Building, New York World’s Fair, 1940. Courtesy of Albert Kahn Family of Companies.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Art Deco Society of Washington (ADSW) is holding a weekend of events and working on raising money to restore the Belgian Friendship Pavilion Read More >

Mies’ Mid-Century Modern Condos in Baltimore

I stopped at Modern Capital sponsor Home Anthology on Saturday on the way to the Baltimore Book Festival. I checked out Rob and Nini’s latest finds and got a great tip about a Mies Van der Rohe-designed condo building just north of Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. I had never read about the Highfield House so off we went to 4000 N. Charles St. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. (The only other building in Maryland designed by Mies is the 1962 One Charles Center office building, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places.)
I found four listed for sale, ranging from a 1 bed/1 bath for $125,000 to a 2 bed/2 bath for $195,000. The two more expensive units have the original kitchen cabinets. The other two unfortunately have had them removed. What? You really should not mess with the master. I hope to take a tour of some of the units this coming weekend so I will report back from my tour inside.
A view of Mies' Highfield House from N. Charles Street.
Built in 1964, the 15-story reinforced-concrete and glass structure is perched on columns that shelter a glass-enclosed lobby with its Mies-designed Barcelona chairs, ottomans and coffee table.

Appropriate furniture in the lobby, which features terrazzo floors.

Mies’ plan, originally designed as an apartment building, included the surrounding grounds with a sunken pool and landscaped recreation area.
Mies' minimalist modern landscape on the back terrace.
Mies' modern planting beds.

Highland House's back terrace and sunken swimming pool. Read More >

Empire State Plaza: Wallace Harrison’s Mid-Century Modern Masterpiece

Our country’s own mini version of the the grand Brasilia can be found in a city–Albany–with a very different climate than the capital of Brazil, which was designed by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer.  Empire State Plaza in the capital city of  New York was designed by Wallace Harrison (think Time-Life Building in Mad Men) with the help from art and architecture aficionado, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller. Rockefeller worked with Harrison to design the modern plaza and brutalist buildings. The modern structures stand in stark contrast to the 1880s state capitol building, which sits at the north end of the plaza. Construction of the plaza, which sits atop a six-story platform, started in 1965 and was completed in 1978 for a cost of $1.7 billion. The 10 buildings are home to more than 11,ooo state employees.
While many people did not like the brutalist architecture at the time or now (many at the time described it as fascist), I think it is a must visit for modernists. Not only are the buildings and plaza a grand American example of modernism, especially The Egg (a performing arts center and engineering marvel that took 12 years to build), but underneath the plaza is one of the most significant modern art collections in the country outside of a museum. The collection (you can see the entire collection here) was picked by Rockefeller, whose mother was one of three women to found the Museum of Modern Art in 1929. Most of Read More >

Home Anthology Fall Open House This Weekend

Some of the new finds that will be on display at Home Anthology’s Fall Open House this weekend.
Rob and Nini at Home Anthology have been on the road and have scored more than 75 new mid-century modern pieces for your viewing and buying pleasure. You can see all their new finds, including a gorgeous executive desk by Arne Vodder and stunning teak and rosewood storage pieces from Denmark, during their Fall Open House on Saturday, September 18, and Sunday, September 19, from 12-5. You may want to think about renting a U-Haul. Been there. Done that.

A Mid-Century Modern Summer Road Trip

Summer time is for road trips. Cycling. Swimming. And eating lots of ice cream. In my book, seeing mid-century modern architecture is definitely part of the mix as well. So on the family’s recent trek north to Vermont and New Hampshire, we made sure to include some mid-century modern sightseeing to the typical summer itinerary. Beyond our main modernist destinations (Empire State Plaza in Albany and Philip Johnson’s Glass House; look for future posts), it was fun to spot mid-century modern architecture and design along the road in the small towns that we passed through. On my train up to meet my family at the beach in south Jersey where we would start the journey, I read a fascinating piece in the latest issue of Modernism on Milo Baughman and the sidebar on Hudson, N.Y., which has an extensive selection of mid-century modern vintage stores.
A shot from one of the mid-century modern furniture stores in Hudson, NY.
While prices were steep for the most part (the town is a haven for New Yorkers on the weekend), a few stores had some more affordable items. My wife and I picked up a vintage aluminum floor lamp with a Saarinen-style tulip base and globe top. We even at ate several mid-century diners, including Clark White Diamond for Jersey sliders (wish I had gone there when I was growing up in Jersey) and the Blue Benn Dinner in Bennington, VT, a vintage 1940s diner car from where else, New Jersey.
We had good Read More >

DCPL Preservation Conference to Explore Mid-Century Modern Issues

A detail of the 1972 AIA headquarters designed by TAC. Photo by Greg Braun.
Two panels during the D.C. Preservation League’s upcoming 2010 Citywide Historic Preservation Conference will focus on preserving mid-century modern buildings in the city. The concurrent sessions on Friday, Sept. 24, are entitled “Preservation and Public Opinion” and “Rehabilitating Modern Buildings.” The first session will look at the sagas of two D.C. landmarks: the 1971 Third Church of Christ, Scientist, and the 1950 Waffle Shop. Panelists include the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott, Paul Milstein of Douglas Development Corporation and the DCPL’s Rebecca Miller and Peter Sefton.  The second session will examine various techniques being used “to keep mid-20th-century structures in use.” Examples to be discussed include the Waffle Shop, which is being relocated and reconstructed, the green renovation of the 1972 AIA headquarters by The Architects Collaborative, the rebuilding of the 1969 Constitution Center (former Department of Transportation building by Edward Durrell Stone) and the addition to Harry Weese’s 1961 Arena Stage in Southwest. Speakers include James Brown of Bing Thorn Architects, Marnique Heath of Studios Architecture, Kevin Milstead of Shalom Baranes Associates and David Varner of SmithGroup.

1953 Mid-Century Modern in Lake Barcroft for Rent – $3,100/Month

Are you looking to rent a mid-century modern oasis? Take a look at this updated mid-century on a secluded and wooded lot near the beach in Lake Barcroft in Falls Church. The home, which has 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and an office, has a heated swimming pool and extensive deck, porch and patio to take in the mid-century goodness and natural surroundings.

Modern Snapshot: Gropius-Designed House in Lake Barcroft

The Walter Gropius-designed house in Lake Barcroft. Photos by Michael Cook.
In my post yesterday, I mentioned a house in Lake Barcroft by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Col. Joseph Barger, the developer of Lake Barcroft, bought the 135-acre lake and surrounding 566 aces for $1 million in 1950. In an effort to bring some cachet to the development that was being built (at the time) in rural Virginia, Barger reached out to mid-century modern architect Charles Goodman (who designed the first house in the community; it has since been significantly altered) and Gropius, who reportedly mapped out ideas for the development, according to an interesting 2001 history of the community written by longtime resident Anthony Bracken.

“A resourceful entrepreneur, Barger used every means possible to promote his projects,” Bracken writes. “In this case, he called on an acquaintance, internationally renowned architect Walter Gropius, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Architecture and Design. … His plan reportedly included designing four moderately priced, three-bedroom, two bathroom ramblers in four different price ranges. Each house would feature separate areas for sleep, work and play. It would seem that Gropius was prescient in recognizing the need for communal nurseries and, at the same time, aware of the changing culture in the fifties, when a barbecue in the back yard was the rage. However, only one Gropius house—located at 6325 Lakeview Drive—was ever designed and built. It is not clear if the design was actually put to blueprints or if it was merely the result of sketches on Read More >

Open House Picks: My Goodman, Carderock Springs and Custom Potomac MCM

Open staircase in my listing at 4007 Ingersol Dr. in Silver Spring.
I’ll be holding my listing in Rock Creek Woods in Silver Spring open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday for those of you looking for a Charles Goodman in Montgomery County. Check out this copy from the original brochure: “The architect begins his concept with the beautiful, rolling, wooded terrain of Rock Creek Woods, and the homes have been designed to fit the rise and fall of the land, disturbing it as little as possible. All trees not actually in an excavation or street have been saved…the houses become part of the natural surroundings.” You can see more here about the house in my earlier post.
This 5/3 Brookview model by Charles Goodman is listed at $549K.
Here are a few others that caught my eye.  This sprawling 1960 mid-century modern in Potomac was the personal residence of local mid-century architect Jerold Williamson. The price has dropped $85,ooo to $989K. Here are two open houses in Cardrock Springs in Bethesda:  a 1962 5/3 Woodside model  listed for $847K and an expanded 4/3 Hillcrest model listed for $825K down from $839K. Like Rock Creek Woods, Carderock Springs by Edmund Bennett and architects Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its mid-century modern architecture.

The Disappearing Mid-Century Modern Safeways

One of the mid-century modern “Marina” style Safeway stores in the area will be disappearing. This one on Georgia Avenue and Reedie Drive in Wheaton, most likely from the 1960s, will be replaced with with a mixed-used development.

The Marina name comes from the the first Safeway of this design on Marina Boulevard in San Francisco. “Safeway stores from the late 1950s and early 1960s are some of the most easily-identifiable structures on the west coast,” David Gwynn writes at groceteria.com.  “A classic and simple modern design, with three main variations, these stores look as clean and fresh today as the day they opened. Many of these stores, such as San Francisco’s Marina Boulevard location (the first such store in June 1959), continue to operate with only minor exterior modifications forty years after their construction.”
If you want to visit one in its vintage state, head to the store further down on Georgia Avenue here in DC (see images below) or this one on University Boulevard in Silver Spring. While many of us appreciate the architecture and are sad to see it disappear, there is a larger discussion of the issues surrounding why some Safeways are redeveloped while others remain in their original state or close to it. Do you know other vintage stores, ones that have been altered or ultimately lost?

Mid-Century Modern Office Space: Silver Spring’s Technical Service Park

On the new season of “Mad Men,” Don Draper and the rest of the crew have new digs in the Wallace Harrison-designed Time-Life Building. Anyone looking for their own mid-century office space?  I came across Technical Service Park on Linden Lane in Silver Spring a few weeks ago by chance. I’m glad I did. When I first saw the office building with its vintage stone sign and concrete screen block decorated exterior walls, I thought I had taken a detour to LA, Palm Springs or Vegas.  If anyone is looking for office space in a mid-century modern building, you can see what is available here (scroll down to the Silver Spring listings.) If you’re not looking for office, at least you can enjoy the pictures of the this well-preserved (at least on the outside) local mid-century commercial space. Speaking of Harrison, stay tuned for a report on my visit to his Empire State Plaza in Albany.

The Mid-Century Modernism of Mission 66

The 1957 Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. Photos by Stephen Aserkoff.
It’s hot in D.C and almost August. Congress is preparing for its extended “recess.” With many people planning their escapes (especially those still without power), I thought it would be good to highlight the mid-century modernism of the country’s National Parks, many of which are out west and have less humidity and cooler evenings than here. The mid-century modern visitors’ centers and lodges at many of the parks were built under Mission 66,  “a federally sponsored program to improve deteriorated and dangerous conditions in the national parks, the result of a massive visitor boom after World War II,” according to the Mission 66 website, created by Christine Madrid French, now head of the National Trust’s Modernism + Recent Past program. “Mission projects began in 1956 and ended in 1966. During those ten years, more than $1 billion was spent on infrastructure and other improvements in the parks. Mission 66 planners and architects developed the concept of the ‘visitor center’ to streamline and standardize visitor services at federal parks nationwide. Approximately 100 new visitor centers were built during the ten-year program.” The 1957 Canyon Lodge featured in this post is in Yellowstone. All images were taken by my friend Stephen Aserkoff, who recently returned to the heat of D.C. from 30 degree weather at night.
The lodge evokes an Eichler from California with the extended beams and wall of glass.

Modern Capital Snags 2nd Place in Post’s ‘Mad Men’ Contest

Modern Capital Snags 2nd Place in Post’s ‘Mad Men’ Contest
Michael Shapiro’s mix of vintage and new modern furnishings takes 2nd place in the paper’s ‘Mad Men’ Look contest.

Modern Capital’s Pad Places 2nd in Post’s ‘Mad Men’ Look Contest

A shot of our cathedral ceiling living room. George Nelson lamp hanging from the 12-foot ceiling and art by Campbell Laird.
‘Mad Men’ meets Modern Capital. Our do-it-yourself interior design helped my wife and me garner second place in the Washington Post’s ‘Mad Men’ look contest that is running in the Saturday Real Estate section. (Jen Sergent broke the news here Friday morning. Also, check out her piece on the influence growing up in Hollin Hills had on ‘Mad Men’ set designer Dan Bishop.)
“Runner-up in the ‘Mad Men’ Look contest is Michael Shapiro of Bethesda, known online as ‘midcenturymike,’ Elizabeth Razzi reports. “Post judges were taken with his mix of vintage and new furnishings, particularly the vintage white Eames pedestal table and dining chairs in white and chartreuse, topped with a new George Nelson bubble lamp. Shapiro, 37, and his wife, Elissa, 36, live in a 1956 brick split-level with a carport. ‘It’s not the ultramodern that I want, but we’ll get there someday,’ he said. What draws him to these styles? ‘It’s very simple: clean lines. To me, that’s perfection,’ he said.”

The judges liked our vintage Eames table and fiberglass shell chairs and new Nelson saucer.

The den mixes vintage Saarinen chairs you can find at Sterling Cooper (they are blue on the show) with a new Saarinen coffee table.
We found the Eames table and chairs at Modern Capital sponsor Home Anthology, which just was named in Baltimore Magazine’s Best of Baltimore issue. (Go check out their current anniversary Read More >

1953 Mid-Century Modern in Pine Spring; Other New Listings

Some of D.C.'s leading mid-century modern architects designed the homes in Pine Spring.
Pine Spring in Falls Church is home to 121 modest mid-centuries designed by the local modernist all-star team team of Arthur Keyes, Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Nicholas Satterlee and Francis Donald Lethbridge. Homes in the community were first built in the early 1950s by the Luria brothers, who also developed nearby Homes Run Acres. Andre Bodor, who developed homes in Holmes Run Acres as well, also built in Pine Spring.   This 4 bedroom/2 bathroom two-level with slightly pitched front-gabled roof, carport and wood-beamed ceilings is on the market for $524,500. Here are a few more new listings:
1958 Ken Freeman split-level in Bradley Park in Bethesda – $749K
1955 expanded mid-century in Lake Barcroft – $875K (This has dropped $200K from when it was on the market two years ago before being withdrawn and rented.)
1955 mid-century in Somerset Heights in Chevy Chase modernized by Mark McInturff – $1.255 million

Modern Capital Mad Men Giveaway

With all the excitement building for Mad Men’s fourth season, which begins July 25, I have a giveaway that would fit nicely into your Mad Men collection. If you need to brush up on what happened last season or you have not yet seen the latest between Don and Betty or the doings at Sterling Cooper, I have one Season 3 DVD set for those interested in participating. Here’s how to play:
1. Like Modern Capital on Facebook.
2. Go to the Mad Men Giveaway post and write about your favorite design element of the show. Furniture, architecture, art,  etc. (My favorite is Don’s trip to Palm Springs and his visit to Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate by E. Stewart Williams. You can stay there for $2,600 a night with a three night minimum.)
3. You can also play on Twitter by sending me a tweet with your pick to @moderncapital.
4. I will collect all names that enter and pick a random winner.
5. Winner will be announced Monday at 10 a.m.
6. Good luck.

Modern Snapshot: Mid-Century Cooling in Berkeley Springs

A mid-18th Century place to cool down in Berkeley Springs contrasts with a more modern way seen below.
Berkeley Springs State Park in West Virginia features two mid-century ways to relax and cool off from the summer heat–one is mid-18th Century and the other is mid-20th Century. You can take a plunge in George Washington’s Bath Tub (c. 1748). At age 16, the first president was part of a team surveying the western areas of Lord Fairfax’s real estate empire. And just across the small park, you’ll find a much more modern swimming pool with flat-roof pool house.

The Post’s Mid-Century Modern ‘Mad Men’ Look Contest

The vintage Saarinen Executive Armchairs are the same ones spotted in the Sterling Cooper office.
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.
The vintage Eames table and chairs and vintage Paul McCobb credenza give our dining room that retro vibe.

The Miller House: Mid-Century Modernism at its Finest

The 1957 Miller House by Eero Saarinen. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
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 Read More >

Open 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

Modern Columbus: Saarinen’s Irwin Union Bank and Trust

Saarinen’s Irwin Union Bank is a Miesien glass pavilion.
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.)
The bank amid Kiley’s landscape. A 1973 addition by Saarinen protege Kevin Roche is at left.
The space-agey domes create carved out spaces for dramatic lighting fixtures inside.
A close-up from the drive-through area, which was added in 1966.
The nine illuminated domes are a dramatic view at night.
Sign of the times. First Financial took over the assets of the failed Irwin Union.
 George Nelson desks have been slightly adapted Read More >

Modern Capital Tours Modern Columbus

Columbus: A small town packed with significant modern architecture.
“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 Read More >

Modernism of the Danish and Finnish Embassies

The Danish Embassy is celebrating its 50 anniversary this year.
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.
A glass bridge connects the ambassador’s residence to the right with the offices on the left.
Marble-floored foyer of the ambassador’s residence. The interior and exterior Read More >

Open House Picks from Columbus

The sign at the Columbus visitor center.
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

The Modern Mecca of Columbus, Indiana

A collection of Nelson lamps at Hotel Indigo in Columbus.
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 Read More >

Estate Auction: Mid-Century by Standard Properties in Kensington

This mid-century in Kensington will be auctioned June 10.
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.

Post’s Kennicott Takes a New Look at Mies’s MLK Library

The black I-beams of Mies's MLK library in D.C.
If you were away for the weekend, check out Phillip Kennicott’s piece re-examaning  Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and its new neighbor that will rise on the adjacent site of the former First Congregational United Church of Christ.

“All this temporarily open space also serves to reveal a building that has long been hidden in plain sight: the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the 1972 black box designed by the firm of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,” Kennicott writes. “The building, finished after the death of the great modernist architect, has always been problematic, an austere and alien presence in a city temperamentally allergic to anything that isn’t classical, brick or bland. For years it has been in desperate need of renovation. But for now, seen across the open pit, without the distraction of the church that used to sit next to it, the library looks shockingly good. The construction site offers a temporary gift, a chance to see the library in its full glory, with enough perspective and distance to contemplate its stern geometrical form. Suddenly this glass-and-metal box feels new and powerful, as if all it needed was a little air, a little breathing room.”
It’s good to see the much derided mid-century modern building get a fresh look amid the surrounding redevelopment of the city.

The library was designated a historic landmark in 2007.

Modern Snapshot: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensignton

I like the stone and mid-century font of the church sign.
The 1968 St. Paul’s United Methodist Church building in Kensington is the fourth the congregation has had since its founding in 1885. The current mid-century modern sanctuary was built after fire destroyed the previous sanctuary and heavily damaged other buildings, which were built in the 1950s.  You can view a few pictures of the four church buildings to see how the style changed over the years by clicking here and then clicking St. Paul’s and then History. The church is located here if you are in the are and want to see it in person.
Creating geometric shapes with shrubs was a common mid-century landscaping technique.

Modernism in Washington: A Brief History

Victor Lundy's U.S. Tax Court is one of the MCM buildings highlighted in the study.
If you want a concise history of mid-century modernism in Washington, pull up your favorite Eames chair and read “Modernism in Washington” a 20-page brochure published at the end of last year by D.C.’s Historic Preservation office. The brochure is derived from a larger study “DC Modern: A Context for Modernism in the District of Columbia” by Robinson & Associates, a research and consulting firm specializing in architectural history and preservation. The publication examines the rise of modernism in a more classic architectural town, the urban development of Southwest and the reaction against modernism in the city.
The 1957 former B'nai B'rith headquarters by Corning & Moore is cited as an example of glass curtain wall construction.
“After the war, many of the young architects who had flocked to Washington to work for federal agencies remained and continued their practice in private firms,” the brochure says. “Partnerships such as Berla & Abel, whose work represented a marked transition away from traditionalism, were responsible for training many of Washington’s earliest Modernists, including Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Arthur Keyes, Nicholas Satterlee, and Francis D. Lethbridge. Other designers such as Louis Justement, Hilyard Robinson, Louis Edwin Fry, Sr., and Waldron Faulkner would also make formative contributions to the Modern movement in the decade following World War II. With the rise of prominent local firms and the influence of internationally renowned architects, Modernism began to garner greater official and public support.”
The brochure Read More >

Modern Snapshot: Brazilian Chancery

The 1971 Brazilian Chancery on Massachusetts Avenue was designed by Brazilian architect Olavo Redig de Campos. The Miesian, floating glass box is currently undergoing interior renovations. Stay tuned for a post highlighting images from the Danish and Finnish embassies from last weekend’s European embassy tour. We never made it to Sweden (kids were expiring) and I slept on the German Embassy; I forgot about the 1964 mid-century modern on Reservoir Road. I will have to catch those next time.

Exploring D.C.’s Modern Embassies

See the Finnish Embassy on Saturday along with other modern embassies.
Are you ready for another tour this Saturday after exploring Hollin Hills last week? I hop