George Smart, executive director of Triangle Modernist Archive, is a modern-day Lorax for modern-designed houses. In early 2007, a quick Internet search for “Raleigh modernist architecture” took Smart to a web page describing the story of the mid-century Eduardo Catalano house, famous for its expansive butterfly roof, in Raleigh, North Carolina—and its subsequent destruction in 2001 by McMansion developers.
By the end of 2007, Smart—an executive educator by trade but a design enthusiast by blood (his father studied architecture at the North Carolina State University College of Design)—launched Triangle Modernist Houses, a website dedicated to preserving modern homes in the Research Triangle region by increasing public awareness of their threatened existence.
Today, the site lists over 550 modern homes in the area and hosts free for-sale listings. “We have such a concentration of modern houses in this area that are works of art and need to be saved,” Smart says. “My goal is to get these houses into the hands of loving owners.”
The home tours Smart has organized—which have drawn crowds of over 600 people—have helped make that happen: Shortly after a tour through a modern house for sale in Durham in May 2008, one couple in attendance became its new owners. “The more people who know about these houses, the less likely they are to get torn down,” Smart says.
In January, Triangle Modernist Archive, the larger organization that oversees Triangle Modernist Houses, became a registered nonprofit organization. It also created a board of directors—with Smart at the helm, speaking out for the houses he loves.