In a World Tour of Midcentury Moderns, This Book Is the Final Stop

In a World Tour of Midcentury Moderns, This Book Is the Final Stop

By Duncan Nielsen
“Atlas of Midcentury Modern Houses” globe-trots from continent to continent, gathering the era’s definitive homes into one easily accessible place.

Spin the globe and point. There you’ll find at least one—if not several—examples of houses from "Atlas of Midcentury Modern Houses," a new map of residential midcentury design from architecture and design writer Dominic Bradbury. He chronicles American midcentury masters, like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright, but also highlights international examples of this popular style. Inside this book are the most significant homes of the '50s and '60s, contextualized by the architects’ stories. Below, see a handful of stops on this world tour of more than 400 outstanding midcentury projects.

The Dowell Residence by Paul Kirk

Location: Seattle, Washington—1953

Pacific Coast architect Paul Kirk initially embraced the International Style but went on to forge his own version of regional modernism, using natural materials and a more contextual approach to site and setting. The Dowell Residence in Seattle displays a sensitive approach to its site and a sophisticated use of materials as well as spatial dexterity. The house largely turns its back on the street but opens up dramatically to the gardens to one side, taking advantage of the shifting topography to slot in a lower level that connects with the outdoors. 

Inside the Dowell Residence, a key element of the dwelling is its central atrium—a dramatic space, top-lit by clerestory windows, which doubles as a circulation hub and light well while also forming a focal point over both levels of the building.

Schaefer House by Marquis & Stoller

Location: Napa Hills, California—1969

Architect Robert Marquis was born in Stuttgart and emigrated to America in 1937, settling in Los Angeles. He studied architecture at the Unversity of Southern California and co-founded a San Francisco–based practice with Claude Stoller and associate Peter Kampf in 1956. The 169 Schaefer House was, essentially, a cabin perched in the Napa Hill. The house was designed for Dr. Herwin Schaefer and his wife, and was modest in scale and plan but engaging in its design and execution. The cabin sits on the brow of a slope, accessed to the rear by a simple wooden bridge. This leads—via a barn-style sliding door—into a covered walkway that runs through the building and connects with an elevated balconied deck looking out across the undulating hills. 

Berkeley House by John Dinwiddie

Location: Berkeley, California—1951

John Ekin Dinwiddie came from a family of Bay Area builders. His father established a construction company in the wake of the San Francisco earthquake of 1911, with the business expanding at a fast rate. Dinwiddie studied architecture at the University of Michigan and worked briefly with Eliel Saarinen. He settled back in San Francisco and established his own practice in 1931. This house in Berkeley, from 1951, was a commission for the architect's sister-in-law. It sits on a prime hillside site looking out over the waters of the East Bay and across to the city of San Francisco itself. 

Dinwiddie placed the main living spaces at the heart of an L-shaped plan, with the floor-to-ceiling windows connecting to the veranda and the vista. A two-story element sits to one side of this central zone and holds the majority of the bedrooms, also facing the bay. 

Singleton Residence by Richard Neutra

Location: Los Angeles, California—1959

The '50s and early '60s formed a period of great creativity and productivity for Richard Neutra. The majority of his residential commissions of this time were in California, whose temperate climate allowed him to perfect building that were closely connected to the landscape. Neutra also tailored each house to his clients’ needs, aiming to create homes that were not only ergonomic, practical, and engaging, but could also improve well-being and make for a better way of living. The Singleton House in Bel-Air sits on an enticing site by Mulholland Drive. From this elevated position, the views are extraordinary—taking in the city in one direction but also offering an open vista towards the San Gabriel Mountains. The home was commissioned by engineer-turned-industrialist and rancher Henry Singleton and his family.

Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra

Location: Palm Springs, California—1947

This most famous residence in Palm Springs—and perhaps all California—is the great exemplar of desert modernism. With the Kaufmann House, Neutra took the relationship between inside and outside space to a new level of intimacy, dissolving boundaries through multiple means. The rugged beauty of the mountain backdrop and the desert 'moonscape,' as he called it, serve to enhance the impact of its horizontals and verticals.

The Palm Springs house was intended for winter use only, and was moulded to Kaufmann's needs. 

Sert House by Josep Lluís Sert

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts—1959

During the Spanish Civil War, the pioneering Catalan modernist architect Josep Lluís Sert moved from Barcelona to Paris and then, in 1939, immigrated to the United States. He became dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he worked for nearly fifteen years, relaunching his practice in 1955 in Cambridge. Around 1957, Harvard offered Sert a parcel of land near the Cambridge campus to build a house for himself. On this urban American site, he created a midcentury version of the traditional courtyard  houses common to parts of Spain and North Africa. At its heart, a hidden courtyard provides an outdoor room connected to the main living space at one end and the bedroom wing at the other—slim circulation spaces sit to each side. 

Two additional walled gardens at the opposite ends of the rectangular site also offer private outdoor spaces. The roof of the main living space rises at each end, allowing additional light to flood in from clerestory windows. 

Morris Greenwald House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Location: Weston, Connecticut—1955

One of Mies van der Rohe’s foremost American patrons was Herbert Greenwald. The Chicago-based developer awarded a number of key commissions to the émigré architect, who settled in the United States in 1938. The single-level, flat-roofed Morris Greenwald House, with its curtain walls and banks of glass, has been compared to a floor of the Lake Shore Drive Apartments taken out and slotted into a New England garden. Typically for Mies, the design was uncompromising with a fluid, open floor plan in which the master bedroom was an alcove within the main space. The house was restored and updated in 2003 by architect Peter Gluck.

Wimbledon House by Peter Foggo and David Thomas

Location: London, England—1963

As well as a sequence of innovative country houses, Peter Foggo and David Thomas complete a number of residences in Wimbledon. The most accomplished of these was this project, completed in 1963, sitting on a street of traditional and substantial period dwellings, mostly in brick. Foggo & Thomas’ house, in contrast, is both low slung and distinctly modern. Its structural framework is provided by a combination of concrete trusses that span the flat-roofed house, forming a series of spider leg ‘bridges,’ working in concert with a linear and lighter steel frame. 

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Atlas of Midcentury Modern Houses
A fascinating collection of more than 400 of the world's most glamorous homes from more than 290 architects, the Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses showcases work by such icons as Marcel Breuer, Richard Neutra, Alvar Aalto, and Oscar Niemeyer alongside extraordinary but virtually unknown houses in...
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The molded plastic chairs are a flexible and comfortable seat with a variety of base options. Available in your choice of colors, which are permeated through the material so they remain vibrant even after years of hard use.
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White Fox Lodge by John Schwerdt

Location: East Sussex, England—1965

White Fox Lodge has been described as John Schwerdt’s magnum opus. The architect trained in Brighton and worked largely in Sussex and the south of England, with heritage and conservation projects forming a key part of his portfolio. But he was also influenced by Modernist architecture—particularly, the more organic approach advocated and pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work was a key point of reference in the evolution of White Fox Lodge. The floor plan of the single-story home adopts a pinwheel plan, as seen in the work of Richard Neutra and others.

Casa Ugalde by José Antonio Coderch

Location: Barcelona, Spain—1952

Regarded as one of the masters of post-war Catalan modernism, José Antonio Coderch was born in Barcelona where his father was chief engineer at the city port. He fought in the Spanish Civil War before completing his studies in 1940. Casa Ugalde was one of Coderch’s early residential projects, yet it demonstrated great maturity and ambition. The house is sometimes compared to the work of Oscar Niemeyer in its dextrous use of topography—it combines linear elements with sinuous lines and adeptly fuses indoor and outdoor space. 

Ses Voltes by Raimon Torres and Pierre Colin

Location: Ibiza,Spain—1964 

Raimon Torres was the son of the pioneering modernist architect Josep Torres Clavé, who died during the Spanish Civil War. Born and educated in Barcelona, Torres followed his father’s example and went on to collaborate with Josep Lluís Sert and Erwin Broner, among others. In 1961, soon after graduating from architecture school, Torres moved to Ibiza and spent fifteen years living and working there as well as documenting the island and its buildings as a photographer, with its vernacular fincas serving as a key subject. Here, traditional materials and references splice with modern forms, as bare stone meets whitewashed concrete. The residence sits on a rugged hillside and faces the ocean, including a series of striking rock formations jutting out into the water. 

Maison Gauthier by Jean Prouvé

Location: Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France—1962 

Maison Gauthier was intended to serve as a permanent family home rather than as a simple summer residence, and it adopts a more substantial sense of scale and materiality. The residence was designed for Jean Prouvé’s own daughter, Françoise—who was married to a doctor—and her young family. The site near Saint-Dié is to the southeast of the city of Nancy, where Prouvé had built his own family home some years earlier. The single-level home perches on the side of a hill, looking towards the town. It features walls made of insulated aluminum panels sitting on concrete foundations, along with horizontal strip windows around the bedrooms at one end of the building and more extensive glazing around the living area at the other.

Villa Chupin by André Wogenscky 

Location: Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, France—1961

The modernist architect André Wogenscky worked with Le Corbusier for many years before launching his own architectural studio in 1956. The Villa Chupin represents one of his most rounded residential projects, lifted by the fluid, open, and playful nature of its main living space. The house sits within a garden of tall pine trees that tower over the two-level building. Five bedrooms are locate at the upper level, but the linear plan is eroded at the ground level, where the space becomes dynamic. Here, an open-plan living room is protected by an angled wall of glass to the front and curving walls that encircle the rest of the space. 

Thredbo Ski Lodge by Harry Seidler

Location: Thredbo, Australia—1962

The ski resort of Thredbo came of age during the late '50s and '60s. Situated in New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains, it was developed by the Lend Lease Corporation from 1957 onwards and is now one of the region’s most popular alpine resorts, with over a dozen lifts and more than fifty runs. Harry Seidler—a keen skier himself—was asked to design a ski lodge by Dick Dusseldorp, the head of Lend Lease at the time. Sitting on a stone-walled base, the rest of the timber-framed house cantilevers outwards by degrees as the house reaches upwards. The ground floor is devoted to an entrance, stairwell, and utility spaces, while the upper levels hold the bedrooms and living spaces. Seidler’s ski lodge references many ideas commonly seen in traditional mountain chalets but gives them a distinctly modern twist. 

Schuchard House by Stan Symonds 

Location: Sydney, Australia—1963

"I like things not to have a beginning and an end," says Stan Symonds, an Australian architect obsessed with circular forms and curving walls. Many of his projects feature circular forms of one kind or another, including his Dome House in Seaforth. Just a year after building finishing that project, Symonds completed this striking house nearby for John and Margaret Schuchard that has also been known as the ‘Space House’ or ‘Spaceship.’ The building, resembling a lookout station or observation post, sits on a steep hill with panoramic views out across Middle Harbor. The house mushrooms upwards and thrusts outwards at one and the same time, like the rounded bow of a ship emerging from the rock.

From an entry plinth at the ground level, a spiral staircase climbs to the two levels above, culminating in a living room with floor-to-ceiling glass that faces the water. The dining area and kitchen sit to the rear. Striking, sinuous, and futuristic, the dwelling has been compared to the Californian hillside home of John Lautner. 

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