All of us are guilty of having certain preconceptions. We think we know what distinguishes Connecticut from New Jersey. We think we know the woman who wears Dries Van Noten and the woman who wears Balenciaga. And we think we know who favors a center-hall Colonial and who might prefer something Modern. As I've tried to illustrate in all these issues, there are some things on the landscape you just wouldn't expect. Can you imagine an Irish doctor, married with four young children, hiring an architect to design a modern house in the Bronx? In 1959, my aunt and uncle did just that on a bluff in Riverdale overlooking the Hudson River. The architect took his cue from Frank Lloyd Wright and designed a house stretching across the width of the property with the upper floor housing the living areas, while a lower level gave access to the gardens and later, the pool. At first glance, the house looked like an ordinary ranch, but once inside, the structure revealed jaw-dropping views of the river. Light poured into the rooms from the large expanse of windows and brought the outdoors inside.
Recently I paid my aunt a visit and I was still struck by the views as I entered the house. The rooms are still filled with light and it's a place where you instantly feel connected with nature. And, most importantly, it is a design that still works. The main living areas and bedrooms are all on the same level. The kitchen is family-friendly with floor-to-ceiling shelves and an eating area open to the work area. The laundry room is conveniently placed at the end of the kitchen. Yet for all these timeless features, modern architecture has still not gained the popularity that its advocates had hoped. In the 1960s, New Canaan was the center of this movement, yet today preservationists are fighting to save these midcentury masterpieces because some people just don't see them as historically significant. It's time to give credit to those forward-thinking architects who changed the look of our homes and how we live in our homes today. My favorite aspect of modern houses is their relationship with the outdoors. Think about it. In New England we build houses to protect us from the elements; the modernists offered us a way to feel comfortably at home with the great outdoors.
Perhaps the most enduring testament to the relevancy of the Modern aesthetic was summed up by my aunt when she told me, "Each morning I look out to the river and the Palisades. I feel connected to the world around me and it lifts my spirits!"
Can we really ask architecture for much more?
Editor in Chief
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