Friday, September 30, 2011

The Gropius House

All photos by Geoffrey Gross, Great Houses of New England... because my photos came out like poo.

A few weekends ago, Avi took me on a surprise field trip to the Gropius House in Lincoln, Mass. I had no idea where we were going when we set out, but I could surmise once we got to Lincoln that I was in for some incredible modernist architecture.

For one reason or another, a slew of modernist architects settled just north of Boston in the towns of Concord, Lexington and Lincoln during the middle of the 20th century. So, among the clapboard farmhouses and traditional New England colonials, you'll often get a glimpse of some glass and steel structure that epitomizes mid-century modern.

Walter Gropius, the founder of Germany's famed Bauhaus school, built the Gropius House for himself and his family in 1938 when he came to teach architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

At the time, the design of the home was an anomaly in the neighborhood, drawing plenty of attention - both positive and negative. Viewing the home from the outside, it's still hard to believe it wasn't built 20 to 30 years later.

But, despite the obvious differences from other homes in the neighborhood, Gropius made sure to incorporate elements of New England architecture into his design. While Bauhaus homes in Germany were usually made of the concrete that was readily available there, Gropius chose wood clapboarding for his Lincoln home and added a flagstone walkway, which was common to the area. These traditional materials were mixed with industrial elements rarely seen in residential construction before - glass blocks, acoustical plaster and chrome railings.

The interior of the Gropius House is preserved as it was in the '60s, replete with furniture by Marcel Breuer, who was Gropius' protege and lived in his own modernist home across the street. (Breuer's house is now privately owned by a family - the lucky bastards!)

In case you're still wondering about my inspiration for using a half-chrome bare lightbulb, just see the kitchen above. I bought my bulb at the Gropius's garage-turned-gift shop after the tour.


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