Written and photographed by Robert Gregson
Once we consider the word “Modernism,” 20th-century design in all probability comes to mind. As a movement, nevertheless, Modernism started in the late 19th century in each Europe and America in the course of the rise of the machine age. It turned a creed as a lot as a method—rejecting the types of the past in favor of an architecture that reflected a new way of living. After World Struggle II hundreds of veterans returned residence. With a growing financial system, want for reasonably priced housing, and a want for a secure and fulfilling life, America was poised for change. In Connecticut, a focus of architectural pioneers settled in rural areas close to the Manhattan hub. They built houses for themselves and associates that included new supplies and development methods developed in the course of the warfare. Fifty years later, we name this pivotal legacy “Mid-century Modern.”
These few buildings characterize the lots of of essential Modernist buildings situated throughout Connecticut.
Modernism Involves Connecticut
In all probability the primary Modernist constructing in Connecticut is the Frederick Vanderbilt Subject Home (1930-31) in New Hartford designed by William Lescaze. Reflecting the European Worldwide Type of “form follows function,” the Subject House included many Modernist idioms of the time together with a flat roof, pipe-railing balcony, concrete development, and ribbon window.
In Hartford, A. Everett Austin Jr. (1900-1957), the precocious director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, promoted Modernism in all types–portray, sculpture, theater, and dance. In 1934 he commissioned (and helped design) the first International Fashion museum inside in America–the Avery Memorial–which turned a showcase for exhibitions by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and others and for an opera by Gertrude Stein. The glossy inside has cantilevered balconies around a sky-lit atrium. Marcel Breuer and Le Corbusier designs furnished Austin’s office with classically trendy tubular furnishings.
These tasks set the stage, however it was not till after World Conflict II, with the development of the Interstate Highway System and the ensuing corporate growth, that Connecticut Modernism took off.
New Canaan and the Harvard 5
Along with Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer (1902-81) was some of the essential Bauhaus architects to settle in america in the 1930s. Working with Gropius, he taught at Harvard’s Graduate Faculty of Design from 1937 to 1946 and influenced a era of American architects. He settled in New Canaan in 1948, together with a number of other colleagues from Harvard–Philip Johnson, Eliot Noyes, John Johansen, and Landis Gores–who have been collectively nicknamed the Harvard Five. As a rural suburb outdoors New York, New Canaan turned a laboratory for architectural invention. Together with a second wave of architects, the Harvard 5 have been drawn to what others thought-about unbuildable tons with rugged outcroppings of stone and steep hillsides that added drama to their designs. In 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, New Canaan Historical Society, Philip Johnson Glass Home Museum, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Connecticut Fee on Tradition & Tourism shaped a partnership to fund a research on these buildings.
New Haven as a Mannequin City
One in every of America’s earliest metropolis plans was created in 1638 with New Haven’s “nine-square grid.” The framework stays immediately, permitting subsequent generations to go away their mark on New Haven while retaining its history. Nobody was extra formidable than Mayor Richard C. Lee (1916-2003), who launched city renewal packages in the 1950s and ‘60s. Vast federal and state funds made it possible to for New Haven to build highways, schools, housing, and industrial buildings. With Yale University’s participation, numerous architecturally vital buildings resulted. Internationally recognized architects together with Louis Kahn, Paul Rudolph, Marcel Breuer, John Johansen, Philip Johnson, Edward Larrabee Barnes, and Eero Saarinen contributed to the transformation of New Haven as an important Modernist city.
The Legacy of Litchfield
Litchfield is a quintessential colonial town in northwest Connecticut. But in the 1950s and ‘60s, the seeds of Yankee innovation have been at the heart of group leaders Andrew Gagarin and Rufus Stillman. Between them they engaged Marcel Breuer to design 5 residences and the Torin Corporation in Torrington (Breuer additionally did the headquarters for SNET) and in addition secured him for four faculties. Through their affect, Litchfield also boasted instructional amenities, libraries, and homes by other notable architects together with Eliot Noyes, Edward Larrabee Barnes, John Johansen, and Richard Neutra. Marcel Breuer designed a large “modern villa” for Andrew Gagarin, while Rufus Stillman commissioned a collection of three separate homes (plus a version of Breuer’s Wellfleet cottage) over the course of 20 years.
Modernism Takes Root
As Connecticut flourished economically it turned a fertile ground for Trendy structure. In Bloomfield, for example, the Connecticut Basic Insurance coverage Firm built the primary corporate campus in America. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-90) of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the interiors have been planned by the legendary designer Florence Knoll with gardens and sculpture by artist Isamu Noguchi. Hartford’s elliptical Phoenix Mutual Life Constructing was designed in 1963 by the firm of Harrison and Abramovitz, while in Stamford, Wallace Okay. Harrison (1895-1981) designed the First Presbyterian Church in the form of an summary fish with stained glass embedded in the concrete walls. In Suffield, Warren Platner (1919-2006) designed a library with ramps that encompass a glass-walled backyard courtyard.
Connecticut continues to be house to lots of world’s foremost architects together with AIA Gold-Medal Award winners Cesar Pelli (designer of the Petronas Twin Towers—as soon as the world’s tallest buildings) and Kevin Roche (the 1982 Pritzker Structure Prize winner). Modernism as a movement continues to be exploring new directions, and Connecticut still plays a crucial position largely because of the Yale Faculty of Architecture, which attracts the world’s most revolutionary architects.
Robert Gregson is artistic director of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.
© Connecticut Explored. All rights reserved. This text originally appeared in Connecticut Explored (formerly Hog River Journal) Vol. 8/ No. 1, WINTER 2009/2010.