In the Dunes of the Cape: Saving Modernity

capecod"For nearly four decades, the area was a haven where two different sets of designers—European modernists and local nonconformists—found common ground, working hard during the daytime, then repairing to each other's houses for cocktails and bonfires at night." - Carol Kino reports from the WSJ I really enjoyed reading this article in the WSJ about the quest to save Cape Cod's vast array of avant-garde homes. Having gone to high school in Massachusetts, I spent over half my teenage years on the Cape and consider the landscape to have had a deep imprint on those indelible years. What I didn't know, is that the Cape plays host to hundreds of modernist homes (like the "Hatch House" above). The article chronicles the efforts of architect Peter McMahon who is championing to save Cape Cod's endangered midcentury modern houses through his nonprofit Cape Code Modernist House Trust. The homes, as McMahon explains, were built on the cheap, using materials such as plywood, salvaged lumber and plate glass. Think: design on a dime with Frank Lloyd Wright, subtracting any formal study of architecture. Many of the builders lacked formal schooling and experimenting was often a key ingredient to the designs.

As part of a shift in policy dating back many years ago, several of the modernist houses had been condemned and derelict. When the Cape Cod National Seashore absorbed a vast array of land containing some of these houses, budget constraints led many of the houses to demolition. Quickly, these houses were disappearing. Luckily, McMahon swooped in at the right time, taking on many restoration projects and registering many of the houses with the National Register of Historic Places. The houses are apparently tucked away in the woody dunes of the cape, little gems that tell a story of life, design and romance after WWII.

Read the article here: