Midcentury-Modern Architecture in BostonAugust 10, 2023
“Midcentury-modern architecture;” it is likely a term that evokes thoughts of something sleek yet nostalgic. Does Formica, turquoise blue appliances, and a living room furnished by Rob and Laura Petri come to mind? In recent years, you’ve likely seen its resurgence and perhaps even considered it for your home in the greater Boston area. It’s not surprising. Many of its original design elements are relevant to how families live in their homes today.
So, grab a drink from your SMEG refrigerator, and let’s explore the history and beauty of midcentury modern architecture.
Midcentury-Modern Architecture – Its Origins
Picture this: It’s the mid-20th century, and everywhere you look, style is breaking free from tradition. Enter the “midcentury-modern” movement, an architectural style that emerged between the 1940s and the 1960s, all about embracing clean lines, open spaces, and a seamless connection between the indoors and the outdoors.
The movement was bred out of post-WWII excitement and fueled by the use of new building materials like steel, insulated glass (new tech at the time), and various types of concrete. In a way, the midcentury-modern design movement was “anti-ornamentation.” Think of expansive windows that let nature play a starring role in the living room and sleek, uncluttered spaces that are a reprieve from the closed-off rooms that dominated design in the 19th century.
Midcentury-Modern Architecture in Boston
While most people associate Boston with Victorians, Colonials, and historic Brownstones, the greater Boston area does have some shining examples of midcentury-modernist work.
There is some striking work by MIT-bred architect Samuel Glaser around Boston proper and outlying neighborhoods, especially Brookline and Newton. He’s most famous for his commercial work, such as the American Airlines hanger at Logan Airport and the Star Market suspended over the Mass Pike in Newtonville. But Glaser has a presence in the suburbs, with several glorious homes featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and wide-open floor plans. Not everyone is aware of nor seeking out these homes, but Glaser enthusiasts of that era would not pass up an opportunity to own one.
Midcentury-Modern – Working With The Past
While it can be easy to package and market the more visually alluring aspects of midcentury-modern stylings, it’s a more demanding job to remodel, expand, update, or even recreate one of these historic and rare homes.
Established Boston architectural firms are familiar with the nuances of midcentury-modern architecture, understanding that it requires more than a few stylish pieces from the 1950s to be successful; it’s about crafting an environment that reflects the principles of simplicity, functionality, and freedom from excessive ornamentation. That’s what midcentury-modern architecture is all about.