Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer CapePeter McMahon and Christine Cipriani
AuthorsMetropolis Books, 2014
GRANTEECape Cod Modern House Trust
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
The woods and dunes of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, hold almost one hundred experimental midcentury houses. Starting in the 1930s, amid better-known colonies of painters and writers, a cosmopolitan community of architects settled in Wellfleet and Truro, building for themselves before taking clients. Ranging from self-taught East Coast Brahmins—who flourished as bohemian design-builders—to international stars such as Marcel Breuer and Serge Chermayeff, the group forged a unique modernism that fused Bauhaus ideals with the building traditions of a New England fishing town. Their rigorous designs solved genuine problems, yet often feel as ephemeral as summer camps; built with prosaic local materials and set lightly on the fragile landscape, they exemplify what we now call green building. With hundreds of never-published photos, drawings, and interviews, Cape Cod Modern brings this mostly hidden architecture and subculture to a general audience.
Coauthor Peter McMahon is principal of PM Design and founding director of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust. Previously he worked with Peter Gluck and Partners Architects and Team Architects in New York, and with Hickox Williams Architects in Boston. In 2006, McMahon curated an exhibition for the Provincetown Art Museum on the modernist architecture of outer Cape Cod; he then founded the Trust to document and preserve these buildings. With seven important, federally owned houses once slated for demolition, he has been negotiating their lease and restoration with support from donations, volunteers, and town funds. The first restoration is complete, and two more will begin in 2012. The work of the Trust has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Architectural Record, Preservation, Modernism, and Architectural Digest (Germany). McMahon has spoken at Harvard, Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Boston Society of Architects.
Coauthor Christine Cipriani is a Boston-based writer and book editor. Her work on architecture and design has appeared in Architectural Record, Dwell, Modernism, Boston Home, and other publications; previously she edited nonfiction at publishers including Beacon Press, Penguin India, and Random House. She has vacationed in Wellfleet for more than thirty years, and first wrote about the town's modernist heritage for Modernism magazine. Cipriani studied English literature at Yale, the University of Michigan, and Oxford, and the history of modern architecture at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
The Cape Cod Modern House Trust was founded in 2007 to prevent the demolition of a significant group of mid-twentieth-century homes owned by the National Park Service. The Trust now works to lease, renovate, and repurpose these structures as loci for creativity and scholarship, and to document midcentury architecture and culture on Outer Cape Cod. In 2010 the Kugel/Gips House (1970, Charles Zehnder) was restored and opened for an artist/scholar residency program. Through residencies, house tours, symposia, and partnerships with architecture schools, the Trust also strives to bring fresh thinking to contemporary regional issues of community, sustainability, and built form.
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