May 8, 2009
Mori Takes on Breuer, and More from the Modern House Day Tour
A Metropolis slide show.
“Is there anyone here from Docomomo?” Toshiko Mori demanded. She was the first speaker at the May 2 symposium for the Modern House Day tour in New Canaan, Connecticut, during which she would unveil her just-completed addition to the residence that Marcel Breuer built for his family fifty-eight years ago (left). It was an isolated combative moment in an otherwise lighthearted—and downright funny—presentation.
Mori has developed a reputation for sensitive additions to works by Modern masters, including Frank Lloyd Wright (her visitor’s pavilion for the 1903-05 Martin House complex opened last March) and Paul Rudolph (she honors the tropical specificity of his 1957 Burkhardt Residence, in Sarasota, Florida, in a guest house and addition). Already in New Canaan she had done a transcendent update to the home that John Black Lee designed for himself in 1956. In fact, Lee, who is still a resident of the area, enthusiastically described her work as an “improvement” while welcoming visitors during the first Modern House Day tour, in 2001.
But Docomomo sent out an angry letter when it learned of the contemporary addition that Mori planned for the Breuer house—a property that was pending destruction at the time that the current owner purchased it and brought on Mori. “Where were you when we needed you?” she challenged Docomomo. “Where were you when this house was slated for demolition?” Her two-story glass annex sits adjacent to the original one-story fieldstone structure, which had lost many of its original features and was in ill repair. Mori compared its restoration to “open heart surgery” and said she had to “find Breuer” in the building. Did she succeed? Take our slide show of the houses on this year’s tour and let us know what you think.