Phaidon has just released a book that recognises the growing global love for the modern-as-tomorrow lines found in in mid-century architecture. Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses will be a must-have for followers of the era.
Not all that long ago the mid-century era of residential architecture was seen, as unsophisticated, a style to be cast off into the archive with All American Family sitcoms, and oversaturated Palm Springs post cards.
The 2st century has seen a complete turnaround, the spell of long forgotten positivity a welcome relief to a world that is weary, and wary. Could that be why the resurgence of the mid-century modern has been so strong? Are we in search of optimism?
“Yes," says Atlas of Mid Century Modern Houses author, Dominic Bradbury from his UK home. Without equivocation, the long-time author and journalist recognises the upbeat nature of the post-war period.
“It was a global sharing of an idea, after surviving a global nightmare – it was like, let’s put all that behind us, let’s find a new way of living,” explains Bradbury.
The Phaidon tome, a weighty 440 page large format Atlas looks at exactly that ripple effect; a mid-century drama that spread from country to country, with each territory adding its own accent to the concept.
This is what adds structure to the collection of over 400 houses, divided into nine global regions. The book is carefully and intriguingly indexed by country, by house, by timeline, by architect, and there is many a way for enthusiasts to explore a genre of what has been described as ‘under published and under seen’.
For those who cannot help but become excited to contrast and compare, there is an index which has La Caldera House, Punta Del Estate Uraguay, a mere column away from Jack House, Wahroonga, Australia. This book is pure delight.
The illustrations, of which there are 700, are large, many sourced from hidden archives, with some residences allowed to share the frame with people, a reminder once again of a lifestyle many people now envy.
The work of creating the book was far from a summer holiday; the endless lists and search for lost images was far from simple, but nonetheless gratifying.
“It was fantastic,” recalls Bradbury. “It’s a bit of a gift to be asked to explore the world.”
Though along with that task was the inevitable and frequent search for houses that, as it turned out, are no longer standing.
“Japan was tough, as so much has been destroyed, “says Bradbury. “However in Australia, they have been looked after well.”
Indeed, a code system is also employed within the book, which allows readers to know what house is, for instance good, (G), what is still standing (S), what house is in original condition (O) or what has been adapted (A), to name but a few of the codes employed.
The Phaidon Atlas format has previously been seen in the 2018 publication Atlas of Brutalist Architecture, an equally generous in size and content book which dealt with a far more austere period.
“This is a playful style, characterful,” adds Bradbury, who, being journalist himself saw the inevitable question coming his way: Does he have a personal favourite house or architect?
Politically savvy, he mentions the Butterfly House in Australia as a possible favourite, but then rattles off names and houses. The Richard Foster House in New England and work by Ralph Twitchell, Harry Seidler and Eero Saarinen.
What Bradbury has created for us is a superbly referenced view of a positive and inspirational time in society, as much as an atlas of architecture.
“Many of the houses are modest – they do not ‘show off’ as many do today.”
Mid-century modern, an era where houses were elevated like spaceships, or sprawling single level pavilions, many punched with hits of lemon, aqua and pink, surrounded by walls of glass and all bathed in an optimism we yearn for almost 100 years later.