From Frank Lloyd Wright’s majestic Falling Water to Philip Johnson’s legendary Glass House, modern architecture has captured the world’s imagination.
But what is modernism and how is modern architecture represented in the Washington Metropolitan Area?
To help answer these questions, we turn to Ron Mangas Jr., Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty and one of Washington Metropolitan Area’s leading experts in modern architecture.
How does modern architecture differ from contemporary architecture?
To understand modern architecture, it’s important to first differentiate it from contemporary architecture.
Take, for example, a colonial style home built in Virginia during the 1800s; during its construction, this home may have been considered contemporary given the materials available, the functional needs of the owner, and the social and cultural tastes of the time. Put another way, a contemporary home can be referenced in context with the present.
Modern architecture, however, adheres to the underlying principals and philosophies established by legendary architects in the early 1900s, such as, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.
Introduced at a time of significant economic, cultural, and technological change, the modernist movement was a reaction to a new industrial reality and the radical possibilities it presented not only for architecture, but for society as a whole.
Through the 1940s, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was pioneering his idea of organic architecture, a philosophy which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. In practice, organic architecture manifests itself in the choice of building materials and its overt consideration for the topology, climate, and atmosphere of the building site.
Though elements such as concrete, glass, and steel are traditionally associated with the early modern homes, such as those designed by Le Corbusier, stone and wood inspire modern masterpieces such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Talisien West.
Who are the most famous modern architects?
Le Corbusier is considered a leading pioneer of the modern movement.
With the construction of La Maison Blanche in 1912, Le Corbusier explored technical principals that were later applied with deliberate, abstract, aesthetic expressions that we now associate with modern design around the world.
With Villa Savoye, built in 1931, Le Corbusier demonstrates a fully developed modernist aesthetic that is a pinnacle example of the early modernist movement.
Who are the best modern architects in the Washington Metropolitan Area?
The Washington Metropolitan Area is home to some of the most revered modern architects in the United States, including: Travis Price, Mark McInturff, Robert M. Gurney, David Jameson, Salo Levinas, Hugh & Simon Jacobsen, and Jim Burton.
Robert M. Gurney, a master of modern design, is renowned for his ability to reinterpret existing structures with modern design principles (even through renovation).
Travis Price could be considered the Washington Metropolitan Area’s most prominent organic architect. A master of integrating structures into their natural landscape, Price is able to apply near spiritual connections to the site through materials and natural exposures.
Jim Burton, another purveyor of organic architecture, is best known for his work in rural Virginia.
Yet, of all modern architects in the Washington Metropolitan Area, Hugh Newell Jacobson is perhaps the most iconic. A pupil of Philip Johnson and mentor to local architects such as Robert Gurney and Mark McInturff, Jacobson is considered one of the Washington Metropolitan Area’s most influential modern architects.
What is the market for modern homes in the Washington Metropolitan Area?
At the moment, there is a very narrow market for true modern architecture in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
For those seeking a modern home, there are a few ground rules.
First, it’s not uncommon to find modern homes that are in less than desirable condition. While modern homes are often regarded for their unique aesthetic, some have fallen into disrepair and may require significant renovations to restore to their original form.
With the exception of Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Virginia and Lake Barcroft in Falls Church, Virginia, there are only a few clusters of modern homes in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Rather, many of the region’s modern homes were built as standalone projects catered to the original owner’s specifications. As a result, committed buyers should be more flexible in location.
For owners of a modern home, it’s wise to consult with specialists before bringing your home to market.
While it’s always wise to consult with a neighborhood expert when selling your home, it’s common for truly unique homes to be co-listed with another agent who can articulate the nuances of modern design principals, architecture, and materials — a critical role when trying to find the right buyer and managing expectations for the property’s continued use.
As the owner of a modern home, it’s critical to partner with architects and other design specialists who can provide insights about pricing for renovations and future needs for home maintenance.
As we move away from true “modern” homes and into more contemporary homes with modern elements, your agent’s ability to help envision and execute a modern renovation is critical.
About Ron Mangas Jr.
Ron Mangas, Jr. is known for his significant knowledge of modern architecture and the artistic and cultural movements that gave rise to new forms of domestic styles in the United States.
Throughout the course of his real estate practice, Mr. Mangas has worked to educate his clients regarding the historical antecedents of the styles of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Mr. Mangas focused his practice on the listing and sale of modern and contemporary residential architecture in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. He has also had the honor of working with some of the best-known architects including Travis Price, FAIA., Jim Burton, AIA., Mark McInturff, FAIA., David Cooper, FAIA., and Robert Gurney, FAIA.
TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.