A Modern touch on the Cape
Three and a half years ago, a book that I happened upon during a stay in Wellfleet brought me a new love. Architect Alexander Gorlin’s “Tomorrow’s Houses: New England Modernism” (Rizzoli) opened my eyes to some hidden jewels on the Outer Cape — modernist houses that often can’t be seen from the street and typically were designed for nature lovers.
During that stay I learned about the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, which raises money to preserve structures like these, and dashed off an e-mail through to see whether the Trust led tours of the houses. That inquiry lead to a tour of the Kugel/Gips House, which looks like something out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s playbook. Charles Zehnder designed it so every room has big views of the pond out front.
A subsequent Cape trip included a tour of the Hatch House — perched on a hill above the beach in Truro. Built for The Nation editor Jack Hatch and his wife, Ruth, the house opens up to the sun and wind with full-height shutters that can be raised to create a shaded balcony.
These two and another handful of houses had fallen into disrepair after they became government property following the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore. In 2007, local architect Peter McMahon founded the modern house trust to rescue them. The two houses I visited were restored by the trust and are available for rentals as well as for scholar and artist residencies; a third is due to be finished soon.
Aficionados as well as those curious about these architectural gems will be interested in a new book being released this week. “Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape ” (Metropolis), coauthored by McMahon and Christine Cipriani, is a name-dropping beauty that covers not only the designers of the odd-shaped, rustic “summer camps in the air,” as the co-authors call them, but their parties and intellectual ferment (mocked by Mary McCarthy in her 1955 novel “A Charmed Life”).
There are Boston Brahmins such as Nathaniel Saltonstall and friends of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, including Marcel Breuer. These designers loved their porches and Breuer’s — suspended over a steep drop with views of three ponds — was more spectacular than most. The book has more than 300 archival and new photographs but if you want to see the houses for yourself, be ready to pounce when tickets for the Trust’s annual tour on Aug. 17 go on sale.
Why are there so few convincing architects in fiction? That’s one of the questions addressed in ArchitectureBoston’s summer books issue. The launch party begins at 7 p.m. Monday at Brookline Booksmith.
■ “The City” by Dean Koontz (Bantam)
■ “The Actress” by Amy Sohn (Simon & Schuster)
■ “The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases” by Deborah Halber (Simon & Schuster)
Pick of the week
Mayre Plunkett of Wellesley Books recommends “The Farm” by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central): “Daniel believed that his mother and father were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden, but with a single phone call, everything changes. Caught between his parents and unsure whom to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him a tale of secrets, lies, crime, and a conspiracy that implicates his father.”