Scholars and experts give Frank Lloyd Wright credit for popularizing the mid-century modern movement in American architecture. However, one cannot overlook contributions of influential designers such as Ludwig Mies van de Rohe and LeCorbusier, for the look we have ultimately come to know as mid-century modern.
This style of residential architecture found its place in American post-war suburbs and flourished for several decades, with the height of the movement occurring in the 1950s. Mid-century modern’s strong influences are still present in home design today.
Thanks to many regional architects and developers, there are wonderful examples of mid-century modern homes in most cities across the country. Today, mid-century modern architecture is reinterpreted with state-of-the-art, sustainable building materials and finishes, yet the overall design aesthetic remains virtually unchanged from its origins.
Mid-century modern architecture featured flat roofs, angular details and asymmetrical profiles. Expansive walls of glass, clean lines and wide open floor plans were also hallmarks of this residential style. This movement was also the first to use bi-level structures. The mid-century modern approach married indoor spaces to the outside, which made it extremely popular on the West Coast.
Mid-century modern style appealed to everyone. The well heeled hired the best architects of the day to design and build impressive custom homes. At the same time, suburban developers brought modern style to the masses, creating tract homes using the same design principles.
Mecca for mid-century residential architecture is undoubtedly California. Joseph Eichler, renown builder and developer, brought the style en mass to the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Born and educated in Europe, architect Richard Neutra immigrated to America and built his mid-century modern reputation designing striking, geometric residences that perfectly suited Southern California landscapes from San Diego to Palm Springs, Beverly Hills and beyond.
Working with prominent architects like Donald Wexler, the George Alexander Construction Company built more than 2,500 examples of mid-century modern homes in Palm Springs and surrounding areas – a style and trend that quickly took the entire country by storm.
Architect John Lautner was an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright for six years before establishing his own successful practice in Los Angeles. He is known for establishing a “relationship of the human being to space and space to nature”, as is described in his biography on JohnLautner.org. His space-age designs often integrated landscape elements into the home.