A new exhibit at the Depot Building showcases Lexington’s pivotal role in this international architecture and design movement

 

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Can architecture make the world a better place?

In the years after World War II, a diverse group of bold young architects sought an answer to that question in Lexington. They came to the sleepy Boston suburb with a dream of revolutionizing home architecture and design, and embracing mid-century modernism to achieve a utopian ideal. What they accomplished here has been called Lexington’s second revolution, and it certainly was an architectural “shot heard ‘round the world.”

The Lexington Historical Society will celebrate the town’s unique architectural legacy with a new exhibit that opens in June 2015: Lextopia: Lexington’s Launch of Mid Century Modern. The exhibit will highlight the architects who worked here and examine how their work affected Lexington and the larger world. It will showcase modernist architecture, furniture, and housewares from the Society’s collections, as well as artifacts donated by other individuals and organizations. Several mid-century modern house tours, a mid-century modern marketplace, Sunday afternoon gallery talks and other events will occur throughout the summer and fall.

The exhibit is sponsored by Century 21/Lester E. Savage Real Estate. Additional support comes from the Lexington Council on the Arts.


 

Highlights from the ExhibitTimelines and infographics bursting with historic photos and documents chart the development Mid-Century Modernism in Lexington, and bring together the story of the architects, the neighborhoods they created, and their impact on the world.Mid Century Modern living is showcase with a display of vintage furniture.

Items include:

     -Eames Molded Plywood Chair

     -Original Design Research Couch

     -Adult and child folding butterfly Chairs

Re-created architect’s office populated with artifacts used in the office of famed Lexington architect Walter Pierce (and supplied by his former partner Phil Poinelli.) Features blown-up quotes from Lexington’s Mid-Century Modern architects.

Neighborhood display that includes photo essays, unique 8mm home movies from Moon Hill, artifacts from the recently replaced 1961 Estabrook School building, and more.

A detailed scale model of a house from the Peacock Farm neighborhood (see right).

A display of Marimekko fabrics, kitchen items, and dishware of the type sold Design/Research, the groundbreaking store started by Lexington architect Benjamin Thompson.


Sunday Gallery TalksJune 21 –  Wendy Cox,  Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Art  at Norwich University, Tracing Intentions-The Founding of The Architects Collaborative and Early Housing Project Six Moon Hill.June 28 – Susan Ward, independent curator and consultant, Textiles in Mid-Century Interiors: The Softer Side of Modernism

July 12 – Jane Thompson, co-owner with her husband Ben of the Design Research stores, and author of Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes

July 19 – Peter McMahon, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust and Christine Cipriani, author of the new book Cape Cod Modern

July 26 – Timothy Techler, architect principal of Techler Design Group, A Moon Hill Restoration

August 2 – Wendy Hubbard, Site Manager of Historic New England’s Gropius House in Lincoln, Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus and the Gropius House: Roots of Mid-Century Modern in Middlesex County

August 9 – Andrea Quagliata, former Moon Hill resident, creative director, photographer and author of Modern Orthodoxy and Eclecticism, The Case Study of Six Moon Hill.

August 16 – Pamela Hartford, landscape historian and preservation consultant, It’s Not Just the Buildings: Landscape in the Aesthetics of Mid Century Modernism

August 23 – Bruce Clouette, senior historian of the Public Archaeology Survey Team in Storrs, Connecticut and author of the National Historic District Nomination for Moon Hill in Lexington

August 30 – Katie Rowley, Manager, and Somers Killian, Associate of Machine Age, Highlights of Mid-20th-Century Furniture Design.

September 13 – Bill Janovitz and John Tse – Marketing and Purchas

“We are really expanding our horizons with these events,” says Historical Society Executive Director Susan Bennett. “Our revolutionary history will always be central to our mission, but it is exciting to branch out and celebrate other areas where Lexington has played a pivotal role in our nation’s history.”

Inspired by Walter Gropius and his contemporaries, a number of architects made the town a laboratory to test their ideas. By the 1960s there were more neighborhoods of modernist homes here than any other town in the country. Nine neighborhoods with such whimsical names as Six Moon Hill and Peacock Farms expressed the visions of The Architects Collaborative (TAC), Walter Pierce, Hugh Stubbins, Carl Koch and others. Many of the modernist architects who worked and lived in Lexington would develop international reputations. One of them, Benjamin Thompson, went on to found to found Design Research, the innovative retailer that played a key role in spreading awareness of modern design in the consumer world.

These architects sought to create neighborhoods that would change the way people lived together. “We had grandiose thoughts about reforming the world,” recalled TAC architect Norman Fletcher. These neighborhoods attracted a new kind of resident to the small town. There were scientists and academics – including four Nobel Prize winners (two of whom lived across the street from each other.) Unusual for the time, there were women who were doctors and architects and editors. These new residents were more progressive than Lexington residentsof the time – 90% were Democrats, according to one survey.  Their presence had an undeniable role in shaping the community.

Lexington Historical Society member Harry Forsdick (left) has painstakingly constructed a detailed model of a Peacock Farm house (above) designed by architect Walter Pierce, who lived and worked in Lexington.

Lexington Historical Society member Harry Forsdick has painstakingly constructed a detailed model of a Peacock Farm house (above) designed by architect Walter Pierce, who lived and worked in Lexington.


Lextopia Exhibit
June 20 – September 19
Open daily 1 – 5 pm
The Lexington Depot | Lexington Center
Admission: $5 / Free to members

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