Mid-Century Modern Architecture Around the World

Modernism, and especially mid-century modern architecture, certainly has recaptured the attention of many around the world. Its resurgence is borderline mainstream, with more and more designers and small shops producing new modern items for your home, office and life. Even Target and Amazon have entire product portfolios inspired by the materials and geometry that underpin the modernist aesthetic of the middle of the 20th century.

While you’d have no trouble finding books on any number of modernist architects, or even books that focus on a particular city or a geographic area’s mid-century modern architectural offerings, what if you want to broaden your horizons and learn about modern architecture all around the world? A new book by Dominic Bradbury will let you do just that.

The Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses, due October 16th from Phaidon, is a massive tome that ventures outside the typical hotspots of mid-century modernism such as the U.S., Europe and Australia, leading readers all over the globe, including Africa and Asia, to showcase 400 properties over 440 pages, with 750 black & white and color illustrations and photos. Bradbury is a writer and freelance journalist who specializes in architecture and design, with more than 20 books to his name. But with thousands of mid-century modern homes in a city like Palm Springs alone, how was Bradbury able to whittle down the world’s entire supply of MCM houses to just 400? I asked him that very question.

“We did give ourselves quite a strict set of criteria,” says Bradbury. “Our definition of mid-century kept us focussed on around 1945 to 1970 and there was also an aesthetic definition that we followed related to post-war modernist architecture, which excluded some projects that felt as though they were heading in a different direction. Beyond this, we were looking for a strong geographical spread of course and a range of architects, as well as a balance between Fifties and Sixties houses, which have some particular characteristics common to each decade more or less. During the Sixties, for instance, there’s more of a tendency towards experimentation around geometrical forms and more sculptural, expressive compositions.”

Anybody who’s been on a mid-century modern home tour or read even just a few works on the subject is likely to notice some common aesthetic themes across many MCM homes, but I was curious what Mr. Bradbury noticed in terms of similarities and differences, geographically, as he was putting together his latest book.

“There are certainly regional variations and themes within the mid-century diaspora, but also a lot of commonly shared ideas. Inside-outside living spaces are one familiar element of mid-century houses that you see around the world, along with more informal and fluid living spaces inside the house, as interiors tend towards open plan layouts. Importantly, I think there’s an adventurous, optimistic character to all mid-century houses that helps to make them so appealing and enjoyable.”

Ok, so the big question I had for Dominic, then, with a whole world of appealing and enjoyable mid-century modern homes at his fingertips, was this: If you had to choose just 3 homes in which to spend a night or a week, which three would you choose?

“That’s a tough one,” he replied. “Let me think. Well, I love Eero Saarinen’s Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, which I went to see quite recently and I loved the town too. I have always wanted to go to Uruguay so could I add Antonio Bonet’s Casa Berlingieri in Punta Ballena? And let’s add Paul Rudolph’s Milam Residence in Jacksonville, Florida, so I can get a bit of sun. It’s raining here in the UK…. That’s rather a random and personal choice but there are a lot of great houses in the book to choose from.”

Which three would you choose? Head to your favorite book seller and secure your copy of The Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses. Retail pricing in the U.S. is set at $150.

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