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New England Regional

The Gropius House

September-October 2007

The following text is a sidebar to "Modern and Historic," September-October 2007.

The Gropius House

Lincoln, Massachusetts

According to his younger daughter, Walter Gropius was no sentimentalist. What he would have thought of his family home’s current status as a world-renowned tourist site, is not clear. The boxy white structure built in 1938 was meant to be economical and comfortable—not “a monument to the Modern movement,” Ati Gropius Johansen wrote in a 2003 article for Historic New England Magazine. It was her mother, Ise Gropius, who continuously brought visitors into their quintessentially modern abode, built with efficiency under the architectural ethos, “form follows function.” And she gave it to Historic New England as a timeless testament to Gropius’s revolutionary philosophy.

Today, visitors can walk through the open rooms and look out plate-glass windows—meant to maximize passive solar heat and views of the landscape—and feel as if the family were returning at any moment. The furniture, much of it designed by Gropius’s fellow Bauhaus member and Design School colleague Marcel Breuer (who built his own home nearby), is beautifully intact, as are artwork, dishware, books—even Ise’s earrings, on a dressing table.

Note also how the home was set decedely on the land to guard against the north winds, and take advantage of sunlight through a second-floor deck by Ati’s bedroom. Yet the living-room fireplace, not a great heat source, catered simply to familial pleasure, Johansen says, and “the delight my parents both took in sitting before an open fire.”

Courtesy of Historic New England