Under-appreciated and usually smaller than today’s McMansions, modern houses from the 20th century are disappearing from the architectural ecosystem.
The American Dream does not always align perfectly with the goals of architectural preservation. “Though certain homeowners consider themselves custodians of important works of architecture, most people draw the line somewhere between the greater good and their individual property rights,” points out Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, a preservation nonprofit and advocacy group. “’My home is my castle’ is an idea so embedded in our culture,” she adds, “and any government intervention in that realm comes with a degree of tension.”
In recent years, wrecking balls have hovered perilously close to modern homes by Rudolph Schindler, E. Fay Jones, and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as key works by lesser-known talents. Currently, the survival of the 1958 Richard Neutra–designed Connell House, tailored to a spectacular site in Pebble Beach, California, has been the subject of a two-year battle; and the owners of a 1966 residence in Coral Gables, Florida, by one of the region’s leading midcentury Modernists, Alfred Parker Browning, are suing the city for upwards of $7 million for denying them the option to raze it. The cliché of homeowners’ or greedy developers’ bulldozing architecturally remarkable houses, obliterating the cultural heritage to make way for McManors or McChateaus, reflects widespread reality.