68 Baker Bridge Road
Walter Gropius 1938
The home Walter Gropius built for his family
soon after moving from to the US from Germany had a dramatic impact on American
architecture, as an early and prominent example of what the Americans, to
Gropius' dislike, called the new International Style. Its
detailing keeps strongly to the principles of the Bauhaus, which Gropius had
directed in Germany, exploiting simple, well-designed but mass-produced fittings for steel
wall lights, chromed banisters etc., as well as in the structure of the house (glass block
walls complementing the wooden frame and New England clapboarding).
The house is designed and detailed to work
almost theatrically as a whole. The lighting in the dining room, for example, mixes a
single art-gallery spotlight recessed in the ceiling, whose beam exactly covers the
circular table but not the diners; a second spotlight in the study, backlighting the
glass-block wall between the two rooms and silhouetting the sprawling plant that climbs
the glass wall; and exterior floodlights illuminating the trees in the garden.
The minimalist color scheme is maintained
throughout the house - black, white, pale grays and earth colors, with sparsely used
contrasting splashes of red.
Gropius uses interior clapboard for further
ingenious lighting effects: set vertically on the walls of the entrance hall, the angle of
each overlapping board stops light, rather than rain, reaching the near edge of its
neighbor; the result is an appealing pattern of shadows generated by the contrastingly
simple mass-produced wall lights.
Arguing against the label of
'International Style', Gropius comments:
'As to my practice, when I
built my first house in the U.S.A. - which was my own - I made it a
point to absorb into my own conception those features of the New England
architectural tradition that I found still alive and adequate. This
fusion of the regional spirit with a contemporary approach to design
produced a house that I would never have built in Europe with its
entirely different climatic, technical and psychological background.'
Walter Gropius, Scope of
Total Architecture, 1956
Simon Glynn 1999
How to visit
The Gropius House is on the edge of Lincoln,
about 45 minutes' drive west of Boston. Take Route 2 west past Lexington and Lincoln to
Route 126 south. After passing Walden Pond on the right, turn left onto Baker Bridge Road.
The Gropius House is on the right after Woods End Road.
The house is run by the Society for the
Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA),
which opens it to the public. You can see the inside of the house through excellent guided
tours on the hour, and can wander round the outside (which is also visible from the road)
at will. (We arrived some time before the next tour was due, on a dull day when there were
few other visitors, and were taken round the house without waiting for the hour.)
The house is not open every day, so check before
going. For up-to-date information on prices and opening times, call +1 781 259 8098.
Books and other web
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