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Gropius House
68 Baker Bridge Road
Lincoln
Massachusetts 01773
USA

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 founded and 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.

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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

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Simon Glynn 1999 (updated 2004)

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 sites

Click the book titles to view and to order direct from

 

0486259277.gif (13908 bytes) Classic Modern Homes of the Thirties: 64 Designs by Neutra, Gropius, Breuer, Stone and Others
James Ford, Katherine Morrow Ford
 

The SPNEA site has further information about the Gropius House, and photographs, at www.spnea.org/visit/tour/house.asp 

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