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Housing Boom Brings Obscure But Distinctive Architects To Public Attention

In Amir Efrati’s article Wright, Neutra and … Al Beadle? Unknown ’50s, ’60s Architects Get Big Push From Brokers; Rising Prices, Leaky Roofs [WSJ] [1] he discusses how “the real-estate boom hasn’t just been good to homeowners fortunate enough to cash in on it. It’s also helped the reputations of a crop of architects and developers who until now were pretty obscure.

Most of these characters never became as famous as their contemporaries, Richard Neutra and John Lautner, who were known for free-flowing spaces and avant-garde theatrics (the living room of one Lautner house was built to rotate on a turntable and become a patio).

“That’s mostly because “midcentury modern,” or MCM, was cutting-edge in the 1950s and ’60s but dated quickly and lost its popular appeal as buyers returned to more traditional features.”

“Moreover, its sleek, futuristic look was widely copied and over time became associated with cheap cartoonish knockoffs. Then, a new wave of architects came along who considered modernism “bland and boring,” says Thomas Hines, a professor of history and architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They wanted to make allusions to the past.”

“Now, real-estate brokers and preservationists are resuscitating the reputations and homes of some lesser-known mid-century figures.”

And why not? With a heightened interest in real estate, it follows that many would seek to understand houses for their architecture as much as their function as shelter. The brokers recognize this as a marketing opportunity, a hook to sell these properties for their clients.

My dealings in New York with Paul Rudolph and a few other unusual properties has made me realize that, although the general consumer may not be interested in them, there is definitely a market segment that is completely wild about them. It was my experience that the limited marketability of these residential properties were made up by the premium their enthusiastic fan base would pay, usually resulting in a pricing offset.