In 2009, we began an extensive survey of midcentury modern houses in Lawrence, one of only a few studies of its kind done in the United States. After identifying nearly 40 significant houses (as determined by our panel of “experts”), we set out to visit each one and evaluate them using criteria we developed. (See example below.) In total, we visited 33 houses over the course of two summers in 2009 and 2010. We met with the owners, took interior and exterior photographs, examined any architectural plans or related documents, and did exhaustive background research on each site. From there, we picked 13 houses — a “Baker’s Dozen” — to highlight.
Key to the success of the project was getting interior access. Many houses that rank highly from exterior photography are less impressive once inside. (Conversely, some houses that look unremarkable from the outside are wondrous inside.) More importantly, it is essential not only to “see” the house from the inside, but to “feel” it. One of our criteria measures a home’s affect as inspired by Golfweek Magazine’s “walk in the park” test used to rate golf courses. This may seem incongruous, but there are similarities between residential and golf course architecture. How does the architecture fit into the landscape? How does the space flow? We gave numerical values to support our individual critiques, but in the final analysis evaluating houses, like most anything else, is highly subjective. Despite this, our rating panel scored houses quite close to each other. We diverged only on a few, most notably the Paraboloid House, a polarizing piece of architecture that grabs attention and serves as a metaphor for what we at Lawrence Modern aim to do: elevate consciousness about the history and significance of modern buildings in Lawrence.
—A sample of the form we used to evaluate houses—