When one thinks of architecture in Maine, three tropes come immediately to mind: The classic and spare early 19th century white houses and village buildings so beloved by the Dilettante; the large shingled summer houses of the rich that occupy much of our 3,000 miles of coastline; and the prefabs and mobile homes that are the homes of necessity for much of the state's population. But of course, there are many other styles too, from the cardboard corporate Spanish of Taco Bell to a flourishing scene in modern architecture.
An early 19th century house in Fryeburg, Maine
Mossley Hall, the W.B. Howard cottage at Bar Harbor, designed by William Ralph Emerson, 1888
The other end of the spectrum in Maine building and housing.
I had hoped to run down to Portland today--a nearly 3 hour drive---to view the Storefront for Architecture's exhibit about the last 50 years of modern architecture in Maine, and hear a lecture about same by Philip Isaacson, a Harvard trained lawyer who loves architecture and is architecture critic of the Portland Press Herald, and winner of the 2010 Maine Prize for Architecture. Unfortunately, fall chores and commitments made the trip impossible for today, and I will forgo the exhibit until next week, sadly missing the lecture.
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, by Edward Larrabee Barnes
I have never met Philip Isaacson, but have been entertained and educated by his writings about art, design and architecture, including his very grown up children's book Round Buildings, Square Buildings, and Buildings That Wiggle Like a Fish, which I highly recommend for both its wonderful photographs of vernacular and designed architecture, and the perceptive writing about what constitutes great design.
Courtyard of the Isaacson House, Lewiston, Maine (Photo by Eric Roth, Dwell Magazine)
The Isaacson House
As a student at Harvard, Issacson studied law, but was fascinated by design, and followed closely what was happening over at the graduate school for design, then headed by Josep Luis Sert. In the late 1950's Isaacson proposed a project for his own house, a small house on an in-town lot in Lewiston, Maine. Although interested, Sert ultimately declined, and in 1959, Harvard trained F. Frederic Bruck was commissioned for the job. For a budget of $25,000 (ultimately $32,000), Bruck produced a small jewel box of a house, functional and spare, with a floor plan that echoed that of the traditional maine farmhouse, rooms arranged around a chimney core. The house is carefully maintained by Isaacson in its original state.
Philip Isaacson at home in his library (Roth photo, Dwell)
The Isaacson Living Room, looking through to Dining Room (Roth, Dwell)
The Dilettante's chair obsession is more than satisfied by the collection seen here, including
I will review the architecture exhibit next week.
For the complete story of the Isaacson House, by Chelsea Holder Baker, and a terrific slide show of photos by Eric Roth, please visit the full article, A Fine Vintage, on the Dwell website by clicking HERE.