Text description provided by the architects. Home to one of the most influential architects of the 20th Century, the Gropius House was the residence of Walter Gropius and his family during his tenure at Harvard University during the mid 1900s. Completed in 1938, the Gropius House was the first commissioned project in the United States for the famed architect. Located in Lincoln, Massachusetts the house is a hybrid of traditional New England aesthetic and the modernist teachings of the Bauhaus.
Located approximately one hour outside of Boston, Massachusetts and Harvard’s campus, Gropius selected a site in the town of Lincoln to accommodate the interests of his daughter’s education. The site for the house is set adjacent to the main road that cuts through the town, which is sits among fields, forests of trees, and farmhouses. In Gropius’ mind keeping with the vernacular of the surround New England farmhouse aesthetic was of primary concern, while also introducing modern, mass-produced, pre-fabricated elements into the design as well.
Situated amidst war and the spread of the modern architectural movement to the United States, the Gropius House is a fairly modest building that maintains the scale and materially identity with the surrounding area. The facade of the house combines common brick and local clapboard with manufactured ribbons windows and glass block evoking a sense of stability and balance between old and new, traditional and modern, New England and European.
Yet while maintaining a connection with tradition, Gropius imposes the modernist aesthetic on the local materials by painting the house a stark white that when combined with the tinted ribbon windows and the glass block appears to be a, slightly Corbusian, foreign object placed in the landscape.
In regards to the interior of the house, Gropius did not take the New England architectural vernacular into consideration, rather the interior is a mix of fabricated pieces from the Bauhaus and furniture by Marcel Breuer. Similar to the work that was happening simultaneously in Europe; the house employs an open spatial organization that filters light throughout the house through the large windows.
Similar to the exterior of the house, Gropius uses a minimalist color palette throughout the interior consisting of black, white, pale greys, and earth tones with only faint splashes of red found throughout the house.
At the time of completion, the Gropius House had created a stir among the architectural community, as well as most of the New England area, since the house was the first sign of what was considered the International Style appearing in America’s residential milieu. An assessment that Gropius found unnerving:
“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.”
The Gropius House was home to Walter Gropius and his family until his death in 1969, which was then officially transferred back to the owner of the land whom was so enthralled by Gropius and his work opened up her land to other architects to create similar establishments as Gropius. In 2000, the house became a National Landmark, which is a testament to the influence of Walter Gropius’ life work.