Twenty-three mid-century modern houses in New Canaan, Connecticut, appear on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, an honor normally given to more traditional houses. The New Canaan Historical Society, a long-time champion of modern architecture, wanted to recognize the achievement with a plaque, but the charming old antique-style ovals usually attached to such structures just didn’t seem to work with rectilinear planes and wide expanses of glass. The solution: a modern design by Alan Goldberg, a former principal in the office of Eliot Noyes.
Courtesy New Canaan Historical Society
Noyes was the first of the Harvard Five to move to New Canaan—even before Marcel Breuer and Philip Johnson. “I wanted the sign to be recognizable, yet clean and simple, compatible with modern architecture’s minimalist philosophy,” said Goldberg. “I chose a simple rectangular shape and a visually interesting format.”
“It’s really an extension of what we’ve been doing for years,” said Janet Lindstrom, executive director of the New Canaan Historical Society, of the modern plaques. The society began to lay the groundwork for a survey of New Canaan’s moderns in 2001, when it began to document the homes in collaboration with modern architecture advocacy group DOCOMOMO. The idea for the current program also grew out of a need for a plaque for the Gores Pavilion (a modern pool house turned exhibition space), which the society recently opened to the public in New Canaan’s Irwin Park.
The criteria for earning a plaque include publication in an architecture journal and/or a spot on one of New Canaan’s modern house tours. Eligible homes also have to have been built before 1980. Seventeen houses now have plaques, and more will follow. The architects include Richard Bergmann, Marcel Breuer, Victor Christ-Janer, Frederick Taylor Gates, Alan Goldberg, Landis Gores, John Johansen, John Black Lee, Gary Lindstrom, Eliot Noyes, Laszlo Papp, Hugh Smallen, Edward Durrell Stone, Ed Winter, and Evan Woolen III.