“Walter Gropius was tired.” That is the fabulous first sentence to this engaging book by Peter McMahon and Christine Cipriani. A sweeping celebration of modernism anchored by a strong sense of place, Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape from Metropolis Books is a must-read for anyone interested in architecture, maritime history, artistic communities, the Cape itself, Yankee do-it-yourself determination and Thoreauvian love of the land.
Hatch House designed by Jack Hall in 1962. Photo by Jack Hall.
McMahon and Cipriani spent seven years archiving a verbal history that was fading fast, and without their efforts this mostly unknown chapter in the history of modern architecture would’ve been forever lost. “While outer Cape Cod’s contributions to twentieth-century art, theater and literature are well known, its profusion of midcentury architecture has gone mostly unnoticed,” they write. “Ironically, this was somewhat deliberate.”
These small informal houses were often hidden in the woods, situated so as not to disturb the land and constructed with inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials. Many were even made with salvaged materials, a practice perfected by colonial Cape Codders who were dependent upon shipwrecks to supply them with lumber to build on these shores. “This ad hoc, improvisational quality is what sets Cape Cod modernism apart from other regional adaptations of the modern movement,” write the authors.