Sunday, May 20, is the date for "May is for Moderns," the third annual modern house tour celebrating New Canaan's unique heritage of mid-century moderns. This year's tour, from 1 to 5 p.m., features eight homes designed by members of New Canaan's world famous "Harvard Five," their associates, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright's top apprentice/draftsman, John Howe, who worked with him at Taliesin for more than 30 years. Some of the homes have never before been open to the public. Six are in New Canaan, and two are in Darien and Wilton.
Included is a home designed by Philip Johnson and two homes designed by John Johansen, another Harvard Five architect -- the famous "Bridge House" which straddles the Rippowam River in New Canaan, and a home in Darien, both of which show how Johansen was influenced by the classic symmetry of Palladio. The Wilton home is designed by Rob Graf of Eliot Noyes Architects. Other architects represented include Victor Christ-Janer, who received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Yale before starting his own New Canaan firm and helping transform the town into an incubator for distinctive Modernist dwellings in the l950s; James Evans of Wilton, who studied with Louis Kahn at the Yale School of Architecture; and Willis Mills, designer of St. Mark's Church in New Canaan, who earned his architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania and was founding partner of Sherwood, Mills & Smith of Stamford. The Mills home on this tour, originally designed for his own family, is listed by the National Register of Historic Places and has been extensively renovated by Bassam Fellows architects.
The homes represent a large diversity of styles while adhering to certain modernist principles such as lots of light, glass walls to blend inside and outside, lush landscapes and flowing open floor plans. Most architectural designs utilize rectangular elements in either one story or multi-level homes with cantilevered decks; some have soaring roof lines and one honors Frank Lloyd Wright's vision and his innovative "hemicycle" (semi-circular) curves, as interpreted by his apprentice, John Howe.
The tour is free to the public, but reservations are advised as space is limited. All homes have been either restored, updated, renovated or expanded, according to Rita Kirby of William Pitt Sotheby's in New Canaan, tour sponsor.
"Some of the homes are currently on the market, while others are open to the public only for this tour, thanks to homeowners who are proud of New Canaan's modern architectural heritage and willing to share their part of it with others who are interested," she said. "We hope to illustrate how homes designed by renowned architects have good bones and can be attractively updated to suit today's lifestyles without sacrificing their original integrity," Kirby said.
Last year's "May is for Moderns" tour attracted more than 300 people. Reservations may be made with William Pitt Sotheby's at 203-966-2633.