Famed as the birthplace of that icon of twentieth-century architecture, the skyscraper, Chicago also cultivated a more humble but no less consequential form of modernism–the private residence.
Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75 explores the substantial yet overlooked role that Chicago and its suburbs played in the development of the modern single-family house in the twentieth century. In a city often associated with the outsize reputations of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the examples discussed in this generously illustrated book expand and enrich the story of the region’s built environment.
Authors Susan Benjamin and Michelangelo Sabatino survey dozens of influential houses by architects whose contributions are ripe for reappraisal, such as Paul Schweikher, Harry Weese, Keck & Keck, and William Pereira. From the bold, early example of the “Battledeck House” by Henry Dubin (1930) to John Vinci and Lawrence Kenny’s gem the Freeark House (1975), the generation-spanning residences discussed here reveal how these architects contended with climate and natural setting while negotiating the dominant influences of Wright and Mies. They also reveal how residential clients–typically middle-class professionals, progressive in their thinking–helped to trailblaze modern architecture in America. Though reflecting different approaches to site, space, structure, and materials, the examples in Modern in the Middle reveal an abundance of astonishing houses that have never been collected into one study–until now.
Praise of Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75
"Modern in the Middle significantly expands our understanding of modern architecture in the Chicago area by bringing to light a number of lesser-known yet talented architects. The houses and interiors designed by IIT graduates like myself demonstrate that the Miesian legacy was more complex than it might appear at first sight." - John Vinci, FAIA
"This rich and fascinating compendium places the modern houses in and around Chicago in historical and philosophical context. In addition to the descriptions not only of the houses and architects but also the crucial role of the clients, the accompanying original photographs and plans are important parts of the thorough documentation. There is much to be discovered here!" - Cynthia Weese, FAIA
"Modern in the Middle looks beyond Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers to show us that this city’s residential buildings have also been paradigmatic in shaping modern architecture. The book’s scope goes beyond just “midcentury” making the “Middle” a signifier that explores Chicago’s central place in the nation’s geography and the essential role of the American middle class in defining the idea of “modern housing.” Every piece of this carefully assembled volume is insightful and still resonant in our lives today." - Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia GSAPP
"This book transforms the way we view modern residential architecture in Chicago and goes far beyond the iconic Robie and Farnsworth houses, allowing us to discover a largely unknown body of work presented through a powerful collection of photographs." - Tom Avermaete, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich
"How did we let ourselves forget so much remarkable architecture? Modern in the Middle reminds us that modern architecture has been more diverse and inventive than we seem to remember even in a fabled region such as Chicago and environs. This book is a long overdue corrective for our forgetfulness. May this book enrich our understanding of yesterday’s architecture and inform the architecture to come." - Alan Hess, architect and historian
“Featuring over fifty private residences designed by renowned and lesser-known architects, lush photographs, and definitive essays by its co-authors Susan Benjamin and Michelangelo Sabatino, Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-1975 is the book you want to get lost in. . . ” - Classic Chicago