RALEIGH — ******
A story in the Arts & Living section Sunday about a film series on Triangle architecture incorrectly identified Frank Walser as an architect. He was a home-builder.
****** For those who just tuned in, there was a time when Raleigh was known internationally for its modern home design, back before the city spread and started looking like Everywheresville.
Most of those houses - in Raleigh and also around the Triangle - didn't disappear; they just got lost in the big, sprawling picture.
But some actually have disappeared, often due to neglect, including signature buildings by the late architect Frank Walser, who designed about 150 homes in Raleigh from the '50s to the '70s.
For nearly the past two years, George Smart has been cataloging the Triangle's modernist residential architecture on his Web site (www.trianglemodernisthouses.com) in hopes of saving it.
On Thursday, he will further the cause by launching a movie series - two feature films and two documentaries - at the Galaxy Cinema in Cary.
A few days ago we caught up with Smart, a Durham management consultant and executive coach who is the son of an architect.
Q: What's the landscape for modernist architecture in the Triangle?
Most don't know this is the third-largest concentration of modernist houses in the country, behind Los Angeles and Chicago.
Q: Why is that?
Because of the N.C. School of Design, which Dean Henry Kamphoefner established in late '40s. It attracted a modernist faculty. That faculty and students and alum created hundreds of houses here, which were quite popular.
Q: Are they concentrated in one area or are they all over the Triangle?
All over the Triangle. They tend to be in West Raleigh, the Morgan Creek area of Chapel Hill.
Q: Does the term "modernist" cover a lot of ground?
It tends to cover common characteristics: flat or low-pitched roofs, extensive use of glass and light to bring the outside in, interesting geometric forms in the building, open floor plan - for instance, combining the living-dining-kitchen experience.
Q: What's the idea behind the film series?
We do house tours during the spring, summer and fall; now we've taken the act indoors. It seemed a natural act for the winter.
Q: The films are from widely diverse genres. The common theme is architecture?
We didn't want to get too detailed, because this is a series for the public as much as for architects. At the same time, we want to educate the public about the incredible legacy of design we have right here.
Q: Is that the point, to raise awareness?
The practical objective is to keep these houses from being destroyed. The Catalano House, destroyed in 2001, was internationally known. Not many people in Raleigh knew it was here, but in Europe people had heard of the Catalano House.
Through many years neglect, damage from the weather and vandals, ultimately it deteriorated past the point of being repaired. [Walser designed the house for Eduardo Catalano, who was head of architecture at NCSU. It was built in 1954 off Ridge Road.]
Q: What does preserving these houses do for us as a community?
Modernist houses are essentially sculpture that we live in. They are works of art on a big scale.
So it benefits everyone to keep these houses around and to keep them occupied. The death knell for a house is vacancy. By raising awareness, we keep them occupied.
We get the public to understand where they are. A lot are very accessible - you can drive by and see them. Just like LA and Chicago, which have this incredible tapestry of unique houses, we have that, too.
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