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Morris Greenwald House

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1955–1956, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; 1959–1960 addition, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; 1982–1983 addition, Peter L. Gluck and Associates; 1988 addition, Peter L. Gluck and Associates. 11 Homeward Ln.

The Morris Greenwald House in Weston, Connecticut, is one of only three single-family houses built in the United States by noted modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. After emigrating from Germany in 1937, Mies’s architectural output shifted away from domestic architecture. In fact, the only small-scale projects he completed, in addition to this one, are the acclaimed Farnsworth House (1951) and the Robert McCormick House (1952), both in Illinois. Located on a 5.5-acre site along 800 feet of a branch of the Saugatuck River, the single-story pavilion is an elegant composition of metal and glass, appropriating materials more common in industrial or office buildings to a modest, residential scale.

Morris Greenwald was the brother of Herbert Greenwald, the Chicago real estate developer and patron of numerous Mies-designed buildings. Following the completion of the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments (1949) in Chicago, Mies designed two houses using extra window-wall units from the construction in an experiment to see if the same modular system could be employed in suburban tract housing. The first was built in 1951–1952 for Robert McCormick, Jr., a silent partner in the Lake Shore Drive Apartments project. This single-story house, made of two connected rectangles forming a low-lying horizontal slab, was conceived as a prototype for a suburban development that McCormick wanted to build in the western suburbs of Chicago. While the open floor plan utilized in the design was becoming broadly popular at the time, the International Style modernist detailing was not popular with the public and the McCormick project never developed further than the initial house.  

At the Greenwald House, Mies employed an even more simplified form. The house was designed as a simple rectangle with a concrete slab floor and asphalt flat roof supported by the exterior steel columns on the long sides and brick infill walls on the short ends. The foundation is slightly raised above the terrain by a stepped grade change, allowing improved views of the surrounding landscape through the plate glass windows. Nestled away and hidden from the road, the house offered undisturbed views of the nearby river.

The house was originally designed with eleven bays, five on each side of a central entrance. Each bay contained the aluminum window frame unit used for the Lake Shore Drive Apartments. Instead of the dark finish of the apartments, however, the steel frame and structure of the house was painted white. There were no internal supports and, like the McCormick House, interior divisions were made with wood panel partitions that could be disassembled and reconfigured. Two wood-paneled service cores created minimal divisions in the interior space, but provided spatial distinctions for various domestic functions.

Since it was completed in 1956, the Greenwald House has been expanded greatly through the construction of three additions. The first, which was designed by Mies himself in 1960, extended the original rectangle by two bays. When the house changed owners in the early 1980s, the new residents wanted an additional entertaining space. They hired New York architect Peter L. Gluck to supplement the compact rectangular house. In two separate additions Gluck managed to respect the original design and introduce more space and privacy.

Gluck added two independent pavilions in 1982–1983, one with a pool and independent entertaining space and the other with guest quarters and a Japanese bath and sauna. Gluck purposefully incorporated a strong Japanese influence as he felt it related to Mies’s simplicity of form and materials. The guest quarters have full-height glass and screen doors on tracks that can slide into pockets that allowed the space to be enclosed or open to nature. Oak is used to frame a raised carpeted platform, which is echoed above by a similar oak-framed ceiling tray that is lowered to define the living space; Murphy beds add to the convertible nature of the room. The flat roofs and wide overhangs of each pavilion emphasize the horizontality of Mies’s design. The only connection that links the addition to the original house is a long, steel-frame wall made of a repeating square grid.

Gluck’s 1988 addition was a bedroom wing extending from the original rectangle, resulting in an L-shaped structure. Here, Gluck reused the gridded steel-frame wall element from his first addition as a wall of windows. Gluck also reorganized the interior spaces in Mies’s design to transform the obsolete semi-private master bedroom into a large eat-in kitchen and dining room. Due to Mies’s initial budgetary restraints in the 1950s, some of the planned interior finishes had been downgraded, so Gluck used this renovation as an opportunity to replace the inexpensive wood paneling and vinyl tile floors with European oak and travertine.

With all of its additions, the Morris Greenwald House now features three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a pool, and a two-car garage. The house is inhabited year-round as a private residence.

References

Colomina, Beatriz. “Mies’s House: Exhibitionism and Collectionism.” In Mies van der Rohe: Casas Houses, 4-21. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2009.

Gluck Plus. “Mies van der Rohe Addition (1984).” Accessed February 18, 2015. http://gluckplus.com/.

Goldberger, Paul. “Architecture: Modifying Mies: Peter L. Gluck Rises to the Modernist's Challenge.” Architectural Digest 49, no. 2 (1992): 72, 76, 79, 82.

Krohn, Carsten. Mies ven der Rohe: The Built Work. Basel: Verkhauser Verlag AG, 2014.

“Pavilion and Pool at Mies van der Rohe House, Weston, Connecticut, 1982-83.” GA Houses 17 (1985): 24–31.

Vairo, S. Scheller, and Mary M. Donahue. Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of the Town of Weston, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2002.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Cody Chase and Emily Chace Morash
Coordinator: 
Emily Chace Morash
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Data

Timeline

  • 1955

    Built
  • 1959

    Addition
  • 1982

    Addition
  • 1988

    Addition

What's Nearby

Citation

Cody Chase and Emily Chace Morash, "Morris Greenwald House", [Weston, Connecticut], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/CT-01-001-0072.

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