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North Carolina’s Finest Mid-Century Modern In Danger

Posted in architecture, design, history, North Carolina, raleigh with tags , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by killahfunkadelic
Paschal house

The Wright-praised Paschal house needs a buyer to see another 62 years.

One of the most highly praised mid-century Modern houses in North Carolina, the 1950 Paschal house, is threatened with eventual teardown if a buyer doesn’t come forward very soon.

Award-winning Raleigh architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, said recently, “I personally think this is, flat out, the greatest modern house in North Carolina.” According to Harmon, the late Harwell Hamilton Harris, FAIA, shared his sentiment. Even Frank Lloyd Wright observed after visiting the house “it does the cause [of modern architecture] good.”

“We’re putting out a national preservation alert to save this James Fitzgibbon-designed icon,” said George Smart, founder and director of Triangle Modernist Houses, (TMH) an award-winning, non-profit organization dedicated to documenting, preserving, and promoting Modernist residential design.

Paschal house

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house has been empty and on the market for five years.

The owners, the three Paschal heirs who are now in their sixties, are asking $3.3 million for the 3300-square-foot house on three acres in Raleigh’s Country Club Hills.

“In these difficult economic times, that’s an unrealistic price,” Smart said.

Experts, such as Frank Harmon, believe the house is no where near “too far gone,” as some have suggested.

“The house could certainly be restored and heat and air conditioning installed while honoring Fitzgibbon’s design,” Harmon said. (The radiant heat in the floors hasn’t worked for years, and the house doesn’t have air conditioning; its sustainable design made cooling optional.) “I’ve been through the house on many occasions and it can definitely be saved.”

According to Preservation North Carolina’s Executive Director, Myrick Howard, the 62-year-old house is eligible for historic preservation tax credits if it is restored.

Marvin Malecha, FAIA, Dean of N.C. State University’s College of Design and a former president of the American Institute of Architects, told the News & Observer that the Paschal House “is still considered an iconic piece of architecture.”

A real danger exists, however, that the house will deteriorate past the point of no return and require demolition, following the fate of the 1954 Eduardo Catalano House, similarly vacant and eventually demolished despite praise by Frank Lloyd Wright and being named the “House of the Decade” by House and Home Magazine.

House and Architect: Ahead of Their Time

Comprised of granite, wood, and glass, the one-story Paschal house features a sweeping flat roof, extensive floor-to-ceiling windows, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace and sunken hearth, built-in bookcases and storage, intimate atria at each end, and Wrightian-inspired gates.

The house embraced sustainability 40 years ahead of the times. Despite its lack of air conditioning, it was reportedly cool in the summer. The windows provide an abundance of natural light and ventilation, deep roof overhangs shade the windows from the hot summer, and cork flooring is a sustainable building material.

The architect, James Fitzgibbon (1915-1985), moved to Raleigh with other members of the first faculty of the NC State University School of Design, hand-picked by the founding dean, Henry Kamphoefner. Fitzgibbon enjoyed a long partnership with R. Buckminster Fuller and his work was once featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, placed between that of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn.

Paschal house

For more information on the Paschal House, go to www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/fitzgibbon.htm and see Preservation NC’s listing at www.presnc.org (click on “Buy Property” then “Historic Properties for sale”).