Connection to the Outdoors

March 1, 2018


Modern design takes nature into account as an element to incorporate, not a challenge to be overcome.  Whether sited to take best account of a dramatic view or designed to allow integration with a tamer environment, mid-century modern and modern houses do not neglect this crucial piece of the puzzle.


This contrasts with older styles of architecture, where "nature" was considered unruly and man's will was meant to be imposed, not merely through the structure but on the grounds and area surrounding it.  This led to the famous gardens of many styles in Europe, whether the jardin à la française or the faux-wild English Garden of the 1800s, which formed the model for many of our most famous public parks.


There are many ways an architect or designer in the Mid-Century period would have worked to integrate the landscape with the structure.  Obviously windows are one way, and have proven consistently popular.  Other ways were innovations and showed forward thinking. Elements such as block screens were used to delineate space while allowing airflow, subtly creating privacy.


Some structures were designed around courtyards, with walls of sliding doors or window glass that would allow views from every point in the house.  This is a common design in other cultures, notably in Iranian architecture, but had not been widespread here before.


Not everything about Mid-Century landscape and house design was unalloyed good—they did not share our concern with drought tolerance, for example, and thought nothing of planting invasive species if they looked pretty.  But one of the privileges of the present is we can take the good and leave the bad in the past, so look into your courtyard through your picture window and be glad.



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