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A Modern Plaque Design for New Canaan’s Modern Houses

March 24, 2013

The New Canaan Historical Society has begun a program of plaquing the town’s significant modern houses. The idea came about when the group was considering a plaque or marker for the newly opened Gores Pavilion for the Arts, the modern pool-house turned exhibit space in New Canaan’s Irwin Park. The oval plaque used for traditional houses that date back to the pre-revolutionary era seemed inappropriate for the aesthetics of a modern structure. Historical Society executive director Janet Lindstrom approached architect Alan Goldberg, FAIA, a former principal member of Eliot Noyes’s firm to design a modern plaque. Both Eliot Noyes and Landis Gores were members of New Canaan’s Harvard Five, which also included Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer and John Johansen.  This group along with furniture designer Jens Risom and architects John Black Lee and Victor Christ-Janer settled in New Canaan after World War II.  By the 1960s, New Canaan had one of the greatest concentrations of mid-century Modern houses in the U.S.

“I wanted the sign to be recognizable, yet clean and simple, compatible with modern architecture’s minimalist philosophy,” said Goldberg. “To accomplish this objective, I chose a simple rectangular shape with a light neutral background and white letters, but with vivid red numerals for the date and a visually interesting format.”  The houses in this program were all constructed before 1980. Also required for eligibility—publication in an architecture journal or the house’s inclusion in one of New Canaan’s Modern house tours. Seventeen of New Canaan’s moderns have received the plaque so far and others will follow.

The New Canaan Historical Society and DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State worked together to begin the documentation of New Canaan’s Modern houses in 2001.  The work done by that joint volunteer committee laid the groundwork for the subsequent New Canaan Modern House Survey. The full survey was produced by and/or with the support of The New Canaan Historical Society, BCA, The National Trust/Glass House, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and is now available online. 

Coverage in the Architect’s Newspaper, 4.02.13
Alan Goldberg, FAIA, and the plaque he designed for New Canaan’s historic Modern houses.