More Matsumoto for the final post of 2018.
I started 2018 with this post on architect George Matsumoto's own house in Raleigh, North Carolina, so I figured it was only appropriate to end the year with another of the architect's residential masterworks. Located in Richmond, Virginia, the Lipman House is more of Matsumoto at his best- it is a restrained design that seems delicate in appearance but deliberate in function, a model of efficiency and refined detail. Designed for Eric and Jeanette Lipman, a couple seeking a modern house that would blend with the surrounding community and accommodate their young family (not to mention their enviable furniture collection), the design could easily be described as a Miesian take on the traditional Southern home. Using many of his signature elements- an exposed structure, a reverence for the natural landscape, and the incorporation of low cost, standardized materials- Matsumoto fulfilled the practical potential of modernism and offered a new kind of American domesticity that was radical in form but sensitive to client and place. Like his early residential designs in and around Raleigh (where Matsumoto taught at North Carolina State University's fabled architecture school from 1948-61), the Lipman House was an exercise in customization with the open, split level-like plan carefully tailored to the client's needs (like a formal dining room befitting "Virginia tradition").
Completed in 1957, the Lipman House landed on the cover of Progressive Architecture in March 1959 before appearing in the book Contemporary Houses Evaluated by Their Owners in 1961, a feature that tells us much about how Matsumoto's design functioned for the family. From the exterior, the house with its graceful geometry, precise proportions, and expanses of glass must have seemed rather novel for a Southern city dominated by more conservative housing stock. But as progressive as Matsumoto's articulation of the modern aesthetic must have looked, it was really the architect's masterful manipulation of space- this wasn't your ordinary split level- that was truly innovative. The Lipmans wanted a house that offered easy maintenance, plenty of storage, and adaptable living areas. And what Matsumoto gave them was a remarkably livable residence with all three levels flowing into each other to provide the flexibility, variety, and spaciousness the family so desired. In Contemporary Houses, the Lipmans described the program of the home, writing- "In actual use our house never ceases to be a joy. We are constantly aware of the beauty of the outdoors and the changes of the seasons. The serenity of the design is quieting and satisfying at all times; never does it become stale or tiresome."
Judging from the family's own account, Matsumoto's design proved to be a great success (though the Lipmans did complain about the upkeep of the windows and the durability of the cork tile floors), and the house would go on to win recognition from Progressive Architecture's third annual Design Awards Program. Today, the Lipman House remains a fascinating example of George Matsumoto's meditative and reasoned approach to modern domesticity and one of a just a handful of residential experiments that would help define what modern architecture would look like in the American South.
You can see a collection of recent photographs of the Lipman House here. And more on Matsumoto here.
Since the holidays are upon us, it looks like this will be my last post of 2018. Thank you again for all of the support over the last couple of years. It really has meant so much to connect with so many fellow architecture lovers out there. So until 2019- happy holidays!
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.