In 1960 John Hall, a self-taught architect, designed and built a modest yet innovative summer cottage for Robert Hatch, a magazine editor, and his wife Ruth, a painter. Sited on Cape Cod’s eastern shore, atop sand dunes overlooking Cape Cod bay, the lightweight wooden structure was conceived as an abstract composition of open and closed cubical volumes framing the landscape – one of several highly original works of modern architecture built by the Cape’s thriving community of European and American artists at the time. After the demise of its owners, the Hatch Cottage fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition by the National Park Service, which owns and manages the land. Despite its value as a prime example of midcentury New England modernism – as argued by its primary advocate, the Cape Cod Modern House Trust – the cottage still faces tremendous challenges being recognized as a candidate for historic preservation.
This seminar-workshop uses the case of the Hatch Cottage as a vehicle for considering contemporary issues in the conservation of modern architecture related to cultural meaning, construction method, and representational media. Students are asked to consider not only why and how to preserve a work of architecture whose very construction methods have compromised its longevity – but also what the core focus of preservation efforts should be: preserving use? outward appearance? original construction materials? relationship to surroundings? something else? Working in teams, students will develop and test a number of alternative preservation scenarios based on political strategizing, creative programming and financing, adaptive construction, site design, and so on.
The workshop component of the course stresses critical exploration of advanced digital media – building students’ fluency in modeling, rendering, and animating – to investigate alternative preservation scenarios and communicate these to a hypothetical (or real) public. We will pay close attention to the role that form, light, atmosphere, and photographic technique might play, for example, in representing past, present, and future conditions of the Hatch Cottage. Following a series of preliminary exercises, the main focus of students’ work will be on the production of an animated video as a group project, representing the strongest and best ideas of our explorations over the semester.
Enrollment is limited to fourteen students. The class meets weekly on Mondays. Class sessions are divided between lectures, discussions, demonstrations and workshops, and working sessions focused on the team project(s). A field trip to tour the Hatch Cottage and other modern era beaches houses on Cape Cod is planned for early February, with possible follow-up visits later in the term. Peter McMahon, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, will join us as advisor and critic at points during the semester, including a final review during exam week.