Today’s review of the recent Mad Mod Eastover tour is brought to you by longtime MissPres reader and commenter Neel Reid.
It’s hard to classify modernism in architecture. Advances in technology and new materials shaped much of the movement, but really the only thing that connects wildly different looking buildings is that “form ever follows function.” This is how you can fit both Mies van Der Rohe’s unrelenting angles and Oscar Niemeyer’s lavish curves, and everything in between, into one genre.
Whatever modernist paradigm suits you, Jackson’s Eastover neighborhood has some fine examples, and on Friday, February 27, property owners opened their doors for the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Mad Mod Affair Eastover. I’d seen many of these buildings before, strictly from the exterior of course, on leisurely drives around the area. But on this day I had the pleasure of going inside four homes to take in the beautiful landscaping, cool furniture, and stylish design known as Modern residential architecture.
4041 Dogwood Drive
The Jack Canizaro designed Child House, constructed in 1951, began life as a one room wide, one-bedroom home for George and May Harrison. Two separate additions, the first also designed by Canizaro, were made as owners changed. I saw this home as a wonderful example of how sometimes good Modern architecture, in my opinion, can mean not bringing attention to the building itself, but to what’s inside it. Sleek, simple lines don’t fight with the furniture and art, and allow you to personalize your space, however eclectic your tastes might be.
4135 North Honeysuckle Drive
My partner on this tour immediately noticed how the sidewalk leading up to the circa 1962 Wilson House, designed by W.W. Easley steps and turns and curves its way up to the fabulous paneled front door. “It allows negative energy to dissipate before going inside,” he stated. This was, to me, the most eye-catching feature of the home. While you might find a Pagoda roof or japanned furniture in traditional architecture, its shapes, styles, and ideas are decidedly Eurocentric. Many modernists incorporated other cultures and even nature, creating a new philosophy where these things weren’t just ornament but part of the movement itself.
2312 Eastover Drive
Harry Haas designed the Jax Lite House in 1955. The exclusive and creative use of concrete, such as the exposed interior beams, highlights how it can be used in residential architecture. Yet what’s striking is how its large banks of windows make even this weighty material float. Here’s where I also really noticed how Modern homes excel at blending into the land in a way traditional architecture rarely does (Le Corbusier-style social housing experiments notwithstanding). This is important when you’ve got entire walls made of glass.
2037 Eastbourne Place
As at the Honeysuckle Drive house, landscape definitely plays an important role in this W.W. Easley designed building. Sitting on a sloped lot by a lake and a small creek, and surrounded by waterfalls, the original home was built in 1960 for Meyer and Genevieve Falk to resemble a masonry swan headed for a landing; natatorium and studio pavilions were added in 1979. There was a lot of conversation about the swan among tour participants, but it was the natatorium that stood out for me. With its banks of windows broken up by angled I-beam posts and brick buttresses, soaring interior, and stone tile floors, the space evoked the great Gothic cathedrals popular with many Modern architects. A fantastic way to end my tour of Eastover.
Here’s to the Mississippi Heritage Trust leading the way to a better appreciation of the recent past with more great events like the Mad Mod Affair!
See you at the next tour,
Categories: Architectural Research, Heritage Tourism, Jackson, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Modernism, Recent Past
Nice post Neel! My wife and I love mid-century modern architecture and those are some fine, understated examples. Thanks for sharing, sir.