The name of a well known modernist architect has been coming up for us lately, as we have now worked on a couple of his residential designs. Just how well known is Samuel Glaser? If you live in Greater Boston, you likely know one of his commercial buildings quite well, the 1963 Star Market building, built over the Mass Pike, in Newtonville, possibly the busiest stretch of road in Massachusetts. In addition, he worked with Walter Gropius on the JFK Federal Building in Boston.
A few years ago, we put an addition onto his classic modern house in Newton, built in 1949. The challenge there was to make changes to an historic design while staying true to the intent of the architect. We often found ourselves asking, why did he choose do it this way? Or more specifically, how might he have managed this particular change in order to maintain the design flow and function? In general, the answer we came up with was to maintain a light touch throughout.
We are getting additional insight into his method from a little different direction, a current project, a 1938 Tudor Revival. The project involves renovating bathrooms and replacing windows, as well as repurposing a former sleeping porch into a home office. This home was a surprise to us, as this style, while common for the era and neighborhood, is not what Glaser the modernist is known for. While the Tudor is a busier, more ornate style than the modern, we can still discern Glaser’s light hand in the work, and will err in that direction, if err we must. Regardless of the designer, as well known as Samuel Glaser or completely unknown, it is well to consider their original intent in any project before committing to changes.