Stepping Into History
of Mid-Century Modern

CABE students explore and share Hassrick House past.

The public recently experienced a masterpiece of mid-century modern architecture as Jefferson opened the famous Hassrick House for tours guided by architecture students.

Designed by Richard Neutra—an international icon of modern architecture—the property was commissioned by Kenneth and Barbara Hassrick in 1958. Neutra built most of his structures on the West Coast, making the Hassrick House a unique property in the region.

Jefferson purchased the home nestled behind the SEED Center in 2017, creating a place for multidisciplinary teams of College of Architecture and the Built Environment students to explore the history, design, construction, adaptation, restoration, preservation and sustainability of the home listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Neutra is best known for his role in introducing the International Style into American architecture.

The Hassrick House tours on April 8 attended by over 100 community members, faculty and staff also served as the launch of Jefferson’s Center for the Preservation of Modernism. Part of the new MS in historic preservation program, the Center will serve as a catalyst for research that addresses the protection and conservation of structures like these. It will be a space for the larger preservation community, offering lectures and symposia that examine pressing issues facing modern structures and sites.

Following the tours, Theodore Prudon, a modern architecture preservation expert and founding president of Docomomo US, presented in the Tuttleman Auditorium. He has worked on restorations of the Woolworth Building, Chrysler Building and a Lescaze townhouse. In the talk, Prudon discussed the Hassrick House, as well as Neutra’s legacy and philosophy that design can be a catalyst for healthy living.

The home features a restored kitchen with George Nakashima woodwork and a living room with a signature Neutra wall of glass connecting the home to its landscaping and private garden views. The five-bedroom, three-bathroom property also includes a 900-square-foot vaulted solarium/artist studio designed by Philadelphia modernist architect Irwin Stein, a large media room and terraced courtyard.

See more about the house below. (Photos by Gary Schempp)

The exterior of the Hassrick House showcases large windows and horizontal overhangs—signatures of architect Neutra’s work. The entrance to the Hassrick House is hidden, adding drama to the views revealed upon entering the home. The driveway and carport were designed for the original owner’s collection of Bugatti cars. The kitchen—rehabilitated with modern appliances—still shows original finishes and hardware, such as the stove exhaust from 1958. College of Architecture and the Built Environment students Olivia DeAgro and Adriana Hernandez-Palomino guide people through the Hassrick House, showing the original kids’ playroom, now with a desk and study furnishing. Over 100 guests toured the home in a special limited event on April 8. Irwin Stein designed the house addition to be a studio for the original owner and artist Kenneth Hassrick. Neutra carefully placed mirrors through the house to expand views, light and space, making the house feel larger and more spacious. Bringing the natural environment inside for better healthy living was a tenet of his design philosophy and influenced many contemporary designers. Architecture student Shannon McLain shows the detail of the cedar-clad ceiling extending outdoors. McLain worked on the documentation of the house and is currently writing on the use of the house as a teaching resource. For her work, McLain received the inaugural CABE Docomomo Preservation of Modernism Award.
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