Molly Bedell Robinson
Molly has worked as a television journalist her entire career. She started out at CBS News and then moved on to producing and writing long form documentaries for all the networks...PBS, A&E, NBC, National Geographic and History. For these projects, Molly noted that she always has her cameraman by her side.
She began creating videos for non-profits about ten years ago when she saw, as she says, “production houses charging way too much for glitzy effects and poor storytelling.”
In 2014, Molly was commissioned by the Hoovers, through a suggestion made by her late husband John, to produce a film about the life and work of Lincoln architect Henry B. Hoover, which resulted in, Breaking Ground: The Architecture of Henry B. Hoover.
Molly and her late husband John Robinson lived in a Modern house in Brown’s Wood and raised their two daughters in Lincoln. Molly moved to Newbury after John’s death in 2014. John was an original member of the board of the Friends of Modern Architecture. His enthusiasm brought joy to our work that radiated throughout the Board.
Over this past year, Molly has made numerous trips to Lincoln to record the three Bogner houses, being especially certain to capture the light in various seasons which she viewed as one of the most important characteristics to reveal in her films.
We are very pleased to thank her for capturing the unique spirit found in each Bogner House and to honor Molly with this well-deserved Award.
Written by Dana Robbat, 11-10-19
John C. MacLean
The written word is a powerful tool. Driven by curiosity, an analytical mind can delve into the past to uncover the people and cultural forces that have shaped our society well-crafted language brings these investigations to life and affords -- to our mind’s eye -- a visual image as strong as that afforded by any painter. These are the skills and gifts that our first honoree – Jack MacLean – has bestowed upon our town and region. Lifelong resident of Lincoln, Lincoln town historian, and long-time member of both the Lincoln Historical Commission and the Lincoln Historical Society, through his in-depth research and lucid writing, Jack transports his reader to stand on the precipice of a landscape poised to change. In A Rich Harvest, Jack’s seminal work on the history of Lincoln, we see before us the grassy floodplains of the Sudbury River and the woods of the area’s glacial hills, then farms and farmhouses, mills buildings, and the arrival of the railroad, the summer estates of wealthy Bostonians and workers cottages, and finally, a new period that looked to blend progress with a measure of introspection. One that sought to balance the pressures of suburbanization with the open views of woods and fields that characterized Lincoln in the mid-20th century.
And so as Jack so ably describes, leaders of the modern movement from the world over found fertile ground here for designing homes, school and library buildings, that focused on the very elements that made Lincoln, Lincoln. Forms that fit into the landscape, or provided a counterpoint, without overwhelming it. Volumes that give way at corners to decks and porches that allow dwellers to become part of the outdoors
and windows that stretch floor to ceiling or along the length of a wall to allow the woods and fields inside and through his careful inventory work of the town’s built environment, inventories recorded with the Massachusetts Historical Commission for us all to draw upon, Jack has given us a record of our architectural past that can help us make choices about how we shape our future.
I would like to read now an excerpt from Jack’s MHC inventory of the Wood’S End Road Neighborhood.
He begins -
“There are two basic themes relating to this district. One relates to the INVOLVEMENT of Helen Osborne Storrow (1864-1944) in the construction of houses within the district. The second relates to the outstanding architectural examples included in the district.
“all of the houses in this district were built on land owned by Mrs. Storrow, and she financed the construction of all five houses. Mrs. Storrow, the widow of James Jackson Storrow, had been a supporter of … the girl scouts, of immigration, [and] the [development of the] charles river basin [park] in boston.
“similarly, she envisioned the support of a development of … noteworthy homes … in lincoln. The five for whom [mrs. storrow] would finance the construction … were given the freedom to design whatever house they desired, and she then had them built as a form of investment.
“The houses built included one colonial revival house and four international style structures.
“the rent was based upon the construction cost of the houses, and those for whom the houses were built would then have the right to purchase them …. in the instance of the four international style houses, Mrs. Storrow's involvement was particularly significant because of the difficulty of getting traditional financing at that time [in the late 1930S] for such non-traditional ‘modern’ houses.
“Three houses designed by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer represent the beginning of their architectural work in america. Moreover, they include houses which Gropius and Breuer designed for their own use. … architect Walter Bogner [professor at harvard], designed the fourth international style house, again for his own residence. indeed, this complex includes buildings of national and international significance.
and Jack concludes --
“for the international style houses, the design developed out of an examination of function, plus a consideration of aesthetics and relationship to the environment. Economy of construction was also an important theme.
“[for] the Gropius-Breuer designs, a departure was made from their bauhaus background … to relate the structures to the New England environment – something particularly noted in the use of wood (sometimes painted white). innovations such as the non-plastered dry walls developed by Bogner, passive solar design through overhangs over windows, the use of recessed lighting, the flat roofs … CONTRIBUTE to the significance of these structures as american models. The FUNCTIONAL, simplicity of line and decorative treatment exemplifying the international style is very much in evidence.
Wood’s End Road, of course, was the focus of FoMA’s recent house tour with Historic New England and the Bogner family. Jack prepared his documentation of the Wood’s End Road neighborhood in 1981 – ever discerning of the importance of recording our history for our collective good, and often well before the rest of the collective has recognized that importance and so, we have Jack to thank – many times over – for being one of the first among us to recognize that the modern conception of architecture is an integral part of what makes Lincoln, Lincoln and that its preservation is crucial to allowing all of us to continue to enjoy the place where the sweep of history has brought us.
Please join me in giving our heartfelt thanks to Jack.
Written by Andrew Glass
The great Modernist L. C. once said: “Architecture is the masterful, correct and magnificent play of volumes brought together in light.”
It is however, the photographer who most often creates the images that then make that magnificence known.
A new book was recently published on the work of the famous architectural photographer Ezra Stoller, this is how The New Yorker review began:
“Photographs are mobile and reproducible. Buildings—the slowest and stillest of all media—are not. This makes photographs of buildings especially consequential. When you think of a famous building, you’re often thinking of a famous photograph.”
This is an image made by Julius Shulman, another influential photographer of Modern architecture.
LA. Case Study House no. 22, Los Angeles, Julius Schulman, 1960
Shulman has carefully captured the essential qualities of what the architect called “an eagle’s perch in the Hollywood Hills”. The steel rafters are dramatically lit to highlight the deep cantilever of the protective roof plane. But the transparency of the interior is also so clear; the viewer is drawn into the living room and beyond to the lights of the City of Angels. The entire composition celebrates freedom from confinement, a part of the mythology of modern life in
This has become an iconic representation of Modernism, and underscores one of Shulmans better known quotes:
“I sell architecture better and more directly and more vividly than the architect does…”
To reiterate what Dana said earlier, FoMA is committed to recording this unique collection of modern structures in Lincoln, and have been so fortunate to have the exceptional photographer Richard Mandelkorn in our community to help in this effort. As we’ll see in a minute, Rick’s beautiful images bring out aspects of these homes that might otherwise go unnoticed and unappreciated.
One of the qualities that many of Lincolns’ houses have in common is their modesty. Rather than dominating as imposing structures, these are mostly light on the land, often deferring to and blending into their natural environment, allowing the landscape we all cherish to thrive and dominate. So, while easily viewed from public roads, walks and trails, their modest presence may be mistaken for insignificance. The risk exists that when ownership of these homes changes, first impressions may incline prospective buyers to overlook their inherent value.
So, in addition to building an historical record, photographs can help us to see just how well these homes live on in the current day. These buildings were radical, experimental and surprising when they were built. But it is maybe even more surprising how well some of them have stood the test of time, not only as effective functional homes for their inhabitants, but also exemplifying timeless architectural beauty.
We’d like to share with you some of the luminous images Rick has created which communicate so well the spaces, light and details that make these buildings great. Consistent with our Bogner theme, we’ve selected the 3 houses he designed in Lincoln, and asked Rick to make a few comments about his methods.
Before we take a look at the slides, though, we’d like to recognize and thank Rick for his exceptional contribution to FoMA, Lincoln and the greater community.
How fortunate we have been to work with Rick to create a portfolio of magnificent images of this exceptional modernist collection in Lincoln. Repeatedly over the years, Rick has dedicated many hours for each shoot, setting up the environment to help tell the story of the design, timing each exposure to optimize light, and tirelessly fine tuning the images to perfection.
Thank you, Rick, for opening our eyes to new ways of seeing these remarkable buildings.
Written by Dogon W. Arthur