The very first P/A Awards issue, January 1954, included a house that perfectly embodied its time. In singling it out for an award, the jury praised its “extreme simplicity and refinement.” Designed by Eliot Noyes for his own family (above), the house comprised two equal glass-walled volumes flanking a central open court, with matching fieldstone walls bookending the entire structure. Built just as submitted, the house survives virtually unchanged, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Noyes had been the first of the “Harvard Five” architects to locate in New Canaan, Conn., a town that looks idyllic but is well-linked to Manhattan by parkway and railroad. Noyes had built a house there in 1947, but with four children the Noyeses needed something larger. Notwithstanding the architect’s high-design focus, this house had to be more family-friendly than the nearby Glass House, completed in 1949 by Philip Johnson, another of those Harvard architects. Yet Noyes’ uncompromising plan requires a walk across the central courtyard—under a roof but otherwise exposed—from the living areas to the bedrooms.
Noyes’ widow moved out of the house last year, and its further survival presents a challenge. Preserving it as a museum, like Johnson’s Glass House, is unlikely. According to Noyes’ architect son Frederick, the intention is to sell the house to sympathetic buyers. The family is now drafting covenant restrictions requiring the next owner to maintain the house’s “major features”—including its open-air core.