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Behind Hollin Hills Glass Design Was an Architect With a Vision

Imagine a home with so much structural glass that the ultra-visible outside surroundings seem part of the house; then imagine that home is angled to those surroundings in such a way that they are visually shared with its neighbors. That's Hollin Hills.

In our neck of the woods there are nearly 250 acres of sloped woods dappled, seemingly haphazardly, with boxy, glass-and-wood built homes. Meandering streets, few sidewalks, plentiful cul-de-sacs, larger-than-average lots, and homes with open floor plans, are hallmarks of this community.

Hollin Hills, built 50 years ago, is today a living monument to its designer, the late architect Charles Goodman. The architect, all the rage in the post-WWII era, but later somewhat forgotten, has been making a comeback among modern architecture enthusiasts, but he has never stopped being popular among the many homeowners of his designs.

In 1957, at the American Institute of Architects' centennial exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Hollin Hills was selected as one of the "Ten milestones in the future of America's architecture." Since then, though, the glass box look has not been in favor among most new homeowners and Goodman’s designs have lived on mostly in his past constructions.

The Chicago native was a slight, sometimes charming, sometimes acerbic, chain smoker who felt his contribution to architecture was that he designed “for the people.” Entering his profession during the Depression, Goodman found a DC job with the one agency that oversaw all new government construction, the only game in any town at the time, the Treasury Department. As one of its architects, he designed public spaces and buildings such as the original National Airport.

Once he moved into private practice, though, the modern architecture pioneer set about making home design his métier. He created the original design for more than 900 single-family homes in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He went into the prefabricated home field and designed, for example, the Tecfab panel, a prefabricated tablet of lightweight reinforced concrete that was ultrathin and a major component of his modular building approach.

The panel was emblematic of his vision and approach. It was both a fireproof structural element and a decorative one that kept costs down while keeping lines clean and modern. These modular components and the designs that brought them together made Goodman’s goal a reality—the homes were easily built, affordable and allowed homeowners to commune with nature while living in what were then, and remain today, ultra modern structures.

Today, in Hollin Hills, the modernist homes are a bonding element in a community that so treasures its architectural heritage that it has extremely popular, yearly, home and garden tours that showcase and celebrate the inside-outside connection the glass enclosures allow with their shared exteriors. You can experience the homes, gardens, tours, and community through a video here and photos here.

Goodman lived as he preached and his own home, a renovated four bedroom, three bath, glassy-boxy home, built in 1952, on two-thirds of an acre, at 510 Quaker Lane, is currently for sale with an asking price of $1,249,000 (see listing here).

Michael Shapiro July 12, 2011 at 04:11 PM
You can read more about Charles Goodman and his homes here: http://moderncapitaldc.com/?s=goodman
Michael Shapiro July 14, 2011 at 01:49 AM
Just to note: Goodman was born in New York, not Chicago.

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