On the Market: Brutalist Precursor in Chadds Ford
This striking midcentury modern icon could have been designed by Le Corbusier, but it wasn't.
Noted French architect Le Corbusier had some very radical ideas about housing, many of them unfortunate. His Ville radieuse (“Radiant City”) became the template for scores of soul-crushing public housing towers all over the planet, and his championing of béton brut — “raw concrete” — as a building material gave rise to an architectural style many revile because of the effect its buildings have on people’s psyches, reflected in the style’s name.
Le Corbusier also referred to houses as “machines for living.” This house for sale in Chadds Ford is a well-oiled one that’s in need of a tune-up.
It dates to 1954, around the time Le Corbusier was giving many of his ideas, um, concrete form. As he designed only one building in the United States — the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University — he had nothing to do with this house, but you can see his fingerprints all over it. At least on the outside, where its gray stucco exterior mimics the raw concrete Corbu loved.
The shape of the house, however, more closely resembles the more open wood-steel-and-glass houses architects like Louis Kahn, Vincent Kling and Richard Neutra designed for discerning clients throughout the Philadelphia region. And like those houses, it seeks to make its wooded hillside lot an integral part of its design.
But not too integral. The interior spaces do have large windows that let nature in, but they are defined more by their walls than their windows.
The notable exception here: the 50-foot indoor/outdoor lap pool, enclosed in a glass-and-steel retractable solarium. The solarium and the stone wall that runs along one side of the space enable the pool to achieve that modernist ideal.
And the pool serves as one of the defining rooms that enclose an attractively landscaped courtyard.
As these photos should make clear, this is a very stylish, well-outfitted house that can accommodate any use you might have for it. In addition to what you see here, the house has a main-floor bedroom, a den that could serve as a home office, and a lower-level bedroom that currently serves as a home gym, another possible use for the den.
Given all this, what accounts for its bargain-basement price?
The exterior, mainly. The seller has priced the house to take into account some extensive repairs that its stucco requires. The buyer will also need to make other repairs to this house; the seller’s disclosure document lists them. If you’re in a position to take on the work, however, you should buy this house for sale, for in so doing, you will be preserving a pioneering house that offers an alternate take on the midcentury modernist ideal.
THE FINE PRINT
SQUARE FEET: 3,993
SALE PRICE: $350,000
OTHER STUFF: This house’s 1.82-acre lot consists of two legally separate parcels of land. Its sale price was reduced by $265,000 on July 16th.
250 Harvey Rd., Chadds Ford, Pa. 19317 [Bonnie Ortner | The Ortner Group | Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate]