For their ongoing ‘Paparazza Moderna’ project, Francisca Rivero-Lake and Carla Verea create poetic photographic portraits of single-family houses designed by such renowned modernist architects as Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. The artist duo Lake Verea approaches these buildings like paparazzi – unannounced and spontaneous – with the aim of capturing them in an unembellished, private state. For the Vitra Magazine, they describe three buildings by Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius, the German Bauhaus pioneers who migrated to the USA in the 1940s.
It was this house that established the foundation for both Walter Gropius and his protégé Marcel Breuer in the United States. Upon his arrival in New England, Gropius met a wealthy philanthropist, Helen Storrow. She provided a plot of land and lent him $18,000 to build a dream house for himself and his family. ‘We loved pushing our cameras against the glass of the windows to see the inside. As we peeked, we saw that the architect’s tools were displayed on a desk. We moved around the house and climbed the outside stairs to take a look at the upper terrace, which offers an undisturbed view of the surrounding landscape. Then we encountered the outside shower – which told us that the architect was a bon vivant, and a lover of nature.’
‘Hagerty House is just a few meters away from the sea. It is a small house with a big personality. Gropius and Breuer’s first US commission was designed as a home for Josephine Hagerty, the mother of one of their Harvard students. She wanted a simple and practical house by the sea. As she already owned the plot of land, they went ahead and designed this house – almost like a camera overlooking the ocean, or a “box on the rocks”. The project is totally avant-garde. Their idea was that the structure would become one with the sea. Josephine was initially happy with the finished house. Then came the first storm, which shattered all the windows. They had to be replaced after each major storm, and the architects had no solution for this problem. She decided to shutter the windows of the house facing the sea, losing its original openness to the waterfront. Years later, a young couple bought the house and returned it to its original state. The day we visited, the paint looked perfect and pristine. Everything was just right.’
‘The chaotic exterior is Paparazza eye candy! We see that the present owner shows a sense of humour by placing a stuffed blue gorilla to guard the entrance. The house is rundown and unaltered. The physician Victor Abele commissioned Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer to design the house and asked for an exact replica of the entrance porch of the Gropius House. They started planning the house at the same time that their personal and professional relationship began to crumble, and Breuer finished the project alone. To us, this house retains the aura of the duo’s separation. Yet the house is beautiful. It makes us wonder who lives there: are they marble or stone workers? If we were to assign a personality to the house, we would describe her as the funky grandma with blue hair. The essence is there. We can see the traces of deterioration. But maybe she has changed – by now she could have a different look than when we went to meet her years ago.’