For a time, Carl Koch and Associates was the only firm allowed to design houses in the new development. Plans were reviewed by the board of directors of the neighborhood corporation to insure variety within the modernist vocabulary. Houses include both flat-roofed and gabled roof types and are one or two stories.
About Carl Koch
Carl Koch was one of the leading modern architects of the post-war period. He received his undergraduate and Masters of Architecture degrees from Harvard and set up an office practice in the Boston area in 1939. His interest in new housing types led to his work from 1946 to 1949 on the Acorn House, a factory-fabricated house, and, on the Techbuilt house, a low-cost, semi-factory-built modern-style house using modular construction, first built in 1953. In 1951, Koch began work on the planning, design and construction of Conantum, Concord’s first residential housing development. He also taught at MIT.
Koch Designed Kendal Common Houses
The following 12 Kendal Common houses were built between 1950 and 1957 from designs by Koch or his firm, either as custom designs or from standard Koch plans that had been built elsewhere. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are very similar to their original appearance, except for the plantings which have grown up over the years:
- Arthur Lane Jr. House House (c.1950, One North Avenue, Map #5, MHC 737) 1st house completed
- Harry and Jesse Grant, Everett Grant* (1950, 16 Kendal Common Road, Map #20, MHC 749, Photo #1), 2nd house completed
- Mario and Gene Castillo* (1950, 40 Kendal Common Road, Map #18, MHC #747, Photo #4)
- Theodore Kalin House (c. 1950-51, 1481 Main Street Waltham, Map #8)
- Daniel Fogel House (c. 1950-51, 1489 Main Street, Waltham, Map #6)
- Robert and Helen Marden* (1951, 30 Kendal Common Road, Map #19, MHC 748, Photo #4)
- Max and Johanna Reissner* (1951, 3 Ellis Road, Map #12, MHC 741)
- Setsuo and Norma Dairiki (1951, 45 Kendal Common Road, Map #24, MHC 753)
- Thomas and Florence Stantial (1951, 23 Kendal Common Road- standard plan, Map #11, MHC 740)
- Earl Jr. and Betty Thomas* (1952, 49 Kendal Common Road, Map #16, MHC 745). This plan had previously been built in Conantum
- Barnes House* (1953, 7 French Road, Map #22, MHC 751, Photo #6) Techbuilt
- Waniek House (1956, 46 Kendal Common Road, Map #17, MHC 746) Techbuilt
The Modernist Movement Comes to Kendal Common Road
After a few years, the Kendal Common Inc. Board of Directors expanded the group of architects that prospective buyers could use. The list included not only Carl Koch and Associates but also:
- Robert Woods Kennedy
- The Architects Collaborative (TAC)
- Compton and Pierce
- Hugh A. Stubbins, Jr.
- Carleton R. Richmond, Jr.
- Walter F. Bogner
- Morehouse and Chesley
An impressive group of leaders within the modernist movement in Boston. Their names were printed on a 1952 promotional brochure and on Kendal Common Inc. letterheads. Only the first four firms appear to have actually designed houses in Kendal Common.
Robert Woods Kennedy
Robert Woods Kennedy (1911-1985) designed three houses in the neighborhood:
- The MacDougall House (1955, 12 Ellis Road, Map #15, MHC 744)
- The Bissonnette/McDermott House (1955, 17 Kendal Common Road, Map #10, MHC 739)
- The Fuchs House (1955, 9 Ellis Road, Map #13, MHC 742)
Kennedy, an award-winning architect and author, was the first American architect to work for Walter Gropius after he relocated to the United States in the 1930s. Kennedy taught architecture at MIT and designed modern apartment buildings, factories, stores and theaters; but he is primarily known as an architect of private residences. According to his obituary in the Boston Globe, he “integrated the International Style with New England vernacular architecture” and also incorporated Japanese and Middle Eastern influences in some of his work. He wrote "The House and the Art of its Design," published in 1953, and an autobiography "A Classical Language."
The Architects Collaborative
Three houses were designed by The Architects Collaborative (TAC):
- The Seguin House* (1957, 3 Kendal Common Rd, Map #1, MHC 735, Photo #5)
- The Veinot House (1955, 31 North Ave, Map #2, MHC 736)
- The Saunders House (completed 1960, 15 Ellis Rd, Map #14, MHC 743, Photo #2)
TAC was a firm formed in 1945 as an association of eight architects:
- Walter Gropius
- Norman and Jean Fletcher
- John and Sarah Harkness
- Robert McMillan
- Louis McMillen
- Benjamin Thompson
This original association, presiding over a staff of nearly 100, remained intact until the 1960s. The Harvard- and Yale-trained group, some Gropius’s own students, utilized a teamwork approach to architecture. The firm was well-known for its work on major housing and educational buildings including the Harkness Common and Harvard Graduate Center, much of Children’s Hospital, and the University of Baghdad.
In 1995, when the firm closed its doors, Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell wrote that “TAC really believed in the collaborative ideal, and was always more interested in solving problems than creating images. Among its best works, in fact, is one of its most modest: the community of modern houses the founders and friends built for themselves at Six Moon Hill in Lexington-another kind of collaborative.”
Three houses in Kendal Common were built by Walter Pierce of the firm Compton and Pierce:
- The Guild House* (1955, 4 Kendal Common Road, Map #9, MHC 738)
- The Sedik House (1958, 11 French Road, Map #21, MHC 750, heavily altered in 1983)
- Lin House (1957, 8 French Road, Map #23, MHC 752)
Notable Houses on Kendal Common Road
Robert & Helen Marden House
The Robert and Helen Marden House at 30 Kendal Common Road (1951, Map #19, MHC 748, Photo #3), designed by Carl Koch and Associates, was part of the first group of houses to be built. Mrs. Marden still lives here and the house retains its original features. The house has a low sloping roof and is largely on one floor, except for the garage-under arrangement and adjacent utility space. The foundation is cement block and the roof was originally tar and gravel. The exterior is cedar siding, which the Mardens painted red because they “didn’t want it to look like every other contemporary.” According to Mrs. Marden, “Carl Koch didn’t like it [the color] at all.”
Mario and Gene Castillo House
Mario and Gene Castillo House at 40 Kendal Common Road (1950, Map #18, MHC 747, Photo #4) was designed for the Castillos by Carl Koch and Associates. The rectangular-shaped split-level house was oriented to take advantage of the sun. The asymmetrical front façade is two stories on the right side and one story on the left, with a low-pitched shed roof sloping down from the right.
The entrance is offset left, under a deep overhang. The house has a full basement. It is of post-and-beam construction. For the floors, the Castillos used a material called Flexacore. These reinforced concrete beams had hollow ducts in them to keep them from being so heavy. Hot air from the furnace passed through the ducts, warming the flagstone floor. Upstairs there was a master bedroom and, for the children, three small bedrooms with a common room for activities. There was another bedroom on the basement level and a bathroom on each floor. The house had no garage.
The Castillos did much of the finishing work on the house and lived in the lower section until it was completed. Mario Castillo built the chimney and Gene Castillo put up most of the exterior siding and did the wallboarding and painting.
Setsuo and Norma Dairiki House
The Setsuo and Norma Dairiki House at 45 Kendal Common Road (1951, Map 24, MHC 753) was designed by Carl Koch and Associates. The plans are signed with the initials “WDC.” The original house was a simple rectangle of post-and-beam construction. Later, a garage was added, connected by a breezeway. Still later, the second owners, Arthur and Ingeborg Uhlir, enclosed the space between house and garage (including the former breezeway and a concrete patio), turning it into a heated office/family room for year-round use.
The exterior of the house is stained redwood siding, with the boards oriented vertically. The roof is a low-pitched gable with wide overhanging eaves. Elevations on the south and east side have large plate glass -- or in one case, newer insulated glass windows -- while the north side, which faces the street, has a row of six small rectangular windows which serve three interior rooms and open by sliding horizontally. In the corner where the house and garage wing come together, a flight of low steps leads to a landing where the main entrance is located.
The entryway has a bluestone floor and natural pine vertical-board walls. The interior and exterior boarding is the same except for the finish color, giving a sense of connection between interior and exterior. Glass between the ceiling beams functions as a skylight, bringing light into the entry and living area.
The living room and kitchen are three steps down, at grade level, while bedrooms are on the level of the entry. The house also has an unfinished basement. The living room area is separated from the kitchen by a large red brick wall extending part way across the room. The brick wall replaces several posts and greatly reduces the span required of the beams. It also stores heat of the low winter Sunday streaming in through the south-facing living room wall. Rather than a traditional fireplace, there is a projecting raised hearth with a dramatic white hood made of wire lath and plaster. The chimney is within the brick wall. Next to the hearth is a built-in platform sofa with cushions, next to which is a built-in end table. Other walls have pine vertical boarding and the ceiling is of slightly wider pine boards and exposed wood beams.
The kitchen retains its original solid birch cabinets and solid birch counter top, which was originally waxed. The original landscape plan was by the Sasaki landscape firm. Construction of the house was not completed until it was put up for sale in 1959.
Architect Carl Koch was instrumental in developing the Techbuilt concept, which incorporated modern design elements with money saving features like modular design and partial pre-fabrication. The Techbuilts utilized post and beam design to eliminate space-wasting attics and concrete slabs to eliminate basements. The Kendal Common Inc. board of directors did not allow more than two of any given house design, and for this reason only two Techbuilt houses were approved.
Frank and Beatrice Barnes House
The Frank and Beatrice Barnes House at 7 French Road (1953, Map #22, MHC 751, Photo #6) is oriented with the gable end to the street. The two central modules are largely glass, combining fixed pane and sliding glass windows with the customary plywood spandrels. The siding is clapboard. The roof has the typical wide overhanging eaves. A flat-roofed garage was added later.
Ralph and Doris Waniek House
The Ralph and Doris Waniek House at 47 Kendal Common Road (1956, Map #17, MHC 746), also a Techbuilt house, was originally rectangular in shape and oriented with the narrow end toward street. In more recent years, a cross gable was added with a glass-enclosed sun-room at one end.
Sydney T. Jr. and Vivienne Guild House
The Sydney T. Jr. and Vivienne Guild House at 4 Kendal Common Road (1955, Map 9, MHC 738) was designed by Walter Pierce of the firm Compton and Pierce and is constructed of stained redwood.
The original 1955 plans show a rectangular-shaped gable-front house oriented north to south, with a low-pitched roof. The wide overhanging eaves with show rafters on the south elevation keep the interior cool in summer but do not block the Sunday in winter. The south end of the house is all glass except for the tan-brick end chimney. On the east side elevation, the roof does not extend over the show rafters, leaving the skeleton of an eave as a design feature. There is a flagstone terrace in front and a sunken play area on the east side. The change in grade on the east side allows for windows into a lower level. A carport was added later on the west side and in 1962, the firm of Pierce and Pierce inserted a new entry hall / mudroom and kitchen addition between garage and house. A wooden deck was added on the east side in the early 1980s.
The main floor has a combined living room/dining room with fireplace, as well as a kitchen, study, and master bedroom (created in the 1980s by combining two smaller rooms) and bath. On the lower level, facing out toward the sunken play area, are two additional bedrooms and bath and a family room, along with utility space.
Richard and Mildred Seguin House
The Richard and Mildred Seguin House at 3 Kendal Common (1957, Map #1, MHC 735, Photo #5) is an L-shaped, one-story, flat-roofed “American International-style” house, which has remained largely unchanged since construction. The house prototype, known as the “Mill House” according to the owner, was the work of The Architects Collaborative (TAC).
The Seguins had seen a finished version at the Five Fields development in Lexington but were unable to afford the architect fees. In August, 1956, the Mill House was featured in Better Homes and Gardens, and the Seguins were able to obtain plans and specifications for a small charge from the magazine. Richard Seguin, who is an engineer, redrew the plans in mirror image. According to Seguin, the basic house plan was designed by Walter Gropius for the purpose of mass production.
The house has no attic or basement. It includes features typical of commercial rather than residential construction; for example, beneath the large fixed-pane windows are smaller rectangular industrial-style steel-frame windows that tip inward from the bottom, allowing for ventilation.
The house is of post-and-beam construction and the weight of the flat roof rests only on the post and beams, such that neither the interior nor the exterior walls are needed for support. Beams are located every 12 feet. Originally, only one window was of insulated glass, because this was the only size commercially available. Other windows, of polished plate glass, were eventually replaced with insulated glass because of problems with condensation. Heating ducts are embedded within the concrete slab foundation. Framing members are of clear pine, painted white. Exterior walls are redwood, treated with a red stain. Beams extend outside the house to form wide overhanging eaves.
The interior of the house has an open plan, with living and dining areas joined to create one large space. Because of the large windows, the house is open to the outside, adding to the feeling of spaciousness. The Seguins purchased their modern-style sofa, tables and chairs at Design Research, a ground-breaking Cambridge furnishings store.
Jeanne and Norman Saunders House
For the Jeanne and Norman Saunders House at 15 Ellis Road (1959-60, Map #14, MHC 743, Photo #2), owner Norman Saunders went to The Architects Collaborative (TAC) and got what he understood was an original Gropius design for a house in Five Fields in Lexington. He worked with an architect from TAC to modify the plan for the Saunders family. Norman Saunders, a professional engineer and inventor, named the house Experimental Manor and continued to modify it for decades. An early solar house, the architectural features and energy-saving features are described in the 1980 book Solar Houses for a Cold Climate.
According to Saunders, the house was designed using 10-foot modular units. It is oriented due south and the room layout was planned to work with nature and capture sunlight and cooling breezes. The south wall was largely glass. It has had at least five different solar collection roof designs over the years, combining different materials and designs in an effort to correct various problems. The walls of the house are pumice aggregate concrete block, chosen for its heat-storage and insulating capability. Saunders felt that the heat loss was probably less than from “any other wall in town.”