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Modernism is a “beautiful failure,” declares “Coast Modern,” a documentary about West Coast modernist homes. The film, directed by Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome, looks at architectural pioneers and the homes they designed that were characterized by open plans, clean lines and fluid interaction with nature. While often beautiful, “most people didn’t want to live in one,” state the filmmakers.
“People like some closed spaces,” explains an architect interviewed in the film. Modernist homes tend to have a very open design that can feel exposed. Yet, modern architecture homes also offer inspired beauty and a “sense of place, light and a deep connection to the earth,” that make for better living.
“Coast Modern” is being screened in select United States and Canadian cities, and came to Sacramento for an Oct. 25 evening showing by SacMod as part of the Central Valley Region Architecture Festival. SacMod is a nonprofit organization that promotes appreciation of modern art, architecture and design.
In addition to the film screening, the event held at the Crocker Art Museum included an audience Q-and-A session with renowned architect and author Pierluigi Serraino. Serraino was interviewed in “Coast Modern,” and has written a book on icons of Northern California modernism.
During the discussion moderated by local architect Ian Merker, Serraino talked about the need to preserve modernist homes. He noted that most are nearing the end of their lifecycle and require investment to restore and maintain. For restoration to be economically viable, modernist homes need be valued as collector’s items, otherwise “the houses are largely doomed,” warns Serraino.
Although the film focused on homes along the west coast, Sacramento is home to many excellent examples of modern architecture. SacMod member Orion Parrott says that the group hosts an annual Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Home Tour to showcase the area’s modern homes.
SacMod board member Jon Hill and Jose Arcilla live in a John Eichler house that they have decorated with period furniture, lamps and clocks. Eichler was a developer who created residential areas of midcentury modern homes. Hill recommends driving on South Land Park Drive just below 43rd Avenue to see examples of Eichler homes in Sacramento.
SacMod has more upcoming activities, including a Sacramento Zoo entrance preservation project, vintage sign preservation work and helping the California Museum raise funds for an exhibit on Sacramento-born modern architect Ray Eames.
The American Institute of Architects’ two-week Central Valley Region Architecture Festival continues through Oct. 28