NCMH Presents the “Six-Sided Wonder”

The James House will be open to the public for the first time in over 30 years.


May 17, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) – For the first time in over 30 years, the James House in North Raleigh, a 5000-square-foot home comprised of 240-square-foot hexagonal structures, will be open to the public. North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH) hosts a special tour on Saturday, May 28, from 10 a.m. until noon.

Inside the unusual James House in Raleigh.

“If you enjoy reading plan books, you know the lure of the completely custom do-it-yourself house,” said George Smart, founder and director of NCMH, an award-winning nonprofit organization devoted to preserving and promoting modernist residential design. “In the early 1970s, Renaissance man Jay James designed and built 15 1/2 hexagonal structures then connected them together to form a wondrous 5000-square-foot house. The family has lived there and loved it ever since.”

According to Smart, NCSU School of Design (now College of Design) Dean Henry Kamphoefner regularly took architecture students out to view and sketch this innovative house in the 1970s. “Jay James was a consummate jack-of-all-trades,” he noted, “and the residence features both passive and active solar power, including a mirror that tracked the sun.”

Admission is by timed ticket entry only at 10, 10:30, 11, or 1130 a.m. Advance discount tickets are $5.95 per person and are available at

Members of NCMH’s Mod Squad members get in free and can show up any time.  Tickets will also be available for $8 at the door. The tour takes place rain or shine.

Proceeds from ticket sales benefit NCMH’s ongoing documentation, preservation, and promotion projects.


Triangle Modernist Debunks Modernist Houses Myths

Founder/director George Smart counters “flat-roof” prejudice.

May 12, 2011 (Durham, NC) – George Smart of Durham, NC, has spent the past four years working to document, preserve, and promote Modernist residential design through his award-winning website Triangle Modernist Modernist residential design typically features open plans, extensive use of glass to blur the line between outdoors and indoors, flat or low-pitched roofs, and aesthetic geometric forms.

The son of a Raleigh architect, Smart believes Modernist houses are “sculpture for living.” He is disturbed by the number of Modernist houses being destroyed in the wake of rising land values.

“The key,” said Smart, “is keeping these houses occupied and in the hands of appreciative owners, but there are several myths about Modernist houses that keep buyers away.”

Smart recently noted five primary myths about Modernist houses.

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What Are The Best Things About Living In A Modernist House?

On Monday, May 9th, 2011, Triangle Modernist Houses posted the following comment and question on Facebook. The responses are excellent insights into the value and pleasure of modernist houses. And since our mission to preserve and promote modernist residential design, we’re giving them a permanent place here on the TMH news blog…

Modernist houses are generally more works of art than construction, and the general public has little taste for living inside art. What do you think are the best things about living in a modernist house?

Kristal Roebuck: “Can you say fabulous? That’s what modern is all about!”

Bob Volpe: “Pride. It’s like having a ’61 Corvette you just want to polish all the time.”

Mark McLawhorn: “I like a good modern design integrated seamlessly within natural elements.”

Danny Taylor: “I personally like it when the clean lines of architecture and the classic lines of good antique furniture meet with a nice mix of modern art and antique prints.”

Sarah Sonke: “Modernism can be an environment where limits and restrictions are taken away. That allows thought, more creativity, expression, and inspiration that can effect every aspect of your life.”

Jay Sikes: “While it is true that ‘the general public has little taste for living inside art,’ I would argue that any house that is ‘generally more works of art than construction’ is far from a successful architecture. In fact, it was that very aspect of International-style modernism that led to its backlash and downfall in the late ‘60s. That being said, the best thing about modernist houses is the dematerialization of the man-made environment into the natural environment.”

Kate Taylor Walker: “Living in Art! What could be better?”

Lee Trini: “I live in a classic Eichler with a center courtyard. It’s the most livable layout you can imagine. What makes it a work of art is it’s simplicity and ability to inspire.”

Katheryn OldShield Mukai: “Theoretically, I’ve liked the openness, the light — but I must admit there are needs for cozy retreats, too, and I think the view might matter, especially where privacy is an issue. But many of the houses I’ve visited have allowed for both.”

Joe Linus: “Some modernist structures derive from the perfection of the machine, but there are others that recognize the organic nature of humankind. These are the successful ones that scale properly, including the view and the cozy/private retreat, imbued with the fluid connection with nature on site.”

Jill Lewis Maurer: “I wake up every morning grateful to be surrounded by beauty.”

Matthew Griffith: “I live in a modernist house designed by A. Lewis Polier in 1954. It has better space and a more sophisticated connection between interior and exterior than 99 percent of houses built since. Modernist design is about integrating buildings to their places. My house serves our 2011 family of five beautifully! And, in line with Jay’s comments, my house is a masterpiece of function and domesticity that accommodates the barrage of three kids, is full of rich color and texture, and wears the patina of time gracefully. While Polier was less well known than his contemporary Matsumoto, our house has persisted against the elements and use much better than any of Matsumoto’s award-winners.”

NC’s Pioneering Black Architects Get National Attention

Recent Past Preservation Network features notable North Carolina heroes. 

May 4, 2011 – The Recent Past Preservation Network (RPPN), a national organization preserving historic buildings and sites from the last 50 years, featured Triangle Modernist’s recent series on early NC black architects.  The feature covers a five-page spread in the Spring 2011 edition online magazine RPPN Bulletin.

Entitled “Triangle Modernist Houses Honors Pioneering NC Black Architects,” the article discusses how the award-winning non-profit organization and its founder, George Smart, were inspired to launch the series during Black History Month this past February.

“African American men who followed their hearts into architecture before 1970s did so despite great resistance from both society and their own industry,” Smart told RPPN. “Today there are many black architects in North Carolina, but before 1970 it was another story, and not a nice one. The field of architecture made choosing the profession nearly impossible for minorities. In North Carolina, there were almost none for decades.”

The RPPN article includes a list of 17 architects featured on the Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) website thus far, and some photos of those architects’ work.

In contrast to the relative cloak of obscurity under which those pioneering architects practiced, the RPPN article notes some of the very prominent black architects practicing in North Carolina today, including Loeb Fellowship winner Phil Freelon, FAIA, founder and principal of The Freelon Group in Durham, and Harvey Gantt, FAIA, principal partner of Gantt Huberman Architects in Charlotte, former Mayor of the City of Charlotte, and the man for whom The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte is named.

“It means so much to have a national resource such as RPPN recognize these important men in North Carolina’s design history, past and present,” Smart said recently. “A spotlight for them in RPPN’s Spring Bulletin is indeed an honor.”

To view the article, go to and click on the photo of the Bulletin.

To view the TMH archive “Pioneering Black Architects in North Carolina,” visit

About RPPN:

The Recent Past Preservation Network promotes preservation education, assistance, and activism through the medium of new technologies, to encourage a contextual understanding of our modern built environment. The Network assists preservationists by providing an open community platform for the development and revision of practical strategies to document, preserve, and re-use historic places of the recent past. In carrying out its mission, RPPN engages in  a wide variety of activities of a charitable and educational nature. For more information visit