Architecture + Design

March Modness 2020 | Our Takeaways

4/17/2020 | Ryan Holbrook

What a tournament that was. Our inaugural edition of March Modness had all of the ups, downs, upsets, underdogs, and elation of a big-time sporting championship. We’re sad to see it end (although we’re equally excited to cook up another sports-inspired architectural showdown), but in the spirit of celebration, we wanted to wrap with a look back at the major twists and turns we experienced throughout the tournament. Here are our fondest memories and major takeaways from March Modness 2020:

1) Graham House makes the ultimate case for conservation.

It wouldn’t be right to start anywhere other than with our champion, the Graham House. Originally a 5 seed, this home went on an absolute tear, taking down both the Stahl House and the Sheats-Goldstein residence before finally edging out Fallingwater in the final. It’s a Cinderella story akin to that of NC State’s NCAA tournament win in 1983, and Graham’s shocking run will surely live on in March Modness history. Victory aside, the Graham House also managed to make an incredibly compelling case for why architectural conservation is so vitally important. This home, the house that emerged victorious from a pool of history’s most significant structures is, sadly, no longer with us. After multiple additions had already compromised Arthur Erickson’s spectacular creation, the Graham House was finally demolished in 2007. We won’t get this one back, but we can certainly do our part to protect significant local and national structures moving forward. 

2) “Fallingwater fatigue” isn’t real.

There’s no denying Fallingwater’s mastery. It’s perhaps the most famous house in the world for a reason. Yet, going into the tournament, we suspected that this home’s massive reputation might work against it. Boy, were we wrong. Instead of passing on it in favor of something newer and lesser-known, our voters, you guys, doubled down on Frank Lloyd Wright’s seminal masterpiece and sent it all the way to the final. All in all, we’re elated to see that Fallingwater still commands such significant respect. It’s a bonkers-cool house and a more-than-worthy runner up. 

3) Schindler House makes some serious waves. 

We suspected that the sixth-seeded Schindler House might cause some chaos, but we could have never anticipated it fighting its way into the Final 4. Along the way, Schindler House took down the Cement Factory, the Elrod House, and the Glass House before falling to our eventual champion. A memorable run by a deserving competitor (especially when you take into account that it was BUILT IN 1922!)

4) The Esherick House has its moment.

As soon as the Esherick House (one of our 7 seeds) took down the Eames House (a 2 seed) in the first round, we knew that this tournament was going to be a whole lot of fun. Louis Kahn, the architect behind the Esherick House, is one of America’s most prodigious architectural talents and we were elated to see him win so big. If you're interested in learning more, all of his work is incredible, but the Salk Institute is particularly mesmerizing. 

Esherick House (left) and Salke Institute (right).

5) Some flops worth revisiting. 

In any given March Madness tournament, there are a few teams who don’t quite live up to the hype. The same was true here. A couple of truly incredible homes quietly went out in the first round, and we feel that, solely for inspiration’s sake, they might be worth revisiting. For starters, there’s Ricardo Bofill’s Cement Factory. It’s hard to convey the scope and majesty of Bofill’s personal residence and studio in only a couple of pictures, but, man, this house is something (it also features in the new season of West World). Additionally, Maison De Verre’s slightly underwhelming exterior gives way to a truly incredible interior that we’d gladly hole up in any day. Finally, we feel that Zaha Hadid’s Russian Forest House also deserves another shout out (it’s the acclaimed architect's only residential project) as does Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House (its interior spaces are wildly cool). 

Cement Factory (top left), Maison De Verre (top right), Russian Forest House (bottom left), and Ennis House (bottom right).

6) Mid-Century Modern is still popular, but that popularity only gets you so far.

Our pool of contenders contained plenty of mid-mod stalwarts. Homes by Neutra, Lautner, Koenig, Mies van der Rohe, and more all cruised through the tournament’s earlier rounds only to then, for the most part, slip up when the going got tough. In fact, the Farnsworth House was the only iconic mid-century home to advance through to the Final Four. Mid-mod remained plenty popular, but was by no means invincible in later rounds. 

Farnsworth House (left) and Kaufmann House (right).

7) Futuristic structures aren’t what we want right now.

Going into the tournament, we may have overestimated the more futuristic homes. Both the Sculptured House and the Chemosphere were seeded quite high and both ended up getting bounced in round 1. To take nothing away from the architectural pedigree of these homes, they just might not be all that alluring at this moment in time. Things are wildly uncertain right now, and a radically different concept of “home” is likely not what we presently want. 

Sculptured House (left) and Chemosphere (right).

8) There's plenty more to learn!

We sure learned a lot by putting this tournament together and, as such, we thought we'd end with a complete list of the homes it featured (with links to pages about their history) in case any of you wish to do some research of your own. 

Group 1: Stahl House, Eames House, Sheats-Goldstein Residence, George Sturges House, Graham House, House in Itsuura, Esherick House, House VI

Group 2: Glass House, Elrod House, Cement Factory, Das Canoas House, Maison De Verre, Schindler House, Rural House, Douglas House.

Group 3: Fallingwater, Kaufmann House, Ennis House, Russian Forest House, Palais Bulles, Optical Glass House, Rietveld Schroder House, Milam House.

Group 4: Farnsworth House, Sculptured House, Chemosphere, Villa Savoye, E-1027, Norman Lykes House, Villa Mairea, Villa Dirickz

Sheats-Goldstein House

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