Residency program

The residencies for the competition are sponsored by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust (CCMHT), a grassroots organization founded in 2007 to prevent the demolition of a group of significant modern houses owned by the National Park Service (NPS) on outer Cape Cod, and to renovate and re-purpose these structures as loci for creativity and scholarship. The Trust also maintains an archive of related material. The more than 100 modern houses in the area represent a little-known cultural asset. CCMHT leased and restored the first of these abandoned, federally owned houses (the Kugel/Gips house, 1970, Charles Zehnder) and began using it as the base for an off-season artist/scholar residency program. CCMHT has recently received  leases for the Hatch Cottage, and Weidlinger house, which are both currently under restoration.

Central to the Trust's mission is the idea that buildings and landscapes bear cultural memories and strategies. The organization's goal is to extend the usefulness of these buildings in their landscapes and to continue, in the tradition of imaginative designers, to address the contemporary issues of community, sustainability and built form.

The Kugel Gips House
    Cape Cod National Seashore
    188 Long Pond Rd
    Wellfleet, MA 02667

Architect/Designer: Charlie Zehnder

The Kugel/Gips House reflects Zehnder’s fascination with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Its corners dematerialize though butt-glazed windows, horizontal planes are emphasized and long cantilevered decks and roof overhangs project the living spaces out into the landscape. It demonstrates Zehnder’s skill for inhabiting a site without overwhelming it.

                    Photo: Mark Walker

                    Photo: Peter McMahon 

                    Photo: © k. schoenfelder 2009

                    © Joshua McHugh

The Hatch Cottage
   309 Bound Brook Island Road
   Wellfleet, MA

Architect/Designer: Jack Hall

In 1960, self-taught architect, Jack Hall, designed a summer cottage overlooking Cape Cod Bay for Robert Hatch, an editor of The Nation magazine and his wife Ruth, a painter. Living/kitchen, bedrooms and bath are all in separate components with open-air hallways . The shutters can be hoisted up in the summer to expose plexi and screen panels. Hatch Cottage is currently being renovated by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust.

                    Photo: John Hughs Hall

                         Photo: Don Freeman

                         Photo: Don Freeman

                         Photo: Don Freeman

The Outer Cape comprises a unique landscape of beaches, pinewoods, tidal marshes and glacial ponds imbued with a brilliant quality of light that has drawn artists and writers since the nineteenth century.
Starting in the late 1930s, the Outer Cape attracted some of the prime movers  of modern architecture, including architects Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff and Olav Hammarstrom and engineer Paul Weidlinger, who built houses for themselves, their friends and clients. Walter Gropius, Xanti Schawinsky, Konrad Wachsmann, Constantino Nivola, the Saarinen family and Florence and Hans Knoll all either rented summer cottages or were frequent house guests here. The vibrant community also included artists Gyorgy Kepes and Saul Steinberg as well as numerous writers, scientists, academics and their students. 

This group of international refugees and their friends made a home for themselves in the secluded pinewoods of Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown; many are even buried here. This collection of creative people believed in the power of design to improve the human condition and to integrate man with nature. They applied those principles equally to the great projects they undertook in the world beyond Cape Cod and to their own cottages, which were sometimes made with salvaged material, Homasote and driftwood. 

The Cape's modern architects enjoyed a lifestyle based on communion with nature, solitary creativity (designing, painting, writing) and communal festivity. Their houses embody this ethos with their blurring of indoors and outdoors, their isolated studios and outdoor spaces for evening parties. Serious work took place there, and ideas were often exchanged during long walks in the woods or while wading in a pond.

The tradition started in 1937, when Gropius and a close circle of his Bauhaus faculty and friends spent the summer on a small island at the base of the Cape, reprising their communal European holidays and trying to plot a new life for themselves in their adopted land. From there the members of the group spread out, but they maintained their connection to the place.


Through tours, symposia, collaborations with schools of architecture and its residency program, CCMHT strives to bring fresh thinking to regional problems of gentrification, lack of affordable housing, moribund employment for young people, the need for off-season cultural tourism and coexistence with a fragile environment.

CCMHT has sought to make an impact through physical restoration of the derelict houses, by catalyzing a wide range of people to see the value of their local, modern legacy and by reintroducing the ideas embodied in the work of the architects and designers who built these houses.

When the idea arose of seeking long-term leases and re-purposing the buildings, the NPS, the town and a critical mass of volunteers and supporters all had to “buy in”. CCMHT’s major funding has come from the Community Preservation Act, a state/local mechanism that requires majority approval in town meetings. The organization was active in building a consensus that the houses themselves were worth saving. They also worked closely with the NPS on a fifty-house context study with National Trust nominations for all seven of the modern houses owned by the Park.

Due to CCMHT's efforts, most stakeholders have come to feel pride in their connection to the story. Many private owners of modern houses in the area are now maintaining and restoring them, often after decades of neglect. Even those local residents who are not convinced that the buildings are historically significant see them as a draw for much-needed cultural, off-season tourism. Their modern-house tours and open houses consistently draw large crowds. In their first year of artist/scholar residencies they hosted British architect John Pawson, design activist Bryan Bell, earth/ installation artists Smudge Studio, filmmaker Erika Beckman and painters Doug Padget and Irene Lipton. All presented their work publicly, either through local lectures and events or through entries on the CCMHT blog.

Since the town was funding the restoration of an NPS-owned property, this project required close cooperation between these sometimes adversaries. The goodwill generated by the project's success has had tangible results. In 2009 the NPS, elements of the town government and CCMHT worked together to  revise town zoning laws to stop the building of very large houses in the park, which were exploiting regulatory loopholes.