Architect Ira Rakatansky’s Mid-Century Modern Masterpiece

updated Dec 19, 2019
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Name: Ira Rakatansky & Lenore Gray
Location: East Side — Providence, Rhode Island
Size: 4 bedrooms
Years lived in: 52 — owned

This tour is a rare treat — a peek into the home of modernist architect Ira Rakatanksy, who designed and built the house in 1958 and still lives there, more than half a century later. Incredibly, the space seems almost as modern now, both in structure and décor, as it must have over 50 years ago.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Rakatansky studied with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at Harvard in the 1940s and went on to set up his own practice in Providence where he built modern homes that still challenge the dominance of traditional architecture in New England. The house features soaring windows that allow the outdoors in, as well as simple and thoughtful architectural details that belie a minimalist sensibility.

Thanks to the recent publication of a monograph of his work, Ira Rakatansky: As Modern As Tomorrow edited by John Caserta and Lynnette Widder, Rakatansky — now in his 90s — is enjoying well-deserved renewed interest in his architecture. He allowed Caserta and photographer Thad Russell to explore the details of his home that reveal the work of a warm, sophisticated, and forward-thinking master.

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An Excerpt from Ira Rakatansky: As Modern As Tomorrow:

Architect Ira Rakatansky’s current home, located on Everett Avenue in Providence, is a strong expression of his views on the purpose of architecture. In contrast to traditional homes, which Rakatansky feels are not relevant to the way modern families live — “they are dry and one can heat them, but that is about it” — the design of his home considers the orientation of the sun, wind, accessibility, views and utilities.

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The existing red-brick carriage house was the starting point of the design. The modern addition surrounds the carriage house on the front and western sides of the house. The brick is painted white on the inside, but Rakatansky left it red on the outside so it would still match its former main house. Although notable for its relationship to the surrounding landscape, which both hides the home from the street and provides framed views of local foliage, Rakatansky holds landscape architecture as secondary to the construction of architecture. A building should conform to the site, but should not have to twist around man-made landscaping. The landscape architect should aid and assist the work of an architect, who also must know how to design the land, in order to place the building successfully.

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Images: Thad Russell

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