clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

10 Homes That Changed America: New PBS Series Explores U.S. Architectural History

New, 14 comments

This cross-section of homes, apartments, and mansions shows the evolution of American life

Can the history of our country be told via a few dozen locations? A new series by PBS aims to tell part of that sweeping story later this month. This new three-part series begins tonight with 10 Homes That Changed America, and will be followed the next two Tuesdays by 10 Parks and 10 Towns. (10 Monuments didn’t make the cut).

These shows are a follow up to the popular 2013 PBS program, 10 Buildings That Changed America, which explored trailblazing buildings from the Virginia Capitol to the Seagram Building. When taken together, the four series and forty choices present a survey course on the history of architecture and urban design in the United States, while asking viewers to consider what we discuss when we consider the concept of home.

The producers queried a panel of architectural historians, who weighed in on which 10 homes would make the cut, taking effort to assemble a cross-section that addressed different regions, time periods, and home types. According to series host Geoffrey Baer, producers discussed including a Usonian home, Frank Lloyd Wright’s attempt at building a house for the common man, but in the end, they had to go with his most famous work, Fallingwater. "If you’re doing a show about dinosaurs," says Baer, "you need to include a T. rex." The homes on the final list were also chosen for their relevance to issues affecting housing today, such as the Glidehouse. A lesser-known structure compared to the rest, the inclusion of the eco-friendly prefab, designed by Bay Area architect Michelle Kaufmann, is meant to spur discussion about green design and resource conservation.

Here's the final list of homes chosen for the first show, which airs this evening. Any thoughts on what you'd include or swap out? We'd love to hear them in the comments.

Update (4/6/2016): For those who missed the first episode, check your local PBS affiliate's schedule for information about upcoming second airings.

Sign up for Curbed's email newsletter:

Taos Pueblo – Taos, New Mexico

"This was completely mind-blowing," says Baer of this centuries-old UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the oldest continually inhabited structures in the world. "This isn't preserved in amber. They're continually to build and rebuild and occupy, using the same old techniques used for centuries."

Monticello – Albermarle County, Virginia

The Piedmont villa of President Jefferson, designed with Palladian principles in mind, was the statesman’s own creation, a fusion of classical elements, European style, and his own design solutions that served as the centerpiece of his large plantation.

Lyndhurst – Tarrytown, New York

A towering stone castle built along the Hudson River, this limestone manse and country house once owned by robber baron Jay Gould exudes a romantic character, owing in part to its asymmetrical design and steep, Medieval roof. It was a landmark in Gothic Revival architecture.

The Tenement – New York, New York

"This was one of the most emotional parts of the series," says Baer of the team's visit to the Tenement Museum in New York, which recreates the crowded, densely packed apartment buildings occupied by newly arrived immigrants around the turn of the century. "I'm living the life that ancestors came to America for, and dreamed of, then they were living in these spaces."

The Gamble House – Pasadena, California

This airy Pasadena home and its gabled roofs, the finest surviving example of architectural duo Greene and Greene’s work, is an exemplary California bungalow, and a high point of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Langston Terrace Dwellings – Washington, D.C.

Designed in the International style by African-American architect Hilyard Robinson, these buildings, part of the second federally funded housing project in the country, were built in the late '30s in the Kingman Park neighborhood in the city's northeast corner.

Fallingwater – Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Located on an elevated piece of woodland property owned by Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, this 1935 masterwork, Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous example of organic architecture, consists of interlocking, cantilevered concrete terraces arranged so that a waterfall runs through the living room.

Eames House – Pacific Palisades, California

Commissioned as part of Art & Architecture magazine’s Case Study program and placed amid a eucalyptus grove in the Pacific Palisades, the home of designers Ray and Charles Eames, an early example of California modern built from a Mondrian-like assembly of off-the-shelf parts—colorful panels, glass, and steel—conceals a playful living room.

Marina City – Chicago, Illinois

Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic corncob towers, prime examples of the "city within a city" planning concept, have been Chicago icons since they were constructed in 1964.

Glidehouse – Novato, California

Part of a new generation of prefabs home seeking to bend the cost curve and create affordable, the Glidehouse offers a more eco-conscious dwelling with a smaller footprint.

Curbed Pocket Guide: House Museums Across America [Curbed]