Modern history

Once upon a time there were empty residential lots in Boulder, Colorado. In 1953, professor and herpetologist T. Paul Maslin with his wife, Mary, hired architect Hoby Wagener to design a functional modern family house on a large lot. Their property on 14th Street lay nestled among Tudors, Foursquares, and Colonials in an old neighborhood that would later become the University Place Historic District.

In Colorado since 1950, Wagener had come from working for the notable modernist Pietro Belluschi in Oregon, an experience that influenced his whole career. We can imagine young Hoby building the model for Belluschi’s 1947 Life Magazine’s idea house and carefully lettering the drawings by hand.  That building’s spatial clarity and the way it presents its shallow gable end to the street became evident, six years later, in Hoby’s design for the Maslins. Paul and Mary lived there happily for many decades.

But by last summer, one of Boulder’s jewels of mid-century modern architecture lay hidden from view by the exuberant front yard vegetation. Its current owners bought it last fall. Undeterred by its condition (and encouraged by their architect, moi) they decided to take on its restoration and remodel.

The street façade of the Maslin House presents a composition of a long privacy wall animated with a simple, shallow-pitch roof that appears to float above it.  A clerestory of direct set glass between structural columns contrasts with the load-bearing masonry below. These create an interior volume that houses the living spaces. In response to its location in the foothills of Colorado, Wagener clad the front of the house in random ashlar split-face Lyons stone.

Wagener embraced the innovative materials of the mid-century. Even in this early commission, he used microlam beams, interior plywood veneers, and adhered acoustical ceiling panels. True to the period style, he designed deep overhangs and slender 2×6 rafters with eaves that taper to even slenderer fascia.

Wagener’s progressive design included a whole house fan for healthy air changes. This building exceeded the code requirements of its day. As a custom house, superior in construction to its contemporaries in Martin Acres and other post-war mass-produced housing, it included amenities uncommon for its time such as insulation and radiant heat. Its foundations and stone work show no signs of stress.

Building on its solid elements, the restoration and remodel will preserve the character of the house while bringing it up to current building science. Click here for progress photos.

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