Home / Arts & Life / Modernist Magic in Indiana – The New York Times

Modernist Magic in Indiana – The New York Times

When the couple began looking for an architect, they asked a Cummins colleague who was knowledgeable about design for names.

He gave them only one: Deborah Berke. A practitioner of emotionally intelligent minimalism who is also dean of Yale University’s architecture school, Ms. Berke and her 2006 Irwin Union Bank branch figure into the plot of “Columbus,” a new feature film about the town and its accumulation of modernist architecture. This year, she completed the Cummins Distribution Headquarters, a mixed-use complex downtown.

Ms. Berke’s design for the Chandlers evokes the Miller House’s strategic, glass-walled transparency, its use of eloquent materials and its overhanging flat roof.


Deborah Berke and her 2006 Irwin Union Bank branch figure into the plot of “Columbus,” a feature film about the town of Columbus, Ind., and its accumulation of modernist architecture.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The 3,500-square-foot Chandler house, like the Miller House, has separate wings for parents and children, with a large, communal space in between. The kitchen has a showstopping blue ceramic tile wall that Ms. Berke called “a tip of the hat” to the Miller kitchen’s wall of blue glass mosaic tile.

Both houses follow a larger modernist agenda to dissolve the boundary between inside and outside, turn views into slowly transforming kinetic artworks and soothe as well as shelter. But however much the Chandlers admired the Miller House, “they didn’t want a copy of it, obviously,” Ms. Berke said. What she offered was fitted to their needs and the remarkable site.

Completed last fall for about $300 per square foot, the zinc-paneled structure with mahogany-framed windows sits at the top of the property. A curving driveway leads from the road through oak, sycamore, maple and walnut trees, and the land behind the building quickly drops down into a meadow.

The centerpiece of the interior is a living/dining area with long stretches on either side of thermally efficient glass. This space is divided by a wall paneled in heart pinewood and a cubic space of the same material, in which the kitchen is tucked. Mr. Chandler obtained the wood from the beams of a dismantled 1900 baking powder factory in Terre Haute, Ind.

The house also has many small, private rooms. The Chandlers asked for his-and-her home offices and a bedroom and bathroom for each of their children, now ages 19, 18 and 14. “We basically have the same space as the kids,” Ms. Chandler said, noting that bathrooms are just large enough to “maneuver in without hitting an elbow or a head” and that televisions are banned from bedrooms, herding family members into the common areas.

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