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New 20th century Iconic Houses website launches

A unique resource for travellers and lovers of 20th century houses is now online at iconichouses.org

Life will get easier for fans of 20th century domestic architecture with the launch of a new resource at the Schindler House in Los Angeles. The Iconic Houses website, with its handy map interface, identifies dozens of iconic modern houses around the world – most of them open to visitors and some even accommodating overnight guests. The website will be followed shortly by an app for the iPhone and iPad.

The website is the initiative of Natascha Drabbe, architectural historian and owner and curator of the Van Schijndel House in the Netherlands. Finding herself in charge of an iconic home, she set out to find out about others. Her research led to the formation of the Iconic Houses Network, a group of modern house museum curators dedicated to preserving significant houses and sharing knowledge and expertise, and to the launch of the site. The Organizing Committee of the Network consists of Susanna Pettersson, director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation; Lynda Waggoner, director of Fallingwater; Kimberli Meyer, director of the Mak Center at the Schindler House and Iveta Cerna, director of Villa Tugendhat. 'No resource existed before to help people locate and visit these unique houses,' says Drabbe. 'Now, if you’re visiting Paris, for example, our site allows you to see that you’re close to the only house Alvar Aalto built outside Finland. This information wasn’t so easy to come by before.'

IconicHouses.org lists a hundred landmark houses from the 20th century by location, together with background information on their creators and related news stories. A high number of new submissions is expected, and to deal with these the network has developed stringent selection criteria. 'We only want to list the best of the bunch,' Drabbe says. The best include the unmissable big names like Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Schindler House, the Alvar Aalto House and Unesco-listed Villa Tugendhat by Mies van der Rohe, but visitors to IconicHouses.org can also discover hidden gems, such as Geoffrey Bawa’s Colombo residence in Sri Lanka, where visitors can also stay overnight.

By linking travel and 20th century houses, the Iconic Houses Network hopes that the new site will increase not only visitor numbers, but also the awareness of the difficulty of what Natascha Drabbe calls, ‘keeping these houses alive’ in times of scarce funding, understaffing and even, sometimes, the threat of demolition. 'Experiencing the houses is the most important thing,' she says. 'The Iconic Houses site wants to ensure that people can continue to do that.'

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