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Rhode Island Modernism | Ira Rakatansky

July 28, 2015
modernist rhode island architect ira rakatansky office

From striking Colonial-era houses to the splendor of Newport mansions Rhode Island is undoubtedly rich in architectural history. However, its modernist tradition lies surprisingly empty. The main exception is Ira Rakatansky, a Harvard alum who, in the 1940s, studied under Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. Rakatansky left behind a selection of elegant residential works mostly centered around Providence, so when a recent trip to Rhode Island included a stopover in Providence, a quick tour of Rakatansky’s work was in order (I primarily followed this map, which lists his key buildings). I was surprised that many of these structures were often difficult to spot from the street, appearing almost hidden on their lots. And although Rakatansky believed landscape was secondary to architecture, the discrete volumes, large windows and muted palette of his buildings undeniably establish a gentle rapport with their surroundings.

One of my favorites was Rakatansky’s architecture office (above), all angles and glass. Not to mention the striking detail of clerestory windows in the main building, particularly powerful when seen from the inside.

In 2010 Apartment Therapy presented a lovely tour of Rakatansky’s own home, which can be found here.

modernist rhode island architect ira rakatansky houseRhode Island Recommendations: 

Cabin (Jamestown)

The Mooring (Newport) / Simpatico (Jamestown) / Al Forno (Providence)

Cable Car Cinema (Providence) / RISD Museum (Providence) / Newport Mansions (Newport)