January 28, 2010 Marcel Breuer

The Architecture of Harold Esten, FAIA

When I recently sat down with architect Harold Esten, I asked him why he thought mid-century modern architecture was experiencing a renaissance. He said the architecture is “good basic design” that “wears well.” Esten, who designed the 1966 house in Mohican Hills (above) that I am listing and holding open from 2 to 4 pm this Sunday, is now in his 80s and has had the honor of being named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Less than two percent of architects are bestowed with the distinction.

Esten worked in Charles Goodman’s shop for a few years before launching his own firm. In 1949, Esten and his wife Alice spent some time in California. On the weekends, they would spend one day at the beach and the other driving around to see the wave of modern architecture sprouting up. “I looked at a lot of modern homes at a very critical time in modern architecture,” Esten told me. He said he met the likes of Charles Eames and Richard Nuetra, who wanted to recruit him but said, “I can’t pay you.” Esten’s reply: “I can’t work for nothing.”

In addition to my listing, here some shots of three other Esten-designed homes. We’re glad Esten settled back on the East Coast and spent his career here in D.C.

This steel-frame house is on Crail Drive in Bethesda.
It is one of the many MCM homes on the street

This white brick mid-century is located at 29th
and Tilden in Northwest D.C.

The architect who grew up in this Esten design on Brigadoon Drive in Bethesda now lives across the street in a home designed by Marcel Breuer. (Photo by Michael Cook)