Cecil and Hermione Alexander House
The circular plan is organized about a central enclosed court, with all walls radiating about or from the center of this space. Extending from the house is a carport, its plan derived from lines extending from the center of the court.
A flat circular roof extends three to four feet over glazed openings, providing shading and protection from rain. A folded plate roof covers the court space at the center of the house with a domed acrylic skylight located at its center.
Closed private areas of the house wrap around the court space to the west and open public spaces are located to the east. Views from the court are focused through full height glass walls looking east towards wooded lot. Family bedrooms are elevated above the court approximately one foot. A stair to the southeast of the court accesses the basement recreation room and service spaces. Stair treads and risers radiate from the center of the house in plan.
Exterior walls are finished in wood and brick. Large openings are filled with inoperable glass panels; steel framed sliding windows are located in bedrooms, kitchen, and maid’s room.
Interior finishes include walnut and mahogany veneer plywood paneling, vinyl and ceramic tile floors, slate floors in the court, wood floors, painted plaster walls and ceilings, and a copper free-standing fireplace. Steel columns are painted.
The structural system is post and lintel in the flat roofed area, with steel columns and beams. The “folded plate” roof is made of two plywood membranes bolted to a 2”x4” wood frame. A continuous steel cable under tension supports thrust.
to be completed
Innovative structural solution for roof structure was noted in local and national press.
The house was designed to accommodate the lifestyle of an affluent family in the mid-1950’s, namely accommodation of the automobile and a desire for increased privacy and space.
to be completed
Received as an exceptional example of a modern residence locally and nationally, through general-interest and specialized publications and generated local interest within the arts and architecture community.
A 1959 Progressive Architecture survey of architect-as-designer-and-as-client residences includes the Alexander Residence in a selection of modern homes under the Alexander quote: “the family should feel itself a unit – thus, the circular plan.” Included is extensive photography of interior and exterior spaces and a floor plan. The same issue focuses on the roof structure as one of its “p/a selected” details.
Editorial interest in the structure is demonstrated by selection of a photograph of the folded plate roof as an illustration for an advertising flyer soliciting subscriptions for the magazine.
A 1959 Life magazine series of articles “Tomorrow’s Life Today” considers the “new technology” and the “changes it makes in everyday world.” According to Life, this new technology includes jet-engine autos, nylon air houses, an aluminum beach house by Alcoa, an RCA-designed electronic kitchen, the Monsanto Chemical Company’s experimental plastic house, and houses designed by Ulrich Franzen, Eduardo Catalano, and Cecil Alexander. A photograph of the Alexander residence court is accompanied by a description of the roof design: “Creased roof … is made of laminated plywood folded around plastic skylight and held together by cable threaded through lower edge…Light and cheap, it provides unsupported span for modern, uncluttered interior.”
A period brochure from the Atlanta Art Association marketing tours of “Atlanta’s Most Famous Homes” to convention attendees includes four photographs of the residence. More recently, the Atlanta Preservation Center included the home in its “Ancients and Moderns” event in fall of 2004. This event included a panel discussion between the “moderns” – John Portman, Joe Amisano, Henri Jova, Preston Stevens, Jerome Cooper, and Cecil Alexander.
to be completed
’Man’s New World Part II, Tomorrow’s Life Today’, LIFE, vol. 43, no. 20, November 11, 1957, pp. 132-133.
ATLANTA ART ASSOCIATION, ‘The Highlight of Your Convention’, (tourism brochure offering tours of Atlanta’s most famous homes), not dated (although likely c 1957)
’The Architect’s Family as Client’, Progressive Architecture, vol. XI, no. 11, November 1959, pp. 123-142.
‘P/A Selected Detail: Skylight’, Progressive Architecture, vol. XI, no. 11, November 1959, pp. 170-171.