Eleanor Raymond (1887 – 1989) was an American architect with a professional career of some sixty years of practice, mainly in residential housing. She designed one of the first International Style houses in the United States, in 1931. She also explored the use of innovative materials and building systems, designing a plywood house in 1940 as well as one of the first successful solar-heated buildings in the Northeast, the “Sun House”, in 1948.
A graduate of the Cambridge School of Art and Landscape Architecture for Women, Eleanor Raymond was a noted innovator partnering with solar energy researcher Dr. Maria Telkes to design one of the first successful solar-heated buildings in the Northeast. Raymond took part in a number of social movements of her day, including the women's suffrage movement and the settlement house movement. It was through a suffragist organization that she met her life partner, Ethel B. Power, who went on to attend and graduate from the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture as well. Raymond and Power—who became a longtime editor for House Beautiful magazine—remained together for more than half a century, until Power's death in 1969.
Raymond renovated a townhouse at 112 Charles St. in Boston as a group home for herself, Power, and other women. It was planned for the needs of businesswomen who required some work space at home and who needed the house to be as "self-running" as possible, which led to a reduction in the footprints of both dining room and kitchen.
Architecture of Tradition
Raymond became increasingly known for primarily residential designs that took cues from early American architecture, as well as for her restoration and remodeling work, which approached modern-day adaptive reuse. Raymond always worked within the “three fields” of a house—the exterior, interior, and landscape. Much of her work was commissioned by women from her social group in Boston and Cambridge. One client called her “an architect who combines a respect for tradition with a disrespect for its limitations.” In her fusion of European and American influences, some scholars see Raymond as attempting to create a kind of regional modernism. The Rachel Raymond House (built for her sister in 1931), for example, fuses the stark International-Style rectilinear forms of the exterior with an interior rich in traditional built-in cupboards, decorative wood trim, and antique hardware. The Rachel Raymond House is thus a manifestation of a Northeastern regional modernism that predates by six years a Lincoln, Massachusetts, house by Walter Gropius that is often singled out as the first manifestation of an American regional modernism.
In 1948, Raymond undertook one of her most ambitious works, the Dover Sun House, an innovative house with solar collectors, with Dr. Mária Telkes from the MIT Solar Laboratory. Raymond amassed more than 50 years of professional experience in the practice of architecture and in 1961 was made a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
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