Architecture: Modernist Enclaves in Lexington, Mass.

Everyone has a back up plan. The New York Times ran an article on Sunday called “What’s Your New Plan B?” It talked about folks who once upon a time dreamed of abandoning real life to run a B&B or some such idyll. But now we need real Plan Bs.

I live in Boston. City living (which is the only kind I can stomach) means paying exorbitant private school tuition for our kids. What if we couldn’t afford to do that anymore, and had to move to the suburbs?

Well, I’ve picked one out. I’m hoping it’s an academic exercise. I hate to drive. I think yards are overrated. I can’t stand when Girl Scouts ring my doorbell.

It’s Lexington, MA. There are two synagogues, academics and scientists rather than hedge fund managers galore, a symphony, a decent school system, and , this is what got me, an interesting architectural history.

Researching an article for the Boston Globe magazine (to be published Feb. 22), I learned that Lexington has nine modernist neighborhoods – more than anywhere else in the country. They were built by two groups, one led by Walter Gropius and the other by Walter Pierce. People adore these neighborhoods. Some residents are the original owners, dating back to 1954. Even Walter Pierce, now 88, still lives in the house he built in 1958.

From the outside, the houses are what some would call ugly. But they were revolutionary, and today’s developers could learn from them. The only trees that were cut for these 1,800 square foot houses were the ones that absolutely had to be cleared to make room for the house. This means nicely wooded lots. The houses could be turned this way or that, allowing flexibility in siting them, on ledges or whatnot. So houses are not lined up in Stepford Wife rows, all facing the street. There’s lots of glass so you can commune with nature. Community land was set aside, some with fields, streams, playgrounds, even pools. And they were affordable for young professional families.

Here’s what quick real estate search turned up. Not the city, but not bad.

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