Completed in 1969 and published in the seminal book Five Architects, the Benacerraf House was instantly an influential touchpoint in architectural discussions about modernism. The project not only embodied Michael Graves’ neo-Corbusian aspirations of the time, but also presaged his interest in figural forms and colors. The original project was primarily a two-story addition to the rear of a traditional early 1900s Tudor Revival dwelling on a quiet tree-lined street in Princeton. The addition extended living spaces into a semi-detached pavilion in the garden and featured an upper level roof deck.
Michael Graves intended that the composition and forms of the addition would create an actual and metaphorical dialogue between nature and man-made artifact, particularly on the south façade facing the sunlight. There, a lyrical, curvilinear cut-out in the white planar façade framed the garden and sky as if it represented a tree line or cloud formation. The supporting green beam below corresponded to a hedgerow at the southern border of the garden. In a similar gesture, a two-story yellow perforated steel channel became a signature compositional element referring to sun and sky.
Original Renovation and Addition: Michael Graves
2017 Renovation/Restoration: Patrick Burke, AIA, Peter Neilson, AIA
6,160 SF (house and addition)
Architect’s Newspaper Best Historic Preservation Award.
Authentic restoration and contemporary updates
After years of deterioration and even partial demolition, the Benacerraf House was preserved, restored and modernized. The exterior was returned to its original design, with improved construction details and materials, and the first and second floor interiors were updated. The original level change between the house and the addition were eliminated to simplify vertical circulation and improved functionality without comprising the geometry of the addition. Repainted with the original color palette, the restored house today is as visually interesting as the day it was completed half a century earlier.