Richard Morgenstern

Rodney Friedman is upset, and he’s not afraid to tell you why. He’s been a maverick his whole career and is widely considered to be among the handful of architects that led the modern design movement of the mid-1960s. Now, as president and CEO/Executive Design Architect at Fisher Friedman Associates and an inaugural inductee into Builder’s Wm. S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence, he is trying to revive modern design in single-family detached suburban housing—a style he says epitomizes everything buyers demand (open, flexible floor plans, access to the outdoors, affordability, green) and builders want (sales and profits). And he is railing against the ills of conventional, post-modern detached housing. “The U.S. housing market is so overwhelmingly unsophisticated that post-modern has been allowed to flourish,” he says. “We’re at the point where buyers don’t have choices anymore."

What are the advantages of a modern home?

Simply, they provide more space for less money. They have an open design [floor plan] that feels more spacious than a conventional home, even with less square footage. They are far less expensive to build than conventional homes with all of their “applied ornamentation” and extra walls. And they more eff ectively incorporate outdoor spaces to further extend living space.

What indicates to you that modern can be as successful as detached housing?

Modern is selling, and has been for years, in high-rises, condos, apartments, duplexes, townhouses, and lofts. And in areas where there is an existing stock of modern homes [from the ’60s and ’70s], they are in real demand and getting premium prices on the resale market compared to conventional homes of the same size. Custom-designed modern homes of that time are considered works of art!

What’s keeping builders from providing modern detached homes?

Someone has to be brave enough, like Joe Eichler in his day, to use a pre-approved subdivision to build modern homes. They won’t lose money; at worst, they’ll break even. And once those projects are featured in BUILDER magazine, others will follow like lemmings because, ultimately, they’re in this business to make money.