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Kaity Ryan Reports from the Kugel/Gips House

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In mid-May I was fortunate to spend a week living in the Kugel/Gips House as part of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust’s Scholar-in-Residency program. Currently pursuing a Master of Science in Historic Preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the reason for my stay was two-fold. My first objective was to research the Modern architecture in Wellfleet and Truro toward the ultimate goal of crafting a master’s thesis focused on these resources, particularly the Jack Hall-designed Hatch Cottage, and their contribution to the Modern Movement. Secondly, I wanted to gain a first-hand understanding of the Modern House Trust’s unique model of preservation and how it might inform alternative methods of reuse and advocacy in the preservation community.

During my stay, the weather alternated between bouts of rain and cloud cover with intermittent bursts of hazy sun: perfect weather for holing up inside Kugel/Gips or the Wellfleet Library for an afternoon of researching. Late in the week, Cape Cod Modern House Trust Director, Peter McMahon, and I were scheduled to tour the modern architecture in the area. I was eager to see the houses where Breuer, Chermayeff, Hammarstrom and others had summered. To my surprise, it didn’t rain.

The Cape has a way of making visitors and residents alike appreciate gray, particularly in the finicky month of May when the summer tourists have yet to arrive, many restaurants are still closed for the “off-season” and the sweltering sunny days of summer are a distant dream, shrouded in hovering clouds and rain. It’s an amazing way to see the Cape landscape. Year-round residents know it well in this gray light. Jack Hall must have known it well in this light, too. For to know the Cape like this is also to know the delight that summer sunshine brings. In designing the Hatch Cottage for clients Ruth and Robert Hatch, Hall embraced all that is Cape Cod during the barefoot, sun-laden warmth of July, August and September. With its shutter panels exposed to the bay, its elevated platform of decking open to the plants and sandy soil below, and its compartmentalized rooms that require one to literally go outside to get to another room, Hatch Cottage personifies the modernist notion of embracing and integrating the landscape.

As we tumbled along the dirt tracts of Bound Brook Island in Peter’s car and crested the hill to the Hatch Cottage, scrubby pine forest gave way to evening sun glittering on Cape Cod Bay. Emerging from the overgrown driveway path, sunlight raked across the weathered planking of the cottage and I saw what Ruth and Robert Hatch must have seen when they arrived at their cottage: summer.

I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to the Cape Cod Modern House Trust for providing me with this opportunity. Special thanks especially to Peter McMahon who gave so generously of his time, insight and research material. I look forward to working together this coming year.

-Kaity Ryan, 6/24/11

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