In The Field: The New Hope Experiment

Our field visit to the Raymond Farm in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

09.3.2021

Our field visit this month was to the Raymond Farm in New Hope, Pennsylvania, a place which was the result of a large exhale within a life dedicated to design. Imagined and shaped by one of the most prolific couples in architectural history, the “New Hope Experiment” as it were, was undertaken in order to “create a physical and intellectual environment that mirrored and supported their (the Raymond’s) approach to modern design -- one that synthesized International Style developments with lessons learned from Japan's craft tradition". The year was 1939. Antonin and Noemi Raymond had just returned to the US after a fifteen-year stint in Japan (where they were yet to fully understand the legacy they had set out as the founders of modern architecture there). It was with those very foundational tenants of Japanese design (celebration of nature, simplicity, embracing wabi-sabi) and the physical manifestations of that ethos (open plan living, practical modularity, bringing beauty to everyday household objects) that the Raymond’s set out to remodel an old farmhouse to become a studio and living experiment for design education.

We’re choosing to focus solely on the farm for this post as there are so many rambling stories to be told about the Raymond’s and their mark on the history of architecture and design (we wrote about the Golconde Ashram in Pondicherry, if you’re curious about another). The path to the farm was for each half of the pair a very storied one. Antonin (1888-1976) was a Czech-born architect who had what appears to be several life’s worth of work with many different titles: farmer, officer of the first world war, and diplomat. He became best known and respected for his work with Frank Lloyd Wright and Cass Gilbert, and within both collaborations was able to explore materiality and texture using concrete in ways that would never leave him. Antonin’s wife, Noemi, was a force in her own right. French-born but educated at Columbia University, Noemi was at the center of the avant-garde scene in New York in the early twentieth century. This position within the art world would prove vital to the success of the pair as she brought Antonin and Frank Lloyd Wright together as collaborators. What became of Antonin’s architectural career was in parallel succession to Noemi’s thriving practice in all things interior. For each project produced by the Raymond Architectural Office, Noemi was responsible for the interior scope from the furniture and fixtures down to the rugs, textiles and ceramics. At the farm in particular, there are many pieces for which Noemi collaborated with another hero of ours, George Nakashima. In fact, the Raymond’s sponsored the Nakashima’s to be released from an internment camp and helped facilitate their eventual move to a home just up the road from the farm.

Photos from a recent visit by Grace Song.

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