Touring Swan Studio and The Tucker House

Swan Studio was featured in the 2024 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s “Out and About Wright” tour. This group of architects and Modernism fans visited iconic properties across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our project, an outbuilding on the property of an original Sarah Harkness house, was included in this year’s tour.

This experience provided an opportunity to recognize all of the architects who have worked on The Tucker House property in Six Moon Hill. Our Swan Studio is an outbuilding on the property of The Tucker House, a 1949 house by architect Sarah Pillsbury Harkness. Harkness, a founding partner at The Architects Collaborative (TAC), designed three residences at Moon Hill.

Above: Swan Studio’s french doors beckon the onlooker into the airy dance space and watercolor art studio. Following the beautiful slope of the land, the structure is enveloped by nature. Photo by Nat Rea.

TAC founding members from left to right: (top) Robert S. McMillan, Norman C. Fletcher, Benjamin Thompson, Louis A. McMillen, John C. Harkness, (bottom) Jean B. Fletcher, Walter Gropius, Sarah Harkness. Photo sourced by Architectuul.com.

The Architects Collaborative
A National Historic Landmark, Six Moon Hill was developed in the late 1940s and early ’50s by TAC. Every one of its original homes survives—though all have been expanded and updated over the years. TAC was an American architectural firm formed by eight architects in 1945 in Cambridge, Massachusetts; they are considered one of the most notable firms in post-war modernism. TAC functioned as a team rather than on an individual basis, which was considered a unique method of architectural practice. This approach reflected Gropius’s philosophy of working collaboratively with others that was an integral part of the Bauhaus School he founded in Germany prior to TAC.

Six Moon Hill
The design of private residential communities proved to be an important direction for TAC as architects and designers began to reconsider the modern home during the postwar era as malleable, inexpensive, and expressive of progressive ideals. Shortly after TAC’s founding, the firm’s partners developed two residential communities: Six Moon Hill and Five Fields in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1947, TAC purchased twenty acres of land in Lexington to build what would become Six Moon Hill. The neighborhood took its name from the fact that the former owner had left a garage housing six automobiles manufactured by the Moon Motor Car Company.

Moon Hill was primarily occupied by TAC families and their friends. TAC partners were invested in creating a strong connection between building and landscape and Moon Hill was one of the first neighborhoods in Massachusetts that deeply considered the home’s relationship to site. The twenty-nine mid-century modern homes consist of a flexible plan, but also a common visual vocabulary of modernist architectural elements—vertical redwood siding, flat roofs, large glass windows, and Plexiglas skylights. The neighborhood features a community pool and a park-like commons space.
The view seen from the dining room of The Harkness House out to Swan Studio. The studio was conceived to stand in direct conversation with the original Moon Hill residence. Photo by Nat Rea.

The Tucker House
The Tucker House is a 1949 house by architect Sarah Pillsbury Harkness at Six Moon Hill, Lexington. Harkness (1914–2013), a founding partner at TAC, designed three residences at Moon Hill. The original Tucker Home was designed as a bunker, or almost an earth dwelling. Richard Morehouse, an associate at TAC, redesigned the entrance and added the second floor for the Tuckers’ growing family soon after Harkness finished the home.

When the current owners moved in, the Tucker House had not had extensive architectural work done since Morehouse’s addition. In 2012/2013, they hired Tim Techler Design Group who has worked on many properties in Six Moon Hill. Techler added their dining room, a guest suite and piano room, and reconfigured parts of the downstairs and the entrance. Upstairs, Techler renovated the primary suite. The second floor wrap around porch was also added by Techler’s team, who worked alongside the Kyle Brothers, master carpenters, who acted as the general contractor team on the project. Landscape architect Jonathan Keep has worked tirelessly on the property's landscape for many years, maintaining the property's charming footpaths and embracing the natural site.
The team of architects who worked on the property presented about their process, materials used, and design intent for their work. Photo by Flavin Architects.

Swan Studio
Leaving the original Harkness house undisturbed, Flavin Architects designed the studio as a separate building in the garden to the South of the house. Stepping down with the natural slope of the land, Swan Studio connects seamlessly to its site. With vertical board siding and flat roof, it echoes the modernist aesthetic of the house and neighborhood. Carefully choreographed gaps in the boards welcome light into the carport by day and, in the evening, allow for a lanternlike glow.

From the carport, a stair descends toward the studio and hot tub, meeting footpaths that branch into the garden and yard. Within the studio, a wall of glass unites the high-ceilinged space with the wooded surroundings, while glass doors open eastward toward the house.
(left to right): Heather Souza (Principal, Flavin Architects), Colin Flavin (Founding Principal, Flavin Architects), Jonathan Keep (Founding Principal, Jonathan Keep Landscape Design), and Tim Techler (Founding Principal, Tim Techler Design Group). Photo by Flavin Architects.

We were honored to be included in the tour which featured some of New England’s most famous modernist home such as the famous Gropius House and the Yanofsky House, among others.

At Flavin Architects, we are focused on cultivating our approach of Natural Modernism, in which sustainable design and respect for a building’s context are key elements of a minimal, contemporary aesthetic. The firm’s work is focused on new modern house design, with a seamless connection between interior spaces and surrounding nature.

Reinforcing local sense of place is inherent to the way we design. Colin and Heather’s passion for modern architecture, has led the firm to an expertise in sensitively reimagining early modern houses. Our renovations expand upon the themes developed by the vintage modernism of the original houses, adapting them to the 21st Century lifestyle of our clients with updated finishes and efficient systems.

Flavin Architects’ aim is to bring nature into our client’s lives by envisioning designs that rely on sculpted lines, timeless materials, and transparency. We design to relate our buildings beautifully to their unique surroundings. We use advanced materials and techniques to conserve energy, water, and the natural systems on the site. Our work is designed to tread lightly on the land.