Photos by Elizabeth Galecke, Wyatt Kostygan, and Jake Gorst
George Smart aka Mr. Modernism!
Keynote: The Accidental Archivist
George Smart HAIA is founder and CEO of
a nonprofit organization dedicated to the
documentation, preservation, and promotion of Modernist
Bio: With bulldozers destroying mid-century Modernist houses like Breuer’s Geller in New York, these livable works of art continue to be threatened by rising land prices and disinterested heirs. Preservation is more important than ever, but you can’t save something if you don’t know where it is and why it is important. George Smart, CEO and founder of USModernist, created the largest open digital archive of residential mid-century Modernist houses that documents over 15,000 Modernist houses. USModernist’s intrepid team of nonprofit staff and volunteers document nearly every Wright, Lloyd Wright, Neutra, Schindler, Lautner, Breuer, Gropius, Ellwood, Koenig, Ain, and Soriano houses – plus the work of 80 more architects – and the USModernist Library has scanned over 4 million pages of architecture magazines. As host of the long-running podcast USModernist Radio, named by DWELL as the #2 architecture and design podcast, George has informed, entertained, and inspired audiences with over 250 shows to engage preservationists. George and USModernist have won 17 honors for leadership in preservation, including a 2014 DOCOMOMO-US award, a 2022 national Honorary AIA and 2016 national AIA Institute Honors for Collaborative and Professional Achievement.
America's mid-century Modernist architects and their original clients are almost all dead; their houses have been sold several times; and the local real estate community would just as soon market teardowns as find new, caring owners. Despite many Modernist houses aging over the 50-year mark, city councils and preservation groups have a hard time considering Modernist houses to be historic - because 50 years later many still look like the future.
If you’re a Modernist fan in many towns and smaller cities, you may have asked: hasn't somebody documented the Modernist houses? Surely some architect or preservation society or library has a list? The answer is usually no. With bulldozers destroying mid-century Modernist houses daily, many "livable works of art" remain threatened by rising land prices and disinterested heirs, George shares the story and the details of how his energetic and dedicated team of volunteers documented over 15,000 Modernist houses across America, featuring nearly every Wright, Lloyd Wright, Neutra, Schindler, Lautner, Ellwood, Koenig, Ain, Soriano - built and unbuilt - and more.
In a talk called the Accidental Archivist, George Smart has informed, engaged, and entertained design-oriented audiences from California to New York - and every week reaches thousands more as host of the podcast USModernist Radio, named by DWELL as the #2 architecture and design podcast. Audiences will learn basic principles of modernist design, why it’s important and how easy it is to start a documentation and preservation effort in their communities - with nothing more than a car, a cell phone, and a laptop. After giving a talk, George often finds his inbox brimming with information and photos of classic mid-century houses discovered by newly enthusiastic fans who have even been known to drag spouses and partners, most willingly, out on weekends to drive around looking at architecture. Sometimes they are inspired to start documenting houses in their own communities. For educators, students, architects, real estate brokers and just people who love design, it’s a rollicking lecture! Within North Carolina, the talk is called Mayberry Modernism and covers the Tar Heel state.
George Smart has won multiple honors for historic preservation, including an Honorary National AIA and an National AIA Award for Collaborative and Professional Achievement. He takes The Accidental Archivist on the road to design and architecture conferences, museums, libraries, preservation organizations, and real estate associations across America. George is also available for panels (as participant or moderator). He has written for Atomic Ranch magazine (Jan 2018 / April 2018 / Winter 2018 / Sep 2019) and travels from Raleigh/Durham NC. He is @mr.modernism on Instagram. High-res photos: tux, jacket, Palm Springs, sweater. To book George and his talk, the Accidental Archivist, contact Rebekah Laney, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past talks include: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation * Modernism Week * Architecture Sarasota * WestEdge LA * NY School of Interior Design * Columbia Design League * AIA National Conference * AIA Foundation * Charlotte History Museum * Modern Richmond * Rhode Island State Preservation Conference * NC State College of Design * Branch Museum * Gregg Museum * AIA North Carolina * Preservation NC * NC ASLA * National Trust for Historic Preservation
Learning Objectives for CE
Participants learn how thousands of significant Modernist houses were documented and made available to the public online, many for the first time.
Participants identify the beginnings of residential Modernist design as part of a national movement.
Participants learn key differences between Modernist and contemporary architecture.
Participants learn the key architects and influencers in national Modernism.
Participants learn marketing methods to preserve mid-century Modernist houses through preservation, occupancy, and sustainable development strategies.
Participants discover how documenting, preserving, and promoting residential Modernist design benefits the architecture and construction industries.
Participants learn key differences between selling a traditional house and selling a Modernist house.
Participants gain free access to a digital archive of over 30,000 photos of over 15,000 Modernist houses, along with profiles on 400+ architects.
Participants learn how USModernist became the country's largest open digital archive for Modernist houses and a recognized leader in Modernist preservation with 17 local, state, and national awards.