The geometry of the United States’ iconic modernist residences have been frequently examined and written about, but literature relating to the building’s performance or response mechanisms to climate demands has focused more on generic discussion and overall suppositions. These papers shine a type of digital searchlight, back some seventy years, to examining the environmental and energy performance of modernist icons through the use of state of the art techniques. 

Sustaining Modernity: An Analysis of a Modern Masterpiece, the Gropius House

The Walter Gropius House (1938), a Modernist Icon is a museum property owned and maintained by Historic New England. The image below shows a study of the shading intensities created by the passive strategies of landscaping and building geometry occurring over the course of one day (July 15).

The research objective was to quantify the energy intensity of the house by creating and optimizing a parametric computer energy model. The procedure described in this research provides a detailed outline of the energy modeling process with accompanying results. The goal was to advance the understanding of the performance of Modernist icons, offering insight into sustainable building strategies in use before the advent of contemporary technologies.

Climate Responsive Design and the Milam Residence

Energy conservation and efficiency is an essential area of focus in contemporary building design. The perception that the designers of buildings during the Modernist period of architecture ignored these principles is a false one. The present study, an examination of Paul Rudolph’s Milam Residence, a masterpiece of American residential architecture, was part of a larger project endeavoring to create a knowledge base of the environmental performance of iconic modernist homes.

Milam Residence (1962) was the last of a series of Florida residences designed by Paul Rudolph, Chairman of the Department of Architecture at Yale University (1958-1965). The image above shows the geometry of the residence inserted into an energy model ready for simulations.


  • FIOCCHI, C.; Sustaining Modernity: An Analysis of The Gropius House. Autodesk Sustainability Workshop (2013)
  • FIOCCHI, C.; HOQUE, S.; Sustaining Modernity: An Analysis of a Modern Masterpiece -The Gropius House. 13th Canadian Conference on Building Science and Technology (2011)
  • FIOCCHI, C.; HOQUE, S.; SHAHADAT, M.: Climate Responsive Design and the Milam Residence. Journal of Sustainability (2011) p. 2289 – 2306.

Involved Faculty