Cult Rooms In mid-century Long Island, Mary Callery’s unremarkable barn sparked Mies van der Rohe’s architectural imagination.

Cult Rooms In mid-century Long Island, Mary Callery’s unremarkable barn sparked Mies van der Rohe’s architectural imagination.

Issue 39

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Stephanie d’Arc Taylor
  • Photograph Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

New York’s Long Island, a short drive from Manhattan, is an un-likely trove of modernist architecture. Audacious homes by mid-century luminaries like Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright pepper the island. But the modernist gem with one of the flashiest backstories may be the one with the least remarkable exterior: a barn.

The story begins in 1930, when New York socialite Mary Callery left her old life—including her husband and young daughter—and sailed to Paris to open a sculpture atelier. The daughter of a wealthy couple, she probably wasn’t living as rough as many of her fellow expatriate artists and writers had done in the preceding decade. But the fact that she came from money didn’t preclude her from captivating the Paris avant-garde.

This cosmopolitan cohort, members o...

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