The Braun House
____ Carr Street, Hillcrest Acres, Lakewood
Offered at $_______
The Architect of the Braun House
Owning an architect-designed mid-century modern home is a special treat. The extra care that mid-century architects took in planning a home for its site, thinking about light, views, air movement, sound, space, and more is evident. So too are the infinite details that take the home from being just a house to being a well-conceived home, an enjoyable home, one that stands the test of time, and one that is really meant for living. It’s a doubly special treat when that architect designed the home for himself and his family. And so is the case with the Braun House.
Architect Robert M. Braun designed this house for himself and his family, completing it in 1956, and living in it for the rest of his life. The house predates the architect’s movement into independent practice but demonstrates his modernist sensibilities, which could not have come from a more credible source . . . Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe.
A Wisconsin native, Bob Braun served in World War II where he was near-fatally shot by a sniper during the D-Day invasion in France. After spending 6 months in the hospital in France, Braun returned to the United States to continue his recovery at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center (today known as Building 500 at the Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora), where he spent another year getting back on his feet. During that time, he met his future wife, and became inspired to pursue a career in architecture.
He was accepted on the G.I. Bill to the architecture program at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago and relocated there with his new wife, Helen. At that time, IIT was under the direction of Mies van der Rohe who is considered one of the founding modern masters to influenced the entire modernist movement in architecture world wide. His influence on par with the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier. Mies designed countless modern masterpieces in the Chicago area, including the building for the architecture school itself, Crown Hall, which was completed the same year as the Braun House.
To have studied under the influence of Mies van der Rohe, would have meant learning more than just architectural style. IIT and other Bauhaus-influenced architecture schools were making a major shift in the ideas of architecture education from teaching students about various historicist styles and how to execute them, to teaching the modernist ideas of how architecture influences humanity. Architecture students were taught that buildings should relate to their streetscape, to their environment, and even to the urban fabric that surrounds them. They were taught new ideas about how to use new materials and techniques to affect light, sound, air, views, and space. They were taught that buildings could be designed from the inside out, rather than just as edifices for which functionality and flexibility was secondary. Most importantly they were taught that a building’s relationship to the humans that use them is the most important thing. While mid-century modern architecture is often dismissed as a stylistic trend, the truth is that mid-century modern architecture was the attempt by young architects like Braun to execute this new vision of architecture as something that can uplift people and society. To look at the Braun House and Braun’s body of work though that lens is to see that influence of Mies van der Rohe and the Bauhaus on his thinking.
After his graduation from IIT, Braun returned to Denver and worked for the Bureau of Land Management and various Denver architects before striking out on his own in 1958, opening an office in Longmont, where he practiced for 40 years while still residing on Carr Street in Lakewood. His daily commute was 100 miles, but Braun enjoyed the drive, and was interested in serving clients both in northern Colorado and in Denver. He practiced until his death at the age of 72.
Braun’s work was a mix of custom homes and small commercial projects. His most challenging project is said to have been the three-winged Bella Vita Rehabilitation Hospital at I-25 & Krameria in Denver, where he employed clean lines, local materials and ample glass in every room, providing unobstructed views of the front range (a classic example of modernist ideal of putting the human first).
Says Braun’s family:
“Like his teacher/mentor, Mies van der Rohe who is remembered for his philosophy “Less is more,” Bob was a walking testament of this theory. His humble, quiet attitude, his calming voice and the love for his family . . . thought out, and carefully sketched . He cared deeply for his clients. He developed lifelong friendships. He committed himself to making an honest living rather than hitting it big. He was fair. Today, his presence still resonates in the homes and buildings he designed. His legacy will continue to grow in the hearts and minds of those he touched forever. Robert M. Braun was an architect . . . a master of purposeful living.”
Photos and drawings generously provided by the Braun family.
News Clippings from Braun’s Career
News clippings generously provided by the Braun family.