Photo by William Hutton Jr.

The 2012 William Bernoudy Ladue News Show House provides a rare look inside one of the more interesting and important modern residential structures in St. Louis. Designed by William Adair Bernoudy (1910-1988) and completed in 1961, the home was built for Mr. and Mrs. John J. Horan and is an outstanding example of the transition from traditional to modern organic architecture in St. Louis.

A St. Louisan by birth, Bernoudy grew up in University City, attended University City High School and spent one year at Washington University, before going on to study for three years at Frank Lloyd Wright’s school at Taliesin in Wisconsin. In the years that followed, Bernoudy developed his own interpretation of organic architecture that showed a clear regard and respect for the building site and its natural conditions; sensitivity to materials, particularly brick, wood and glass; an understanding of openness and flow within a structure; and an appreciation of the relationship of the interior to the exterior.

In a lecture given to the Garden Club of Kirkwood in April 1936, Bernoudy gave an eloquent argument supporting his ideas of modern organic architecture. “In America, architecture in general has borne no closer relation to its environment than a tombstone bears to a graveyard,” he said, noting that most traditional residential structures “are superimposed on the ground, ruthlessly unaware of topography, or climate.”

The Horan house, like so much of Bernoudy’s work, is a physical refutation of the ‘tombstone’ mentality and demonstrates a way of thinking about residential architecture that celebrates an informal and sympathetic relationship between the garden and the house. Built with large expanses of glass, the house opens onto a pastoral setting and is filled with daylight, yet devoid of glare. In terms of the floor plan, the Horan house is a vivid example of the new concept of openness and flexibility that encouraged the freedom and informality of modern family life.

The Horan house also is notable for its rich finish detail and sumptuous materials, including copper fireplace hood, white terrazzo floors and built-in bookcases, the latter forming a prominent feature in the public areas of the home. Bedrooms open onto a balcony and in one, the treetops are visible through a large glazed gable in the sloped ceiling above the light shelf. Noteworthy exterior features include a walled entrance court, private outdoor space, and geometric lattice work motifs in garden walls and balcony railings displayed against the texture of brick walls and walkways.