N.C. Modernist Houses


“It’s just an easy way to hang out with people who share your same passion. How often do we get to do that?”

–George Smart, founder of N.C. Modernist Houses and organizer of Thirst4Architecture

by Jessie Ammons

When George Smart founded N.C. Modernist Houses a decade ago, he hoped to connect the area’s modernism enthusiasts. North Carolina has the third largest concentration of modernist homes in the nation – a fact, he says, that seemed to be known among architecture devotees only at the time. Initially, he launched a website documenting various sites of interest throughout the Triangle; it got so much traffic that he started organizing tours. Within a few years, folks asked for something more. “We wanted to gather people who like architecture simply to meet each other,” Smart says. “Often, if you love architecture, you feel like you’re the only one among your friends who has that interest.”

Dubbed Thirst4Architecture, the gathering has now been going strong for seven years. “I didn’t think this was going to last but a couple months at most,” Smart says. It began as a meeting of a few dozen hobbyists and has grown to a monthly gathering with an average attendance of 80, sometimes attracting as many as 200. And these days, Thirst4Architecture has venues clamoring to host its monthly gatherings: Retail stores, architecture firms, and other relevant spots register online for a chance to serve as meeting place, and “we book up six to 12 months in advance.” The evenings are a mix of mingling over refreshments and a raffle for donated door prizes, and while there’s always a new face, there’s always a familiar one, too. “We have some people that have been to 30 or 40 of these.”

The informal gathering’s success is thanks in part to its welcoming atmosphere: “If you can spell architecture, you’re in.” It’s also a good networking opportunity. “Outside of being a way to meet fellow adventurers in design, we have actual architects and builders and people in the industry. Folks are always looking for resources.” The demographic is wide, from 20-somethings to 85-year-olds, often depending on the location. A recent gathering at a Hillsborough auction house skewed middle-aged, while another recent event at The Raleigh Architecture Company was younger.

It’s that diversity that keeps people coming back. “It happens all the time: Somebody brings a friend or a spouse who’s not really into this, and then by the end, they want to go on a trip somewhere.”