Winged Wonders are Back!

CA-Modern findings are proof positive—butterfly roofs are taking flight once again
butterfly roofs
Wynkoop House, Carmel. (photo: Chris Axe)

The attraction is gone for this season, along with the ecotourists who stream to the California coast to see the natural spectacle of the wintering monarch butterflies.

So, until the monarchs' return at year's end, where does one go to find butterflies?

Dedicated modernists have no trouble answering that question, for the butterfly roof, with its jaunty, eye-catching 'V' shape, has always been one of the sweetest elements of the mid-century modern design. Houses with butterfly roofs are also hot properties these days.

As proof, Dave Weinstein's whimsical, new story for the Spring 2014 issue of CA-Modern magazine traces the history and appeal of this architectural species of butterfly—from its 1920s 'chrysalis' in the minds of architectural giants Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, through its heyday in the 1950s, to its recent reemergence on drawing boards of modernist architects from around the world.

Though our engaging tale brings together several sites of butterfly roof sightings throughout California, the place where the most can be caught is in the arid Palm Springs desert.

In that setting, "the lots were large enough to let a butterfly house settle in and spread out," Weinstein remarks about their construction, “and the rise and fall of the mountains in the distance echoed the rise and fall of the butterfly wings.”

In fact, the rise and fall—and second coming, as well—of the butterfly roof makes for a fascinating story you won't want to miss. For more, come fly with us through 'Return of the Butterflies,' a sneak preview of the new Spring issue of CA-Modern.