To the extent that modernism in architecture was about clearing the historical decks — about dramatically and even gleefully breaking with the past — Cliff May was never cut out to be a modernist. Not an orthodox one, anyway.
And yet there was always something plainly modern at the core of May’s work. His ranch houses were unfussy, even spare. And their smooth connection to the outdoors took the idea of the open plan, central to canonical European modernism, and extended it seamlessly to include the backyard, in the process helping transform the American garden from something to gaze at through the windows into a fully appointed open-air room.