The Legacy of Tician Papachristou and Modern Architecture in Boulder

“Living in that house shaped our lives into the future. It refined our commitment to what modern design means to us,” Dick Jessor explains. 

“The home that Tician Papachristou designed was a jolt that made us exquisitely sensitive to our daily surround.” 

The famous Jessor House, also known as the Round House, was designed by Tician Papachristou, a celebrated mid-century modern architect. The annual Month of Modern Home Tour, sponsored by Compass Real Estate, in partnership with Historic Boulder and CU Boulder’s AIAS chapter, will feature five of his houses. The tour will provide a rare opportunity to walk through the interiors of some of the most inspiring private homes in Boulder’s neighborhoods. 

The Jessor home was a commission by long-time Boulder resident, distinguished Professor of Behavioral Science and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Colorado, Dick Jessor, and his first wife, Lee Jessor, who were close friends of Papachristou and his wife, Judy. 

The Jessors were both social scientists and met the architect through the university and had similar political views. The relationship opened the couple’s world to the study of form, space and function—something so removed from their own disciplines, and up until then, their daily lives.  

“I was always grateful to him and his instructions. Not as a pedagogue, but from what he simply conveyed through his expressions and passion.”

The Jessors commissioned the house from Papachristou in 1959. It was a radical design. There are circles upon circles; circular tubes, circular stairs, even the bathroom and bedrooms are circular. That experience of living in the Round House continues to reverberate, even today, according to Dick Jessor. 

It is often the case that youthful creative brilliance is constrained by our more earthly circumstances such as budgets and experience. The Jessors understood this. They gave Papachristou a carte blanche opportunity to design the house he wanted for them; creative liberty was their gift to their friend.  

“I had seen blueprints before, but never something like this. When Papachristou presented them to us we were just struck. We were stunned,” says Jessor. 

Carol Taylor is the current owner of the Jessor House. She explains that Papachristou homes were influenced by the vernacular architecture of his native Greece as well as modernists including Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier. The natural materials used were chosen for their low cost and sustainability, a concept echoed by other young architects and peers, such as Charles Haertling. 

Several decades later, Jessor and current wife, Jane Menken, enlisted Harvey Hine of HMH Architecture + Interiors to build their home. The original Jessor house had left a dramatic and lasting impression on the two; they couldn’t help but make the second home an ode to the legacy of Papachristou. 

Hine was entirely responsive to the idea. He saw the creative vision and helped realize the lasting impact of their relationship with Papachristou within their home.

The new Jessor/Menken House by HMH Architecture + Interiors is dynamic and stimulating. The house is a place where the outdoors and the indoors connect. There is light and openness and practically no doors inside the house. 

“It was an act of remarkable talent to create this design” credited Jessor. 

The legacy that Papachristou left is invaluable. His influence and teachings demonstrate that design has a pervasive effect on our daily navigation; a vital asset to Boulder’s past and present. The Month of Modern Home Tour is an incredible opportunity to experience the lasting impact of the work and an amazing celebration of the creative vitality of Boulder.