Lambert and Robbins knew that the architect had been watched during the Red Scare and submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request to review any declassified FBI documents on him. While they were initially denied, further requests were granted. Upon digging into the documents, it quickly became clear that Ain and his family were the target of three decades of surveillance. Documents relate that even his babysitter reported his family to the government, suspicious of the “literature” in their home and noting that they “seemed to be in some sort of group.”
While there are some newspaper stories around the MoMA house, in the absence of much documentation, until recently it was largely unclear what the house actually looked like. For the show’s first outing in Venice, Robbins and Lambert presented a model that recreated it, based on their research and understanding. But the New York iteration of “This Future Has a Past” also includes a newly discovered model of the structure, which was recently acquired by MoMA for its collection.
According to this latter model, the MoMA house resembles one of Ain’s unrealized Los Angeles Community Homes, which, Robbins noted, the FBI suspected was linked to the Communist Party. By the time Ain began working on the MoMA house, he knew that this L.A.residential project was dead in the water, as it had been denied government loans because it was racially integrated.
“Ain was being a bit sly,” said Robbins, nodding to the decision to make the MoMA house so similar to the design for the Community Homes. After finishing the MoMA commission, he returned to California and aware of the surveillance on him, told his business partners that he could be a liability and resigned. He continued to work and design houses, but his days of ambitious housing developments were behind him.