Case Study: American Foursquare Part II
This photo comes from a 2008 post on The Feeling Is Mutual blog. At the time, it was a new build in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is obviously an attempt to do the exact thing I'd hoped to: modernize the Foursquare while keeping the craftsman language.
It has the characteristic front porch and tapered columns. The basic shape of the home is familiar: two story box. And one of my favorite features: the rafter tails at the roof.
Now, before I even get to the roof line and the second story windows, let's just point out a few things I think are disappointing 'misses'.
Architecture is subjective. What is beautiful to one is not ideal for another and I'm no expert by any means. With undergoing the American Foursquare study, I thought a simple way to update a type of home I love, would be simply updating the plan and perhaps the materials. It still failed to communicate a contemporary look. So, I brought in my husband. It was actually quite funny to listen to us argue about how to tweak a building style which we both love and admire. But we persevered...to some extent, I guess. Honestly, I'm quite sick of sparring with Sketch-Up and trying to change something I honestly liked in the first place: the 1918 version of the American Foursquare.
Context in Design
Despite an architect's best intentions, it is the Owner's agenda which will shape the design in ways which no architect may predict.
Additionally, CONTEXT should never be overlooked. The queues one receives from the site on which the building sits should inform everything from how you site the building for sun exposure to how you arrange and layout the building components in order to gain the desired views to enhance the occupants experience throughout the life of the building. The context established by the site of the building will influence materials, aesthetics, size, building systems as well as the labor by which it is built. Design is nothing without its context by which it is shaped.
This list could go on and on, but what I want to focus on is the neighborhood context. More specifically: that neighborhood in Gun Barrel City, Texas mentioned the other day in a former post. By no means is the sleepy neighborhood a product of urban development: no executives were involved in shaping the infrastructure into a web of streets, inlets, and cul de sacs. By the looks of it, it has grown organically only when necessary. The five lots my husband bought at action years ago have never been developed--to build on them, the owner must pay to clear the overgrown brush and bring water and sanitary sewer to the site. The neighboring homes range from traditional 1950 ranch style homes, to mobile homes, to metal shacks.
In the Gun Barrel City neighborhood, it's obvious that a home such as the 'Box with a Ribbon' may not immediately fit in. It would not have neighbors which share its design aesthetic therefore preventing the desired cohesiveness. It does have one thing working for it: its size. The home is the same approximate size and though rare, there are other two-story homes near by. I've always thought this was important. It make me giggle when watching the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. At the end of a herculean effort, home owners are left with a home which over powers their neighborhood and seems to thumb its nose to the other homes.
But must a home sit amongst others with similar design quality in order to exist peacefully? I think this deserves consideration. No one wants the McMansion built next door in their craftsman or Tudor style neighborhood. And I would imagine one would be uncomfortable building an ultra-modern home in a neighborhood of mobile homes. But surely there is common ground. I think as long as the size is comparable and setbacks are treated equally, one can manipulate materials in order to foster cohesiveness.
It is the Owner's input which will make the design. Otherwise, wouldn't the house simply be a builder's stock plan where you may be able to choose the color of brick or the type of predetermined 'upgrades' you are willing to pay for? I dare to say its the architect which brings your house a unique quality which designed within the context of its settings and the context defined by its owner's personality.
The Weekender - a Box with a ribbon
This project has evolved and though I wish it were for Bart and I, I'm certain we could never relax in such a place with a 3 year old running around. But then I guess that is what grandparents are for, right?
Set in a wooded area, this house works well. We own a few lots down in Gun Barrel City, Texas-- five lots all together so this would ideally be nestled into one of the center lots to maintain the privacy despite the vast windows. The community is just a stones throw from Cedar Creek Lake though not close enough to dock your boat.
The floor plan is a 25'x25' square, stacked. It's just large enough to provide an open floor plan without making you feel like you are back in your college apartment which was a single room + a bathroom advertised as 'open floor plan'. Upstairs there is a suitable bedroom space with full bath plus a den/office/whatever you make of it.
What I love about the house is the ribbon
which winds its way around the box serving as an awning on one side and
then a balcony on the other.
This project has obviously turned into something of a Sketch-Up exploration to see how many objects we can insert into the file without it crashing. If only we knew how to insert proper lighting, though I'm sure the computer would absolutely melt down.
Either way, I think this is a viable design worthy of refinement and development. Thoughts or suggestions?
I giggle thinking of how this house design would be received in the neighborhood...it's not what you would call modern or contemporary. However, if THRASHER WORKS built out all five lots, we may just be able to change their minds.
So, do I have any takers? Seriously, five lots for sale in a sleepy neighborhood...you would swear you are out in the middle of nowhere. And I know the perfect architect for you.
This week has presented a new direction from last week's American Foursquare Study....a direction much more familiar to me: Modern.
The familiar line connects points in space giving your project a miraculous organization which had been previously lacking. Such a regulating line would never be obvious to those who don’t visualize the world in plan. Therefore, the axis should come alive and envelope the building, lending to its shape and function.
Rising up and folding forward, the axis splits the public from private and then gives shelter to the three spaces at the front with grand open plan and high ceilings. I see this as monolithic spine honoring both form and function. A monolithic spine made of concrete, the magic material. My husband laughs, but if you are going to build a modern home, go all the way! Can you imagine a buttery smooth concrete wall, 12 feet tall running the length of your home? You'd be living in your very own modern art gallery with grand windows and soft light.