Most often, architects design with ‘plan as generator’, that is we begin designing a building with the floor plan, and derive all the elevations, sections, and even details from it.
Today, though, is something different. This began as an elevation – what you see above. I was thinking something between Adolf Loos and Irving Gill, with a Richardsonian picturesque quality – a ‘character study’ if you will. A rectangular volume makes up the center with a cubic one stepped down to the right and a smaller cube to the left, with a stair tower at the ‘rear’.
The plan – below – came after, trying to work out precisely how the different squares and modules worked together, playing localized symmetries and forms against one another, and eventually placing a formal parterre garden on the upper level with a pool deck on the lower, while a gravel auto court fleshes out the public side of the property.
Small (often illegal) studios riddle the Hollywood Hills, where all ilk of entertainment-oriented folk hash out their hits and edit down their next Oscar-worthy performances. . . or so the stereotype goes.
This is such a studio – a miniature white cube set deep into the hillside with a service shed and private garden adjacent. Upon approach, only the pyramidal skylight is visible, slowly revealing the tall archways underneath upon descending a spiral stair. The form itself owes much to both Irving Gill and O.M. Ungers, with a few picturesque moments from Wallace Neff’s Spanish Colonial Revivalism thrown in for good measure. Upcoming posts will feature the interior of the studio, with that large skylight and intricate trusswork above.
Some time ago, I shared a very Irving-Gill-dependent rectangular home with a wrap-around arcaded veranda. Today, I’m offering a new take on that plan – taking a cue from the Shingle Style and rounding out the corners of the veranda, and subsuming the whole under a large, steeply pitched hip roof. Here, the veranda is more closely tied to the rectangular volume behind it, rather than merely acting as a stand-alone wrapper. Personally, I find both equally interesting, but I’ll let you take your pick.
There’s a single family house in my neighborhood that was at one time wrapped in a deep arcade. Though rotting and falling apart (and no doubt unpermitted), the regular rhythm of the arches masks the asymmetrically placed windows and doors behind. I tied this with Irving Gill’s Oceanside City Hall of 1934 (also here), which uses an arcade in a similar fashion, to regularize an otherwise syncopated facade.
Today’s project takes Gill’s more refined use of the arcade and applies it to the single family home, a typical, asymmetrical, single story, home not unlike many here in Southern California (and indeed in many suburban neighborhoods). This results in some interesting conditions, with some occupied spaces pushed right up behind the arcade while leaving shallow porches elsewhere, and even enclosing a small garden within its bounds.
The options below take the same floor plan of above, but add a second floor, positioning the arcade proper against taller volumes behind.
Staring at a blank sheet, knowing that I want to draw something, just not knowing what to draw, sometimes I try to draw the plan of a house from memory. This particular day I was musing over Greene & Greene’s seminal Gamble House, the high water mark of the California Craftsman bungalow. But being my own self, obsessed with modules and keeping things on grid, I drew it a little differently, quickly observing a plan that reminded myself more of Gill than Greene. So I ran with it. White stucco replaces darkened shingles; Rectangular parapets take the place of deep Japanese-inspired gables; Minimally appointed Italianate colonnades take over for iron-wrapped wood posts. What we’re left with, while deriving from the Gamble House no doubt becomes something completely different, yet all the while essentially Californian.
This small house takes its initial generation from a small, L-shaped home I drove past while on vacation in Oregon this past spring, where a porch filled out the square floor plan, its tall hip roof hitting the crotch of the two-story L behind. My version envisions a three-story volume to heighten the drama of the hip roof over the porch, with a circular stair at the corner of the L, while large Richardsonian Syrian arches front each gabled end, here rendered with a Gill-inspired symplicity. I also toyed with adding a wing outside the L, after seeing a photo of a similarly planned house which featured a few wing additions – in this parti, the L is subsumed into an overall symmetry.
Another Gill-inspired project, this time taking planometric cues from Ungers, with a large central hall that cuts through three stories to a pyramidal skylight atop, wrapped in a continuous arcaded portico all around. Maybe this one could do with killer attic spaces, for a fourth floor.
To celebrate my birthday, my wife took me to see over 20 of Irving Gill’s extant works. I’ve always appreciated this seminal figure, and his lasting impact upon Southern California’s architectural development, but had never taken it upon myself to actually seek out his work in person. Lesson learned. And as much as I appreciate precedent study, that is the representation of existing works through drawing, I believe that history must be operative – that is, we must look to how history can work for us today. Not only what we can learn from it, but what we can do with it.
And with that introduction, I give you a small house, three squares in plan, stepped in section, cubic in volume. The articulation of the volumes is typical Gill, with an arcade wrapping the a portion of the ground floor as a screen, yet open to the air above (quoting Gill’s Bishop’s School in La Jolla). The remainder of the details are taken from Ungers, with some Schindler-esque diagonal planning.
My brother-in-law lives in a small military town in the Mojave desert, and when he mentioned buying cheap land and building something, naturally I got thinking. Courtyard typologies sprang to mind, perhaps met with elements of pueblo adobe rectangular masses and carved wood porches. My plan offers a square adobe mass punctured with a circular courtyard and fountain at its center (evaporative cooling), and is rimmed with wood porches about to enjoy the expansive desert vistas, and to offer deep shade to any exterior openings.
While traces of Irving Gill abound in the reductive classical-vernacular language, the plan geometries posed a small problem, reconciling the circular interior form and the division of rectangular rooms about. I turned to Palladio’s Villa Capra (La Rotonda) for help, but also needed to situate the rooms of a modern single family residence, and thought Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cheney House might work.
A typical typology of Southern California, the bungalow court is typified by a series of low, one-story units arrayed around a small courtyard, all fit onto a single residential lot. Most often, the structures were fitted in the Spanish Colonial Revival, Moderne, or (less frequently) the Arts and Crafts styles. My interpretation favors a hybrid language of the Moderne with hints of Gill. After drawing a perfectly fine elevation, I couldn’t help myself but to fit out a delightful little tiempetto on the corner. . . working a bit of Michael Graves back into things – because, why not?