Today I’m featuring two disconnected and distinct projects linked only by one formal trait – circular forms inset within squares.
The top project riffs on Adolf Loos’ Steiner House, isolating the iconic barrel vaulted roof, expressing it as a bow truss on the interior, and topping it with a central circular skylight.
The bottom is a take on a vestibule in Lutyens’ Middleton Park, where a hemispherical dome is cut rather unceremoniously by a rectangular rather than the typical square room beneath, giving the dome an inherent axis. I’ve topped this with a tall sculptural skylight, at once a nod to both the Choragic Monument and Michael Graves.
Sometimes the drawings I post seem rather schematic, but as part of the great importance of building in architecture, they can never remain that way. Here I present you with a more detailed take of a recent post, with hybrid Tuscan-Doric columns (perhaps Graves doing Doric, maybe?), minimal Mies-ian window jambs and stops, shingled wall with a moulded cap to make the column in antis, all topped with a simplified architrave, rosettes replacing triglyphs. I fancy the wood work might all be painted a glossy black, similar to Earnest Coxhead’s shingled houses in San Francisco (and Bob Stern’s take on them).
Today’s piece stems from an industrial building I passed by at Los Angeles’ wastewater treatment plant. The original was a blue corrugated steel box on diagonally braced stilts, with triangular recesses and frames above second story doors. I have no idea what this is used for. None. But The deliberateness of the design was evident, as the entire plant had been drawn up by Anthony Lumsden, a techno-postmodernist. So I clad it in shingles, inspired by some triangular dormers by Ike Kligerman Barkley, and set it on a chunky Tuscan colonnade (a la Graves), and called it ‘house’.
Maybe not what most people consider ‘capital-A’ architecture, but interesting nonetheless – interior walls and their treatment. These four options are studies for my own house, with coved ceilings, picture rail, wall base, chair rail, and wainscot sticking. The two top options explore large-scale masonry patterns a la Michael Graves, while the two bottom options divide the wall into sections, from many stripes to more distinct panels.
What would a frame roadtrip be without a little precedent study? Case 1 – the infamous, amazing, polarizing, kickass Portland Building. And just to show you that drawing is a learning process, complete with error, the front elevation shown above incorrectly correlates the stepped entrance pavilion and the Portlandia statue it rests on – hence the small partial elevation underneath it. Below, I highlight a discrepant exterior and interior window in elevation and section as well as interior tile ‘wainscotting’ and an exterior arcade.
This is not architecture – at least not in the traditional sense – this is a small piece of furniture with architectural referent. It stems from Michael Graves and his explorations of architectural tropes within product design. But it asks important questions regarding architectural language, offering the position that the language of building can be adapted and applied to other parts of our lives, even if it be devoid of true tectonic value (see the small ‘windows’ and ‘acroteria’ on the above drawings).
A golden oldie from Michael Graves’ heyday – this small townhouse or ‘carriage house’ is a perfect example of Graves’ mastery of the floor plan. Say what you want about his elevations, but his plans are money, and the enfilade depicted here is extraordinary. The foyer is an autonomous tempietto-like volume, with a walk-through library preceding the full-width living room to one side, and the kitchen-dining room volume to the other, with a long pilastered hall beyond flanked with a study and guest bedroom, while the master bedroom opens onto a patio.
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?
I’ve been fascinated with the impluvium for some time now – a large roughly cubic room with an inverted roof that is open to the sky at the center, an essential feature of the Roman domus house typology. This project places a large impluvium at its center, with modern courtyards and bedrooms flaking it, and more traditionally-scaled living spaces at the entry. Formal echoes of Irving Gill, H. H. Richardson, Richard Neutra, and Michael Graves abound.
Between reading a biography on H. H. Richardson and glancing through one of Michael Graves’ volumes, I thought up this little dormer – taken from the cantilevered round dormers found throughout Richardson’s work (and the Shingle Style at large), and met it with a perfect circular window (divided into nine lites, of course) such as Graves was wont to use, and made into a lantern of sorts, having windows on two sides. My documentation of Graves’ examples follows.