Oregon has a large number of covered bridges, where the wood trusses had to be protected from the persistent damp and subsequent rot and failure. These are simple, rectangular, white clapboard (or board & batten) gabled ‘houses’, concealing impressive, large-scale Howe trusses inside. I find engineered structures to have a brutal beauty, especially those of the early 20th Century, and often believe the Historic American Engineering Record to be much more fascinating than its architectural counterpart. These covered bridges offer a wonderful contrast between the utilitarian trussed interiors and the domestic exterior form. There might just be another project somewhere in there. . .
I had wanted to draw this while we were on site, but the monk who was giving us a tour was moving at a brisk rate. This is the entrance pavilion to Aalto’s Library at Mount Angel, as previously featured here, and is worth featuring because of the inherent classicism of it all – strictly modular, rigidly symmetrical (minus that one angled wall on the right), with a well-coordinated ceiling plan, brick floor patterning, column placement, and door/storefront alignment. For the über-modernist Aalto, this is proof that his early education in Nordic Classicism never truly left. Details below.
Taking its form from some barn structures I passed on my trip to Oregon, this house has two opposing axes, one large gable, and a hip-ish roof. A spiral stair gently curves out on the side opposite the main entry. Classical details sit happily next to vernacular forms. Further formal explorations below
Following up on two themes from my northward journey, I’m giving you a look into two ideas, both alike in simplicity. The Coast: a cabin, square with a large hip roof over a wrap-around porch, and elevations that need a good fleshing out. Farmland: a barn, with deep eaves on three sides, enclosed in glass behind.
Diagonally symmetrical, this small cabin type is a riff on the minimal, mid-century cabin we spent a week in on the Oregon coast. The plan is four-square, with the living room occupying one corner, fully glazed, with the hearth as a corner-focused object: this is a direct quote of our cabin, down to the thin-gauge blackened steel hearth. The rest of the plan stems from this single move, with the circular stair opposite, a study and kitchen flanking. The roof runs a single gable along the diagonal toward the living room, but tapers back into a typical hip for the two other facades.
Alvar Aalto has only three built structures in the United States: a dormitory at MIT, an interior on Manhattan, and a library at a Benedictine Abbey in Mount Angel, Oregon. These few drawings are my rapid attempt to distill some important moments from the Abbey library, which I visited on a recent trip up the Pacific coast: A section through the skylit split-level reading room, and a plan beneath; a detail section through a typical study desk, which run the length of the double-height spaces, eliminating a traditional guardrail; and a detailed plan of a glass partition at independent study carrels, with hollow-steel-section framing members and wood stops – a beautiful, humane, change to the typical Miesian system. There was so much more, but unfortunately so little time.
My wife and I drove the coast on our way back home from Portland, and we stumbled upon an lighthouse along the Coquille river in southern Oregon. I was struck by the simple forms rendered in white plaster: the tall cylindrical light and a low lozenge-shaped accessory building. These were both detailed in a pseudo-French collection of mannered profiles and mouldings, with large cyma-ed keystones and segmental arches, and iron king-rod trussed roof construction. Civic work today pales in comparison.