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.
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.
Today’s post is a small pavilion, four-square with on-center columns at each facade, radius-ed corners, each topped with a miniature turret and blended into a larger hip roof. Bits of Richardson clash with modernist modularity, postmodern idiom, and multiple readings in the plan (a diamond? a cruciform? nine-square even?). While I’ve drawn the exterior in brick, it could work wonderfully shingled or in clapboard, perhaps even stucco.
In penance for doing little posting of late, I present you with a little precedent study, and an archaeological one at that. Burnham & Root’s Armory Building (Chicago, 1882), was demolished in the 60’s, and Richard Nickel’s photos are little of what remains to tell the epic story of this impressive structure. Predating the Monadnock Building by 9 years, the simple masonry volume is rather unornamented, save for the excellent brickwork and rough-faced battered stone. A large skylit central drill hall anchors the form, which gives only small fortified slit windows to the street, save for the large, Richardsonian Syrian arch at the main entry. The windows pre-echo Kahn, but I’m not going to argue that he was so influenced, no matter how hard I’d like to. The structure is framed by the large load-bearing masonry walls, which are filled with long-span trussed arches, which allow for the large hall at the center. My first (failed) attempt at a truly square floor plan is at the bottom.
Continuing last week‘s Californian agricultural experiments, this small structure (which I’m titling a ‘cabin’, but really is a programless form) is square in plan with a pitched roof running in one direction, terminating in a dutch gable at the far end over a colonnaded porch and a large circular window in the gable face, and cantilevering over the entry portico, where two identical doors reference the four-square floor plan. The language owes much to Richardson, filtered through the vernacular, with a shingle roof, clapboard walls, and a flemish bond brick base.
While taking its name from one of John Hejduk’s many unbuilt projects, the One-Half House, this project offers a different interpretation of an architecture of halves. One half-plan of Richardson meets one half-plan of Neutra. The entry portico is recessed into the building line, and takes cues from some vernacular Angeleno tract homes from the 1930’s (concurrent with Neutra’s earlier formal explorations). I do think that the stucco variation at the bottom is much more convincing than the overtly Richardsonian brick variant – but maybe it needs to be weaned of a little too much Krier (Miami, or Windsor).
A square with Richardsonian towers on the corners, flat masonry facades in the main axis, with full-height shingle roofs over porches in the other. A skylit circular stair in a square hall in the center with octagonal-ish foyers on either end with half-round aedicules for entry porches.
I’ve had circles on the brain recently. Here’s an example of a small project that stemmed from a little single family residential remodel I’m working on, where we’re turning a nondescript backyard into a courtyard, uniting three distinct structures into one in the process. My version objectifies that courtyard, an off-center circular motor court, with a peristyle all around – porches, porticos, patios, garages, and alleys all spiral off of this singular form.
As I was writing this post a few weeks ago, I found the plan to be once again worthy of some further reflection and thought – precisely the nine-square plan, with a hybrid basilica and greek cross interior volume, the four empty corners filled with circular forms (bathrooms and stairs) encased in heavy poche, and all of it wrapped in a brick Richardsonian wrapper under a singularly simple red tile hip roof. The bottom iteration was the first, while I was still wrangling the plan into a perfect nine-square.
One half is a nine-square (Richardson wrapper, Mies core), while the other half is a four-square (Neutra patios, Mies fireplace). This came from a small garage conversion that never got off the ground – see bottom drawing. So here it is.