Before hooking up with a builder, anyone with a new home in their future might do well to look at this graceful example of how architects create drama “sans open above.” I don’t know what the building looks like outside but it is not difficult to imagine a 1940’s apartment building version of one of the old Chicago School high rise buildings of Burnham & Root or better yet, a Renaissance Revival work by Emery Roth.
Archive for December, 2011
When the garage is attached, the owners are too often temped to reclaim the living space, which leads to more of those unintended consequences. Most garage conversions look home made and are a big turn off to prospective buyers. This home owner thought he would get away with it by locating the bay window where the old garage door was. An architect would have told him to use the money he spent on the bay window to cut the driveway back and extend the brick finish and landscaping. The problem is, real people don’t hire architects. In this case they should have.
Why hire an architect when it is so easy to just copy their ideas. Somewhere around 1950 some pseudo modernist decide that if Frank Lloyd Wright could attach a garage to a house, then it must be a good idea. Just think of the convenience! Straight from the car to the house with the groceries and all that. Pretty soon very “un-Frank Lloyd Wright” city planners figured it into their formula for lot coverage. So if the garage was actually detached and located in the back yard, there was only enough net area left over to build a very tiny, usually 2 story house because the long driveway was included in the lot coverage calculation. Although recently new construction has moved away from this practice, the damage is already done. We see entire neighborhoods of “welcome to my garage.”
Way back in 1976 I opened the attic space of a single story wing under a gabled roof. The new ceiling was finished with tongue and groove that matched the old wood cross ties that were exposed in the process. The wood absorbed sound and the cross ties maintained the human scale of the the room. The affect was dramatic but subtle. At that exact moment in time the idea of, not only “open above”, but of “open everything” hit critical mass and took off, until now it drives whole building projects.
Here, as in almost all builder dwellings, the soaring ceiling is achieved at the expense of human interaction and sense of place. Did you ever eat dinner in a restaurant when you were the only customer? The feeling of exposure is the same. A good architect can design an open ceiling that avoids this pitfall.
And speaking of vernacular, this would otherwise be a modest but appealing and cared for little cottage. Instead, it has been made into an out of scale cartoon of mixed styles and materials by some well intentioned property owner with no thought of architects or the services they offer. A half hour meeting with a local architect might have turned this little house from silly to sweet.