Wednesday, December 12, 2007

These Places Are Sweet Too!

Thanks to Brookester, and her Yum Yum Farm Blog observers in Ohio for their comments! We thought we'd take this opportunity to show just a few of the many buildings that we find inspiring. While our house doesn't really look like these buildings, we are influenced by the way that they interact with their environments, and create interior spaces that are either fun to be in, or provided protection from the elements while bringing the outside in. Or the inside out. Or, blurring the distinction between the two. One of the requirements for our house was that it respect its context, which is why it has a fairly traditional midwestern vernacular appearance on the outside. But, we are fans of modern architecture, and the creative use of space in modern buildings. Our friends in Ohio correctly recognize that the Yum Yum Farm house is small, but we (esp. John DeForest) have managed to pack a lot of utility into this modest space. You'll have to trust us, that it feels bigger when you are inside. As we mentioned in an earlier post, we are frequently asked if we are doing anything "Green". The mostest greenest thing we're doing is building a house that is not bigger than what we need! Take a look, and if you get a chance to visit these places, we encourage you all to do so!

The first is nearest (literally) and dearest to our hearts. This is Cedar Rock, in Quasqueton, Iowa, by Frank Lloyd Wright ca. 1950. This was built as a summer home on a bluff (that's the Cedar Rock part) overlooking the Wapsipinicon river, for Lowell and Agnes Walter. It is possible to walk out of nearly every room in this house to the lovely yard beyond. The "garden room", at the far right, is completely surrounded by glass, which allows views of the yard, woods, and river. It includes radiant (or "gravity") heating, which runs underneath the painted concrete floor, a bathroom design borrowed from a Pullman sleeper car (from the days when people travelled by train), and the original house plants from the time of construction. Following the Walters' passing, they bequeathed their house to the state of Iowa, with a trust for its maintenance, and it is now an Iowa State Park, maintained in beautiful condition, and free for anyone to visit.
Charles and Ray Eames built their home below in collaboration with Eero Saarinen (his John Deere world headquarters was featured in an earlier post) in California. This is one of the Case Study Houses (#8, I think). We love the playfullness of this home, and it reminds us of the feel of the Yum Yum Farm House. We like to listen to music loud, and just generally enjoy ourselves, and from what we've seen, the Eames' felt the same way. We had the good fortune to see a presentation by their grandson (Eames Demetrios) recently, highlighting his grandparents talent, creativity, and joy. Their home, too, allows easy access to the exterior, features bright colors, and has an open floor plan.

Philip Johnson's 1949 "Glass House" in New Canaan, Connecticut, is perhaps the most extreme example of a home interacting with its environment. It is beautiful in its simplicity, framing the stunning landscape while providing shelter, anchored by the sturdy brick bathroom/chimney core, and steel beams. Perhaps not suitable for raising a family, it appears to be an amazing place to relax and take in the gorgeous landscape on a rainy, or snowy, or windy, or sunny, day. This is on the "must see" list.

Finally, this is the Edith Farnsworth house, by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, in Plano, Illinois. This is located in the flood plain of the Fox River, and it so literally interacts with its environment that the river has run through it on occasion. We're not fans of that. But this design is another extreme example of blurring the lines between inside and out, in a particularly pretty setting. We're not too well versed on which architect influenced the other, but Johnson's work appears to be a logical descendant of his earlier home, though his work, even on his own property, is eclectic. He seems to have been adept at channeling and reinterpreting other masters. Mies' earlier and later work is characterized by the lines and materials seen in the Farnsworth house.
Like much of what we've written about on the blog, these are simplifications by someone who is no expert! But if you're interested, much is written about, and many pictures are taken of these gorgeous structures. We hope that someday it will be possible to check out a book from the library that features the Yum Yum Farm house!