Case Study House #21 (Pierre Koenig)

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Koenig's Scott House

Postby Josquin » Wed Feb 20, 2008 3:49 pm

Mr Scott was the original client and contractor. There were a number of changes to the original plans. There are also a number of odd details, like the unfinished fireplace in the dining room. The interior walls were originally specified to be of wood paneling, but were built with wall board. The master bath has a very odd configuration that is not in the original plans.

The house is now managed by the son and up for rent. The son does not want to put any more money into the house although it has quite a bit of deferred maintenance. The roof leaks, floors have water damage, doors are inoperable, problems with the septic tank, radiant heating, and landscaping. Those are just some of the problems I know about.

Like many houses of this period, you really do have be "with the program" to appreciate the house. The house relies upon passive solar heating and cooling, supplemented only with radiant heat. These systems require a bit of planning and thoughtful landscaping to be optimal. Many would consider these systems and this shelter to be too primitive. I fear the worse for this house.

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Postby SDR » Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:20 pm

Some properties are best left quietly off an architect's list ?

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Koenig Houses

Postby Josquin » Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:17 am

Three, Lamel, Scott & Burwash, of the four Koenig houses in our area are in terrible condition. A shame, since Koenig only produced small number of completed projects. These are the houses that brought him to the attention of Entenza and immediately proceeded Case Study house #21. It is interesting to note, no photographs of the Scott house were ever published only Koenig's drawings.

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Postby SDR » Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:12 am

Interesting. I'm sure it's painful to an architect to have his work botched, if only because subsequent publicity can distort his reputation and the perception of his intentions as an architect.

Wright had to disown several built projects for that reason. In a struggle between architect and owner, no one wins (in my opinion).

Is there a monograph on Pierre Koenig ? There's an owner and collector who has restored more than one of his houses, isn't there ?

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Postby SDR » Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:30 pm

A member of the Wright Chat discussion board kindly passes along this suggestion:

"Pierre Koenig" by James Steele and David Jenkins, published by Phaidon. Don't know if it's still in print. The paperback, 11 1/2"x 10", 160 page book listed for $29.95. Many b&w and color photos, renderings and plans. A worthwhile purchase imo.

Thanks, EJ ! SDR

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Postby robbhouston » Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:10 pm

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Re: Koenig Houses

Postby Stephen » Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:52 pm

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koenig

Postby allen » Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:58 pm


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Postby SDR » Thu Feb 21, 2008 4:06 pm

"I laugh in the face of danger! Then I hide until it goes away." Bender

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Koenig House No. 1

Postby Josquin » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:11 pm

Last edited by Josquin on Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Stephen » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:12 pm

Stephen Meade

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Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect

http://www.OCModHomes.com

http://www.CliffMaySocal.com

and

Cliff May Homeowner

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Postby gwdiener » Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:27 pm


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Postby SDR » Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:41 pm

Is the Scott residence in the book ?

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Postby robbhouston » Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:30 am

http://www.nashvillemodern.com

A little website I created to showcase my home and other MCMs in and around the Nashville TN area.

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Koenig's Scott House

Postby Josquin » Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:37 am

The Scott house is on page 29. There are three drawings of the house by Koenig and a floor plan.

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Postby Dan O. » Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:29 am


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Postby Tony » Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:40 pm

This Zillow picture is pretty bad, but it looks like the house still exists:



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Postby SDR » Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:04 pm

"Honey, it's a dump. What were they thinking ? But we can fix it up. . ."

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Postby Tony » Fri Feb 22, 2008 6:59 pm

And we all should remember that the Kaufmann house was sold as a tear down!

One think I like to mention when I lecture or give tours is a singular difference between modern architecture and, say Spanish architecture. When a Spanish building ages or gets run down, it aquires patina. Whereas a modern building just looks like hell. And if often takes someone with vision to look past the deterioration to appreciate what the building was, and what it could be. Unfortunately, those people are fairly rare (except on Lotta Living).

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Postby classic form » Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:28 am

That's an interesting statement regarding patina on a modern building/house. I have been flip flopping on that question for several years. Do you feel there is no room for patina? What about on natural materials? The garden hardscape (stone/slate/brick etc...)? Aged gray redwood?

I'd be interested in hearing everyones opinion.

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Postby robbhouston » Sat Feb 23, 2008 6:14 am

Sometimes I find it kinda cool to see vintage modern structures with a bit of natural aging in tact. A very modern looking structure (that looks almost as if it's from the future) with some natural age on it kind of makes for a wierd time travel sensation when you're looking at it. I don't mean neglected. Just subtle little somethings to give clues as to the age of the place. To me, that's almost more exciting than seeing a renovation so complete the place is virtually new again.

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Postby rockland » Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:36 am

Totally run down in disrepair is a bit different than aging gracefully.
I recall an architect stating once, seeing a house he designed, 'this is exactly how
i had hoped it would look'. Referring to the patina on the original floors and woodwork etc.

If a house is in horrible shape and lovingly restored, no matter how clean and fresh looking,
it begins the aging process again, but this time will hopefully be maintained and adored.

Attempting to maintain the fresh, pristine, monotone look is a tireless battle.
Like a laqueur coat on a brass fixture or copper exterior work.
Our interior fixtures have a rich warm patina. Our 50yr old cork entry has fade and random
distinction of tile shading. Waxed and well maintained. if someone wants it to look like the day it
was installed, you're in for a big surprise. (get the photo printed bullet-proof HD version like the
paneling my parents put up in the 80's)
Isn't the magazine clean and chic wall-to-wall rip-out and re-decorate every ten years what
everyone complains about?

One the other hand, a chipped peeling laminate is not such a pretty ol' thing. Paint needs a fresh coat.
natural occurring moss pool-side in Palm Springs I would clean. On a slate path in the shade
with ferns and creeping ground cover it's lovely.

it isn't really a matter of taste per say. It's knowing when to leave alone or repair. (like my failing
left knee suffering from aggressive sports)

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Postby SDR » Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:18 am

Arrol Gellner -- Architext

WHY SOME BUILDINGS AGE MORE GRACEFULLY THAN OTHERS

There are two ways to build. One way is to strive for absolute visual perfection and then wage a desperate and invariably losing battle to preserve it. The other is to accept that perfection is not just unattainable but also unnecessary, thereby making time's passage an ally instead of an enemy.

Much of modern architecture, and especially the work of International-style architects, was predicated upon the former approach.

Worshiping at the altar of the machine, modernist architects strove for flawless surfaces and absolute precision of detail. Alas, in the case of many modernist works - including some of the most renowned examples - any state of perfection that may have existed began to decay the moment the buildings were completed.

After a few short years of sullying by weather and the ordinary wear and tear of human habitation, those sparkling white walls and - scam rip-off --sharp corners came to look more than a little tatty. It's been the good fortune of many modernist icons - say, Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion or Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye - to be known mainly through old documentary photographs in which, frozen in time, they can remain forever crisp, clean and stunning.

Which brings us to the other approach: the idea of building timelessly. If it really can be done, why do we architects manage to do it so seldom?

Perhaps it's because building in sympathy with time's effects, rather than being eternally at war with them, requires us to give up the cherished ideal of visual perfection and to accept the disturbing fact that no matter how hard we try to forestall it, Mother Nature eventuallv has the last word over everything we build.

Despite such rather daunting opposition, however, many architects still seem hell-bent on flouting time and nature. With expectations bordering on delusion, they specify glossy paint over steel that's ineludibly doomed to rust, demand great swaths of flawless stucco that's bound to become laced with cracks and devise complicated color schemes whose maintenance will soon be neglectcd by generations with different tastes.

The modernist faith seems to die hard, however. Many architects continue to subscribe to the idea that buildings can and should feature flawless, mechanistic finishes. It may help explain why so many relatively new buildings seem to have weathered their brief years so badly. Ironically, it's been the very buildings that were held in contempt by "serious" modernist architects -- the Revivalist designs of the early 20th century -- that have aged most gracefully.

Some were painstakingly authentic copies of historical styles, while others were carried out with a theatrical flourish bordering on caricature. However, in no case did their architects regard perfection as an ideal, or natural aging as an enemy to be overcome. Today, despite the passage of so many decades -- many of them spent in neglect -- these buildings have lost none of their original vitality.

On the contrary, time has been very kind to them, burnishing many into a state of venerable grace that even their architects could never have imagined. Or could they?

COPYRIGHT 2008 ARROL GELLNER
DISTRIBUTED BY INMAN NEWS

Arrol Gellner is an Emeryville CA architect, lecturer and author of several books on architecture. E-mail him at home@sf chronicle.com.
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Postby SDR » Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:28 am

Image
Villa Savoye, before restoration

Image
Sanatorium Zonnestraal (1926-1931)
J Duiker, B Bijvoet, J G Wiebenga
Hilversum, Netherlands

Perhaps this is just deferred maintenance. But some forms and materials require careful detailing (drip edges, etc.) to avoid staining -- which can look much worse on plain white surfaces than on rustic ones. I thought Mr Gellner was a modernist, based on previous columns, and so I read this one as a critique of bad detailing. Than I looked at his portfolio: almost 100% traditional work. Hmm. . .

Of course, some weathering/staining of modern work can be unexpectedly beautiful:

Image

M Breuer and A Elzas, De Bijenkorf Department Store (1955-1957), Rotterdam.

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Postby SDR » Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:34 am

Rockland, Robb, classic form and Tony make excellent points on this subject. The Rockland waxes especially poetic. . .

SDR :cheers:
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Aging Achitecture

Postby Josquin » Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:42 am

"We should build our house simple, plain and substantial as a boulder, then leave the ornamentation of it to Nature, who will tone it with lichens, chisel it with storms, make it gracious and friendly with vines and flower shadows as she does the stone in the meadow." - Irving Gill from "The Home of the Future: The New Architecture of the West: Small Homes for a Great Country," The Craftsman, May 1916

Image
Image
Dodge House 1916 Destroyed.


Image

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Postby SDR » Sun Feb 24, 2008 11:49 am

What a surprising quote from architect Gill -- and from the same year as the Dodge residence !

I could see his formula for "naturalizing the citizen" applied by Mr Schindler to his own post-Craftsman "sheds" just up the street. . .but one wonders if the Internationalists who followed Gill in his crisp creamy planes and sharp arrisses would have felt as he did. . .?

Wright's words on his ephemeral Ocotillo desert camp might have relevance:

"We put it together with nails, screws, rubber belting for hinges; rigged up the flaps with ship cord, all designed as carefully, probably more carefully than any permanent building. Not as carefully as a ship nor as well executed, of course, but done as well as we knew how with such technique and endurance as we had to give. Good enough. All to pass away in a year -- or two ?
As a matter of fact it did in less time than that. The Indians carted it all away during the winter after we had turned our backs upon it and characteristic disaster befell the U.S.A. No, not prohibition. I mean the fall of 1929 when Architecture and architects ceased to function throughout the U.S.A.

"Yes, the Indians carried it all away. But, I have learned not to grieve long now that some work of mine has met its end; has had short life, as we say, even though it happens that a better one cannot take its place. I am consoled by the thought that today any building design may have far-reaching effect on the record, and because our machine -- publicity -- as easily gives it, as an idea of form, to the mind's eye of all the world. For an instance, "Ocatillo" with no help or suggestion from me was published in German and Dutch magazines two months after it was nearly finished. It has appeared in magazines all over the world. Thank the machine for that: for this universal ubiquity. Or curse it as the case may be."

And this in turn leads to historian William Cronon's thesis (see "FLLW, Architect," MoMA, 1994, Terence Riley, ed) that Wright cared less for building longevity than for the chance to demonstrate his art, to himself and to the world. But that may be another subject.

Esther McCoy, in 1960: "Today some of [Gill's] houses are entirely covered with the Bignonia tweediana which he envisioned as tracery, and the Ficus repens meant as embroidery now strangles many a pergola."

SDR

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Postby ch » Sun Feb 24, 2008 1:47 pm

Here's an article about the restoration of the Maison de Verre in Paris. The new owner talks about how he is not doing a pristine restoration because he likes keeping evidence of the house's history and aging intact.

Here's a quote, "The notion of owning a Modernist landmark has been fashionable for decades now. The usual impulse was to embark on a multimillion-dollar top-to-bottom renovation, then move into an immaculate architectural gem, upgraded with a SubZero refrigerator and a Viking stove.

The problem with this template is that something always gets lost: the essential character, the gently worn eccentricities, the patina that accumulates over time. French preservationists call this unrenovated state “dans son jusâ€￾ — literally, “in its juice.â€￾ When it is erased wholesale, the result can be sterile and artificial, like radical cosmetic surgery
."

I think this is what we are talking about. I must say, I quite agree with this attitude.


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Postby Tony » Sun Feb 24, 2008 7:19 pm

There is another point of view, that of architect Albert Speer who, along with Adolf Hitler, came up with the "ruin theory" of architecture. Which was that buildings should be designed to look beautiful, in the remote future, as a ruin.

Now that seems to me an extreme point of view with few adherents.

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Postby Josquin » Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:20 am



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