“Apelle is a wooden one family house located in Karjaa, Finland. The building rests in a natural harbor like a boat in a sheltering pocket surrounded by bed rocks and trees. The interior space of Apelle is a continuous tube that grows gradually along the house and through the main opening and terrace into the forest. Along this axis the collective and private actions are tuned according to the times, functions and needs of the day and night. The same space is used for everything from sleeping to eating and from socializing to work as a studio space or a gym. This kind of multi-functional space of “tupa” or “pirtti” is common in traditional Finnish architecture. A free standing cube serves for water with a sleeping loft on top…
Posts Tagged ‘house’
The cabin is probably the true vernacular architecture of British Columbia’s West Coast and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver must once have had some of these buildings, thought rampant demolition and ugly development are doing their best to eradicate any trace of this architectural past. All that’s left of the cabin is the practice of attaching big cedar decks onto the imported Victorian and Edwardian and Britishy styles that sadly crowd the housing stock where I live.
Meanwhile there’s little to no building code on islands like this one in Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino. Unlike in Vancouver, with its ridiculously restrictive code and its colonial fixation on transplanted European architecture, when you’re out on the remoter parts of the coast you can do what you want. This is why so many of our best architects prefer building cabins to city houses, and we stay bereft of their influence in the city.
These photos are from a remote West Coast island where my aunt and uncle built a small, simple octagonal cabin on log posts that sit on the granite bedrock without even a concrete footing to alter the landscape. (I can only include a few details out of respect for privacy.)
Over the Labour Day weekend we sat on the deck and watched a pod of orcas hunt and jump offshore, smacking their tails on the water.
The smooth round rocks are pretty but they serve a purpose: they’re the “laundry rocks,” keeping handwashed clothes from blowing off the deck while they dry.
Ceiling and tiny skylight in the small sleeping cabin next to the main cabin – my woodworking uncle’s own design and handiwork. He’s a genius. Below, the tiny island deer are pretty tame and sneaky. No dogs or cats are allowed on the island, to protect wildlife.
Raven on deck. Also saw: kingfishers, kinglets, warblers, sandpipers, little red crossbills, bald eagles, harbour seals, harbour porpoises, orcas and grey whales.
“This would have been a great heritage rescue! The “3-Room Stump”—from top-left to bottom-right: Bedroom, Living Room, Kitchen—was located at what is now 26th & Prince Edward before 1910.”
Via the Vancouver Heritage Foundation
This film has been very difficult to see, consistently selling out (I saw scalpers at the last showing). The Vancouver International Film Fest is hosting this new set of screenings, based on the popular demand. Tickets are selling quickly so if you want to go, buy now.
This film needs to be seen on the big screen. Its comprehensive footage of beautiful westcoast modernist architecture was shot in HD and is worth seeing large. If you’re in Vancouver, don’t miss this. There is interview footage of the recently departed Julius Shulman – it’s worth seeing for that alone.
The filmmakers are friends of mine. It has been fun to watch the film come together and quickly win so much popularity. It shows that there’s a deep appetite for both a sense of our own architectural history as well for a more smaller, more beautiful style of house, houses with greater architectural integrity than we generally see in the current environment.
These photos of Ron Thom’s Boyd House are from the blog Architecture Wanted which provides a good introduction to this house. Also see a great post by Cam McLellan on his Vancouver Lights blog and an article in Western Living by the house’s current owner, Kerry McPhedran. I can’t improve on what these three have already written about this excellent building.
For those who don’t know, Ron Thom was one of Vancouver’s pre-eminent modern architects in what now seems to be the golden era of architecture in this city. He produced many superb modernist post-and-beam houses in Vancouver, particularly in West Vancouver which is locally famous for houses built in that tradition. Writer Douglas Coupland lives in the same area in a Ron Thom house not unlike this one.
The Boyd House, built in 1954, is a great example of this westcoast modern architecture, and fortunately it hasn’t suffered bad renovations. Noted architect Russell Hollingsworth was hired to do one of the remodels, for example.
The house is currently for sale, and the owner is very concerned that it be sold to someone who actually cares about it. There are far too many small and large developers demolishing modernist houses in Vancouver, and replacing them with unsustainably large houses of poor architectural quality.
Real estate information is here. I’m told there may be the opportunity for infill here if the original house is maintained. The municipality of West Vancouver seems to be running a pilot project to encourage this, which is fortunate. I hope the house goes to someone worthy of it. We don’t have enough of these well-designed houses to see any of them demolished.
See another Thom house here.
Photography is only minimally allowed at Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter house in Arizona, Taliesin West, so most of these photographs are only exterior shots. I confess I’ve always been less impressed by FLW’s work that most are, so this post is not in praise of FLW or Taliesin West. I visited the place only experimentally, to see if it would change my mind, and though I was hoping it would, it really didn’t. It’s an interesting place, an odd place, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by its architecture or interiors or design. So much has been written about Taliesin West already that I’ll just offer this potted version: FLW had been to Arizona for work, enjoyed it, and when he began to ail in the Eastern winters his doctor prescribed months in a dry climate and Wright decided to winter in Arizona thereafter. He set up a “desert camp” near Scottsdale and over the years slowly transformed the tent camp (with the help of a lot of slave labour by students) into a built structure. This is how he derived what later because the “desert style” he was famed for, and spawned sprawling ranchers all over American cities and suburbs.
The rooms are odd, with entrances so low you must stoop and. Wright used pony walls or sharp corners at room entrances to produce unexpected room vistas. Much of the furniture is built in. The living room was built to accommodate fairly large parties and encourage conversation while providing a view of the desert.
Wright tried to work around the angle of the sun and the sun’s heat. In doing so he somewhat reinvented the wheel, for of course this is not the world’s first desert friendly structure, but his innovations vastly influenced building styles in American’s Southwest, South and California. You can read more about Taliesin West here.
I’m not sure exactly why I find Taliesin West somewhat off-putting. It was built with local rock, among other locally available (if not local) materials, but all of the beams of imported Douglas fir are painted a sort of awful reddish brown that is all too familiar now if you’ve ever seen 70s tract housing. The whole complex is built on an obsession with the 30-60-90 triangle, which is not only deployed in roof angles but in very deco-flavoured design components including the furniture. There’s a certain pointiness to everything that I suppose is meant to mimic desert shapes, shapes I nevertheless didn’t identify in the surrounding hills. The triangular deco is juxtaposed with other decorative elements including the Chinese, constructivisim, Egyptian-tinged moderne and that same sort of medieval hobbityness that you see in the original Taliesin and his other houses. It’s as if FLW didn’t have faith in the simplicity of his “new” architectural form and needed to explain it through decorative historical reference.
As a textile person I’m always wary of the inattention to fabrics and surfaces, and the cheapness, thinness and clumsiness of the upholstered built-ins and furniture just suggest a failed concept of comfort. His celebrated “origami” armchair, each made from a simple sheet of plywood, is awkward and uncomfortable, as are the rooms in general. Bedouin desert camps seem far more comfortable than this. The manicured green lawns in the desert, and an angular over-slick pool, just suggest resistance to the environment rather than Wright’s much-discussed sensitivity to the landscape. Methinks the exaggeratedly rough mortaring of the local stone doth protest too much. The traditional European-style sculptures in cast bronze plonked everywhere are either an apology or corrective or I am not sure what. Parts of the place seemed a distracting, uncomfortable jumble verging on kitsch.
My sincere apologies to those whose architectural pantheons FLW presides over. I may just be trapped behind a giant wall of aesthetic prejudice built inadvertently by the commercial developers who subsequently riffed off Wright in lazy tract settlements all over America.
I have tried to photograph the place as flatteringly as possible, to make up for my criticism.
Above, a classical bronze sculpture half out of Lord of the Rings, plonked next to standing rock cemented into odd rock plinth. Below, quite a lovely red Chinese door oddly mixed into local rock somewhat swamped by rough mortar. I admit I like the triangular glass surround for that door. But of all FLW’s reds in the complex, that Chinese red was the only one that worked for me, and for me colour is inordinately important.
Above, the dinner cabaret room. Supposedly built for comfort but I didn’t find it that way. Its acoustics however are absolute genius. No parallel walls to produce sound reflection or any phase cancellation. Just superb. Apparently FLW’s wife used it to her advantage, being able to hear all whispered gossip at every table, or so our guide told us.
Above, brutalist, concrete round window decorated with multiple chinoiserie.
Above, an illegal shot showing the interior of the drafting room, jammed full of the desks where FLW’s students laboured. Below, my favourite object at TW: a doorknob in the bathroom.