In the movie Back to the Future, there’s a memorable scene shortly after Marty McFly time-travels back to 1950s California. Marty looks up Doc Brown in the phone book and heads over to his house. Doc doesn’t recognize Marty when he opens the door but he drags him inside anyway. The scene is memorable because Doc’s house (the exterior, at least) is recognizable to any student of American architecture. Welcome to Pasadena’s Gamble House.
Maybe you guessed this Gamble wasn’t won in a wager (although it would’ve been a handsome payoff!) Rather, it was built for a member of the (Proctor &) Gamble family who liked the look of his next-door neighbor’s place. That house, and many others on the same street, was designed by sibling architects (Charles) Greene and (Henry) Greene. The Gamble House is perhaps their most famous design.
The Greene brothers, who studied architecture at MIT, made a significant stop on their journey to the West Coast. They spent time at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. While there, they picked up design influences from the temple look of the Japanese pavilion (wood construction, tiled roofs, open verandas).
The Greene and Greene “ultimate bungalow” look, with its liberal use of dark wood slats and panels, became known as the Craftsman style of architecture. This label was all the more fitting because the Greene brothers also studied furniture design, and incorporated many custom pieces into their houses. Even more impressive, the finished look relies on elegant leather straps and wooden pegs as fasteners; not a nail or screw in sight.
The Gamble House is 6,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor living, in concert with California’s mild temperatures. You can tour the house courtesy of the USC School of Architecture students who get to live there every school year (luckies!) A separate tour walks you through the neighborhood to see other Greene and Greene designs. But the Gamble remains their masterpiece. And if you ever see this inviting residence, you may wish you owned a time-traveling DeLorean to take you back to its heyday in the early 1900s.
Now for the latest on LEGO Fallingwater…
LEGO Fallingwater – Update #3 (Read how this project got started in Perfect Harmony)
I find it funny how this Fallingwater model is “rising” off of its foundation at the same time the water below is “falling”. It’s like I’m going in opposite directions at the same time. 20 pages (or 22%, or 83 minutes) into the build, this is what we have.
As you can see, the stream is now “built” from the front of the house all the way to the back, with the modest waterfall front and center. We also have our first piece of “landscape”, that dark green strip you see on the left. Otherwise, we’re still at the foundation level. I expect the house to rise dramatically in the next few chapters of the build.
Here’s something unnerving about this model. You don’t really understand what you’re building as you go. You’re putting together very small pieces which look like, well, LEGO blocks, until you stand back and take the whole model in. For this reason, you have to build very, very carefully. I still got the location of a few pieces wrong and had to utilize my handy-dandy wrench to yank them out. It’s like pulling teeth.
Tune in next Thursday as construction continues! Now for another nod to Frank Lloyd Wright…
Petttit Memorial Chapel
Over five hundred structures were built from the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, but only one of those five hundred is in a cemetery. That would be the Pettit Chapel in Belvidere, Illinois. Dr. Pettit was a beloved physician of his time, and his sudden passing prompted his wife to hire Wright to design a graveside chapel as a memorial to the man.
The design of the “petite” Pettit is very much in line with Wright’s signature Prairie Style. The low roof lines, broad eaves, and high horizontal bands of glass are typical. Wright used the shape of a cruciform – common in medieval cathedrals – to house the smallest of sanctuaries, as well as two open-air porches and a central fireplace. He then added storage, restrooms, and a furnace so the chapel could be used for public functions.
The Pettit Chapel has survived since its construction in 1906, thanks to restorations in 1977 and 2003. The chapel is open to the public, and, like many structures designed by Wright, included on America’s National Register of Historic Places.