It aint where you're from, it's where you're at
March 20, 2009 7:59 PM   Subscribe

In Portland, Oregon sits the Wilkinson residence, designed by Robert Oshatz. It is kind of neat. [via]
posted by cashman (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like a library to me.

Which isn't a bad thing, but I see it, and I think "public library."
posted by paisley henosis at 8:04 PM on March 20, 2009

Oh god is that beautiful.
posted by notsnot at 8:21 PM on March 20, 2009

Woah, houses can be beautiful?
posted by Phssthpok at 8:27 PM on March 20, 2009

Boy, this is very nice, but you know, it is exactly the kind of residential project that architects in my experience want to do - that is, multi-million dollar budget and no apparent connection to any other building or community surrounding it. Anything less that a million dollars and most architects don't want to be bothered. This is exactly why 99% of homes built in America are barely glanced at by an architect, and why the housing stock in America (I'm looking at you, Baltimore) is so horrendously dispiriting and homogeneous. Architects have basically lost the argument.
posted by newdaddy at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Any notes as to where in Portland this home rests? Guessing the west hills...
posted by captainsohler at 8:42 PM on March 20, 2009

Pretty, but I betcha that saddle-shaped roof leaks like a sonufabitch.

sonufabitchs are quite leaky, i tell you

Seriously, from a maintenance perspective that house looks like an absolute nightmare. You can already see terrible weathering and incipient mold on those beautiful, irreplaceable roof beams, and the visible drip stains on those curved side panels are a bit ominous; if water isn't seeping through those seams yet, it's just a matter of time. (Also: how you gonna get a ladder up on that wall if you ever want to clean one of those upstairs windows?)
posted by ook at 8:55 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would like to be wealthy for several reasons, but right at the top of the list would be to have a residence like this.

And I'm with newdaddy... where are all the architects? Why can't I have a well designed $250,000 house?
posted by Ynoxas at 9:09 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I saw that and my first thought was, "hey, it's that ugly house by Lewis and Clark College." I think the one by LC is The Williams House. Of course, the Williams' were right, the neighborhood has developed into one of faux tudor and tuscan villas, but their house was pretty jarring in the early 1990s. Today, I don't think you can see it from the street because the bushes and trees have grown.
posted by vespabelle at 9:28 PM on March 20, 2009

There's a convenient page with various residential projects here. Personally, I do like most of these, although newdaddy's point about projects like this often having no connection with other houses nearby is a fair one.

I'll take this opportunity to blatantly plug one of my favourite non-fiction TV series from back home called Grand Designs, which features self-build or self-conversion projects around the UK (and occasionally in Europe), varying from people who literally build their dream homes with their own hands, through to people who commission new projects and leave it to their architect to get done with a minimal amount of interference.

Unfortunately I don't know of any legitimate outlets to get Grand Designs in the US, so you'll have to torrent/Newsgroup it if you're interested - there's video clips on the website I linked above if you want a taster.

My personal favourite is probably The Waterworks, a converted pumping station in the north of England. Can't say I agree with all of their design choices (a mini for a desk??) but you can't deny the hard work the couple put in themselves to get the job done.

posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:52 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Council Crest? There are a lot of great houses tucked away in the forest up there.
posted by mecran01 at 10:21 PM on March 20, 2009

Wow, de gustibus non disputandum est and all that, but that place is like an ugly wooden stepchild of the Montreal Expo.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

How odd... I absolutely love the interior. It's gorgeous without being one of those OMG LOOK AT ME I R YUNEEK homes that must be unbelievably tiring to live in.

The exterior, though, makes me want to kick puppies.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:43 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not a terribly materialistic person, but I'm pretty sure I'd be a better person if I lived in this house. I like to think I'd spend a lot of time studying manuscripts and being good at chess.
But in reality, I'd probably just lay under the covers in the beautiful circular cockpit bedroom drinking cheap scotch and watching Oz, just like I do now.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 11:06 PM on March 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

multi-million dollar budget and no apparent connection to any other building or community surrounding it

I dunno, there is something to be said for one-offs, especially if they're in a neighborhood of more individual architecture or no neighborhood to speak of.

There is a place for design that has a conversation with the buildings around it, and all too often those opportunities are tragically lost. Complaining about standalone commission architecture just seems like focusing on the wrong problem (if there is one at all).

As for the leaks, Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings are noted for their ... shortcomings in that area. Taliesin itself is a structural mishmash that is constantly falling apart.

Looks like a library to me.

I had the same reaction, and I wonder why. What in this design is coded "library"? I think that would be an interesting exercise.
posted by dhartung at 11:56 PM on March 20, 2009

cashman: You'd enjoy SpaceInvading, as long as you can ignore their use of the term "webosphere".
posted by tapesonthefloor at 12:07 AM on March 21, 2009

Where's the Captain's chair?
posted by the bricabrac man at 4:36 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I saw this house on a TV program like Extreme Homes or similar.

It's really interesting from a design sense, but doesn't look very comfortable to me.

I'm reminded of Ferris Bueller:

"It's very beautiful, and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything."
posted by Fleebnork at 6:56 AM on March 21, 2009

That's interesting. My first thought was also public library. Especially in this picture. I could envision kids running up the walls like a half-pipe while their parents checked out books at the counter in the background.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 8:22 AM on March 21, 2009

This "extreme weathering" and "incipient mold" you're that you're seeing - it that looks to me like the copper is still getting is patina and that the cor-ten is just doing its oxidation thing. Not sure, b/c the arch doesn't specify on his description of the project, but overall the house does not look particularly leaky or poorly detailed. I think a ring to make the connection between roof and wall is actually pretty strong, and certainly formally integrated into the house, and the curved roof and walls look as if they'd have no trouble shedding water - way more water-tight than FLWright's work, which was all flat-roofed for the most part.

And dude, I'd be happy to provide you with a lovely home design that could be quite economical - but good luck finding a GC to build it.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:01 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in a trinity which feels like a treehouse. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants the treehouse feel on a real person budget.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:14 AM on March 21, 2009

I don't think I'm railing against one-offs. I am railing about what I perceive to be the abandonment of any attempt at architecture for the everyman. FLW, whatever you may say about flat roofs, designed and built a whole series of Usonian homes.

Can you find and afford a buildable lot? Can you get a design by the county approval committee, and gain some measure of approval/tolerance from the neighbors? Can you find a house where rehabbing would give a satisfying result that's not 2x or 3x as expensive than a new tract mansion? Is there any attempt at all to introduce architecture to large corporate developer/builders? Architecture has simply abdicated, as a profession it has failed in its mission because as a group, architects would rather do this (rare and expensive one-offs) than to confront the real bottom-line issues about homebuilding. They failed to make their case that architecture was necessary or even beneficial, they failed to automate and innovate in such a way that they could be part of the system that builds homes for middle-class Americans. American homes are, by and large, built without architects.

Imagine that for a moment. What if I said that most people go to court, but nobody sees the sense of bringing a lawyer along. Or, most people go to the hospital, but nobody really uses a doctor because they're just too expensive and too much hassle.

As a consequence, any "new" home I buy anywhere in Maryland is going to have fake, caulked-on plastic shutters on the front of it. If you go to Barcelona, say, new buildings there intentionally look as if they were built in this century. New residential buildings in America are in great majority "colonial", as if the colonists all had two-car garages and jacuzzi tubs in their MBR suites. I looked it up the other day on Wikipedia - it turns out, Maryland stopped being a colony a long time ago.

Sorry sorry I realize this is a massive derail but this is something I feel pretty strongly about. Let me close by recommending two books: THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE by James Howard Kunstler and THE ARCHITECTURE OF HAPPINESS by Alain De Botton.
posted by newdaddy at 9:53 AM on March 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ynoxas Why can't I have a well designed $250,000 house?

I think you can, but you have to go to New Orleans to get it.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 10:15 AM on March 21, 2009

What hass it got in it'sss pocketsss, preciousssss.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love cool residential architecture, and might have gone to architecture school had I recognized my interest in the subject while I was in high school, so you can imagine my disappointment when I actually tried to hire an architect. Rather than taking my budget as a challenge, or encouraging me along the lines of "if you'll spend a bit more, here's what we can do," I basically got told that if I wasn't prepared to spend on the order of $800k to $1M they didn't even want to sit down with me. Those would be the ones who bothered to return email or phone calls. Most didn't.

So, basically, screw it/them. I bought a funky 40 year old house that's working fine for me. I still want a unique, artistic, custom house someday but when I'm ready I'll just design the thing myself and hire the appropriate people to make sure it meets code, draw up plans, and so on. I'll hardly be the first person to this route.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:47 PM on March 21, 2009

And dude, I'd be happy to provide you with a lovely home design that could be quite economical - but good luck finding a GC to build it.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:01 AM on March 21

Provided you are serious (and an architect) I might be willing to take you up on that. I would absolutely love to have a neat, unique home that didn't cost 1mil that also had a chance at being resold if I ever moved.

A nice, well-designed home, not a design experiment.

I basically got told that if I wasn't prepared to spend on the order of $800k to $1M they didn't even want to sit down with me. Those would be the ones who bothered to return email or phone calls. Most didn't.

This is my understanding as well.

It is hard for me to believe that all architects are so busy designing skyscrapers that they don't have time to make some home designs.

I mean, an accomplished architect could design a simple one family home I would think in, what, a week? Charge $5,000. Hell $10,000. Most new home constructions would not really notice an extra $10,000 in design charges.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:39 PM on March 21, 2009

Ynoxas, It'd have to be green, but I'd love to. Mefi special.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Generally speaking, architects charge hourly rates. Fees are often estimated and budgeted for not-to-exceed amounts based on a percentage of the construction budget, usually inclusive of engineering and other consults. For a larger scale projects, say a mid-rise building of 100,000 square feet with a construction budget of 10M, a developer could expect to pay 600,000 dollars, or 6%, in architectural and engineering fees. The larger the project the more that percentage heads toward 4%. For small scale projects the percentage estimate rises dramatically. One example of the idea of "economies of scale," I suppose. A 9 or 10% fee would be my guess for a national average for a residential architectural fee -- higher for more comprehensive services.

As to the Wilkinson Residence, it's pedigree is clearly late Wright, Bruce Goff and Bart Prince. It's no surprise that Oshatz studied at Arizona State and under Wright Jr.
posted by xod at 3:15 PM on March 21, 2009

Spot-on newdaddy. In the US at least, it looks like architecture and residential building went their separate ways sometime in the late '50s or Early '60s. I think furniture lost 'design' too about the same time.
posted by marvin at 5:11 PM on March 21, 2009

It's got style, which I'd appreciate a bit more without that godawful couch. But it also persistently reminds me of literally every building on Earth in the Star Trek series.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:38 PM on March 21, 2009

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