“I wouldn’t propose to burden any client with whimsical things. It is my hope to provide them with a practical building.”
-Edward Durell Stone, 1966
“Why should we always go through the same volume of space? Why should we have to go through doors always? There are all kinds of fascinating possibilities here. Why should our buildings be earthbound, anchored to a little spot on earth?”
-Bruce Goff, 1967
The ordinary and unusual often collide in architecture. The House Up Benedict Canyon is a study in the seams of this intersection. The design, an addition and renovation to a 1970 home at the bottom of a ravine in the hills above West Los Angeles, is a reflection on the stark simplicity and restraint of the existing house. A blank 9-square box, the existing bungalow uses an early-modern pastiche to play against the verdant blanket of California vegetation set behind and up its receding hillside property.
Rather than combat or resituate this approach, the addition plays up a sense of the generic and blank. The form of the addition is rendered elastic in its rough stucco façade, bent to suit the constraints of a site that is heavily impacted by a restrictive zoning code. The walls of the addition are pulled away from each corner, revealing the massing as an assemblage of frontices held together by deep window wells linking them together.
The addition is pulled back away from the street to respect municipal requirements for providing light and air onto a public right-of-way that is compressed down to a single lane dedicated for two-way traffic. The resultant sense of compression up the street is impacted further upon entry by a ground floor vestibule that requires a spiral staircase to gain access to the main level of the house. This compression is rewarded with an immediate expansion into the deep valley of the back yard. The addition above presses up against this back garden with deep wide openings carved to maximize the view up the hill.
The House Up Benedict Canyon is a synthesis of the blank aspects of a typological generic into a distorted contextual language. The addition is a foil, a character cast at odds and somehow in concert with the existing house. Viewed as two members of the same family but of a different species, this house of merging parts is emblematic of the idiosyncrasies of a piece of Los Angeles that exists both outside its norms and very much at its heart.
Ovitz’s Library, Jonas Wood —— Naqsh-e Rustam Monuments, Archaemenid Dynasty
Fisher House, Louis Kahn —— Houston Contemporary Art Museum, Gunnar Birkerts
Architectural League Prize Exhibition, Parsons School of Design, New York City, 2017
This coordinated exhibit of a large collage and selection of paper models was installed at the Parsons School of Design to commemorate Kevin’s receipt of the Architectural League of New York’s League Prize. It is a collapsed visual field representative of the monumental Colorado landscape. Situated across this landscape, six unbuilt works are collected together in the context that informed and inspired them. In the tradition of the 17th century ‘capriccio’, these works are realized in their grandest form imaginable.
As a body of work viewed in total, each project supports the next to create a greater whole. Sparsely scattered among these projects are a series of blank figures, placed to imply anticipated future work. Unambiguously typological in nature, the projects before you use uncomplicated primary geometry in unexpected configurations to exist in concert with the grandiose context of Colorado. Much like Aldo Rossi’s Scientific Autobiography, the work is cast as a set of characters arranged together to create a provocative scene. The models, made of the same paper as the collage, appear to be torn from the wall and draped over a table.
The genesis of these projects take many forms. They are unceremoniously stripped from architectural history, photography, twentieth century art, and industry. Taken as a whole and assembled together, the visual impact of the installation addresses issues of temporality, monumentality, and context.
To download a .pdf of the associated submission portfolio, click here.
La Finestra del Poetra, Aldo Rossi, 1973-1997 —— Monastic Living, Parquet Courts, 2015
Denver CO, 2016 -
No inhibitions should be placed upon the individual’s desire to build! . . . If one of these ramshackle structures built by its occupants is going to collapse, it generally starts cracking first so that they can run away.
Geometry has an ambiguous reputation, associated as much with idiocy as with cleverness.
The Mother-in-Law’s House is located behind a Denver family’s urban home, sited to take advantage of a density incentive in the city’s zoning code. It rises from an inflected 10-foot-by-10-foot footprint, preserving open space in the backyard while maximizing occupiable space within the structure.
The result, a tower in miniature, offers four levels. It stands in the center of the block and rises above the roofs of neighboring buildings. Because of its unusual scale and articulation, it hides in plain sight. The inhabitant of the tower is relegated to the position of a voyeur, sleeping between the backyards of neighbors.
The design takes advantage of an unconventional geometry to create a challenging, contemporary approach to a traditional building type: the load-bearing brick structure. Zippered brick corners break down the monolithic brick tower, exposing the four layers of brick required to structure and insulate a load-bearing brick building.
The Mall in Washington, Harris & Ewing —— 32’ Replica of Empire State Building, Margaret Bourke-White
Denver CO, 2016 -
Every bygone period which shaped a real cultural life had the power and the capacity to create these symbols . . . Periods which exist for the moment have been unable to create lasting monuments.
Monotonous obviousness is being replaced by surprise. The essential viewpoint is from inside, not from outside. The subject–object relationship has been done away with.
—Reinhard Gieselmann, Oswald Mathias Ungers
The urban monument is architecture’s version of the political or social epilogue. Societies construct monuments for the principles that represent their highest ideals but that are in jeopardy of passing from memory. Historic moments that have lodged in the public consciousness are manifested as revered places in the civic physical environment. Monuments are the embodiment of a society’s better self. In our unsettling time, Monument stands for the aspiration toward forward momentum in an environment of friction created by social and political regression. Monument remains unspecified, asking the observer to consider what is worth memorializing today before it slips away.
Due to its cost and poor insulating qualities, stone block has been demoted to a thin surface material since the mid-twentieth century. Monument reappropriates the load-bearing stone block structure to counter contemporary construction trends, thrusting the block back into its original role as a structural material. The expressed crenelation of the sloped block walls create an impression of the pyramids of ancient Egypt and Central America built in miniature. This play of scale against memory reinforces the question of the role of the monument in the early twenty-first century.
Qasr al Farid, Mada’in Saleh, al-Ula Saudi Arabia. 0-58 AD —— T Junction, Richard Serra, 1988
HOUSE ON A FENCE
Denver CO, 2015 -
How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon.
Burn through your virtue. We got time to waste some time
Conceived for a family seeking to buy a corner lot in Denver, the House on a Fence reflects an unconventional approach to interpreting the city’s zoning code, creating unexpected opportunities within the urban setting. Designed to conceal the interior and exterior domestic space of a single-family residence, the house is a play on the traditional courtyard house and the scale of domesticity.
The project uses the maximum allowable fence height as a horizontal datum. Sitting low on the street and submerged partially into the site, the house is situated below this datum, and under the canopies of surrounding trees and plantings, but just above eye level. Rather than providing views into neighbors’ windows, rooms are oriented around skylights that look up into the canopy.
Two studio towers flank the main house. Facing one another across a planted roof, these small-scale workspaces give the owners privacy to work from home while allowing them to see and signal one another from afar.
Arena Furniture (Indoors), Donald Judd, 1985——Still Rooms and Excavations, Richard Barnes, 1995
Gunnison CO, 2012 - 2013
Freeness in architecture is a concept that consumes and absorbs everything like a black hole . . . My understanding is that our current age not only accepts such possibilities but also seems to need them.
Oh no. Looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me.
Designed in response to a client’s wishes to provide overnight guests with a unique view of her extensive property, Campground is suspended above the sloped side of a mountain valley. The camping platform floats between existing trees, using them for structural support. A central stack of four precast-concrete pillars frames a ladder and shelter for two open hearths. The scalloped articulation on the underside of the platform conceals any other structure, reinforcing the sense of weightlessness and tension.
This introduction of a platform to the forest is at once a counter to the rough terrain of the site and a complement to the monumentality of the mountain forest. Overnight guests are afforded safety from wildlife and encouraged to float among the trees.
Cutting Down a Tree, Life Magazine —— Still from Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais, 1961
Buena Vista CO, 2010 - 2013
His face was neither handsome nor anything else. It just was. —Tarjei Vesaas
All houses are beautiful. —Jacques Fillon
The Bacon House stacks one courtyard building atop another. Designed for a client who has retired from public life, it is sited within a corridor of working cattle ranches in the Rocky Mountains.
Local zoning mandates that limited the number of habitable structures on the site challenged the owner’s wish to create a compound that could accommodate his family for longer visits. As a response, the design nests a collection of cabins on the second level above a public level. The self-contained suites are situated around a central stair and upper terrace. An array of cloistered outdoor spaces surrounds the house, enabling year-round family gatherings within the walls of the house’s protective structure.
A two-part material strategy diffuses the tension between the domestic character of the building and the monumentality of the stacked, offset courtyard typology. The base of the house consists of chalky white brick, while the upper courtyard is expressed in whitewashed clapboard siding. The result is a courtyard building at the smaller scale of the cabin. This articulation breaks down the uniformity of the residence’s protective perimeter.
Temple of Olymbian Zeus, Athens, 154 BC —— Richards Medical Research Laboratories, Louis Kahn, 1965
VARIATIONS OF VARIATIONS
Where the possibility of measurement is in doubt, line cannot have been used with absolute purity.
If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.
Sol LeWitt’s Incomplete Open Cubes (1974) presents 122 cubes drawn in isometric projection on a grid. Like many of the artist’s works, this one documents all possibilities within a set of constraints he established. It stands as a symbolic closing statement of the late modern movement.
In the 2010s, the open nature of contemporary design culture is at once separate from and inclusive of both the modern and postmodern.
Incomplete Open Variations of Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes demonstrates the often messy overlap between purely geometric indexical modes of production and symbolic referential ones. The cubes do not reflect a parametric approach, nor do they imitate a particular precedent. They utilize an open interpretation of LeWitt’s methodology while accepting and pursuing form without limit or meaning.
Each cube is drawn based on a systemic distortion of the set of rules created in LeWitt’s original work. By stripping form of meaning, the project generates familiar-seeming content without intention or irony. The degree to which form exists in near limitless variety makes it impossible to choose a path without attaching meaning to that path.
Executed without assistance from parametric software, the project has to date realized 6,534 cubes. The irresolvable Incomplete Open Variations of Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes stands as a proxy for the restlessness of our present.
Brushstroke, Roy Lichtenstein, 1965 —— Triple Elvis, Andy Warhol, 1960
HOUSE IN A CLEARING
Breckenridge CO, 2013 - 2014
To make the not always obvious distinction between transitory and constituent facts is [the historian’s] own personal responsibility.
Left to their own devices, Americans do not monumentalize or make architecture.
The House for Two Families is a reflection on the elasticity of dividing interior and exterior space in a shared domestic environment. A vacation residence designed for two families on a wooded site, the house consists of three levels. The partially submerged lower level situates living and dining spaces just above the forest floor. The upper level is split into two equal suites of two bedrooms and a den at the canopy of the surrounding trees. The open central level connects the upper and lower halves and provides common space for both families.
This middle level is at once a light well, front porch, back patio, roof deck, balcony edge, and courtyard. Placing these open-air gathering spaces within the forest canopy increases privacy, creating a sense of outdoor enclosure. The void buffers public and private quarters to provide a sense of solitude unusual in a vacation cabin, a building type that is ordinarily crowded. In this way, it is a threshold that sees constant movement from public to private—an inconvenience that requires a commitment to move from private bedroom to public dining room, and a connection to the outdoors.
Good Neighbor House, John Hejduk, 1975 —— House, Tobia & Afra Scarpa