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Read the second part of the text and answer the questions after it.
The 1960s Revisited.
Yet the third house discussed here returns to many of the themes of the first – a “return to roots” brought about in not a small part by the client’s close collaboration in its design.
Like Olson, the client is a Northwest native with an ingrained respect for nature. She acquired the site for her house largely because of its fine views of one of the region’s most beautiful urban lakes. Once densely wooded, it was cleared for development that never occurred.
On the advice of an interior decorator she at first turned to a Los Angeles architect, who produced a scheme that had the house rising imposingly from the very center of the site. This the client summarily rejected and turned to Olson through acquaintance with some of his clients. She told him that she was more interested in a garden than a house, and that the house should be low-key, natural, and anything but glitzy.
When Olson saw the site he termed it “a scar” of brown earth in the otherwise verdant landscape. He determined not just to respect the site but to heal it.
Olson has a technique of getting clients to join in making collages out of architectural images they like. The one made with this client was revealing: the images she responded to were of simple, rectilinear houses blending with nature, melding indoor and outdoor space, often partially covered by vines and other landscaping; their forms were straightforward, colors subdued; several had glass butting into walls and all had huge fireplaces. Interestingly, one of the images she chose for the collage was taken from the first of the three houses.
Olson tries to make “private worlds”, using perimeter walls as buttresses and creating a quiet interior space, sometimes enclosed and sometimes open. He quickly produced a sketch applying this approach to the sloping lakeside site and it was immediately accepted.
The sketch divided the body of the house into two parallel wings, with the garage, kitchen, dining and family rooms on one side, bedrooms, exercise room, library, and indoor pool on the other. The wings began as beams at the rear of the site, and were bridged by an entry and a living room overlooking the lake. The client said that she would like to enter the house from a garden path so the “valley” between wings would be a garden. Other plantings would cover the roofs of the wings.
Once the basic scheme was established, Olson and associate Kundig began to elaborate on it. A cross axis through the two wings and the bridging element was twisted and deliberately interrupted so that it became a meandering lateral path though the house; the wings were to be largely illuminated by clerestories. They would be deep refuges with a strong sense of enclosure. The living room, the architects reasoned, should be pure prospect, a seemingly open pavilion facing the lake view. Not only would it be glazed on three sides, but the sheets of glass would have planting at their bases both inside and out so that they virtually disappeared. The roof was to be raised high overhead so that it seemed to float above the walls. Weightlessness and illusion were the watchwords. The room began to take on the look of a temple; various roof forms, including a dome and a pyramid, were studied.
Keeping it Simple
The client would have none of it – no illusions, no architectural tricks. She wanted simplicity; the living room roof would be flat, its windows perceptible as such. The cross axis would be straight and uninterrupted.
The architects were devastated to have their favourite devices rejected. “It was as though she were the artist working through us,” Olson recalls. But he came around. What the client had done, he realized, “was to take us back to our roots” and, specifically, to the first house. Once on track together architects and client undertook to make the house ever more naturalistic. With perimeter gardens and trees and grasses on the lake side, the entire site will read as a garden with a house embedded in it.
The house is emerging as one of Olson’s favourites, as was the first. He hoped that it will be “timeless, like a Mayan ruin disappearing back into the landscape.”
Olson Sundberg has a loosely organized “eco-committee,” comprising a changing group of interested employees who research and advise on diverse aspects of sustainability in the firm’s designs. The committee was partially responsible for such conserving elements as the stone floors, wide overhangs, zoned heating and air conditioning, and the use of recycled and recyclable materials that will be employed in the house.
But Olson sees the most basic kind of conservation as building to last. “These houses should only get better with time”, he says, and time already has proven him right about the first one.
5. Answer the questions to part II:
1. Did the owner of the third house help to develop its design?
2. What were her requirements for the design of the house?
3. Why did Olson call the site “a scar”?
4. What types of houses did the client respond to when making collages?
5. What idea did Olson try to realize in this house?
6. Can you describe the basic scheme of the house?
7. Will the vegetation be preserved on site according to the architects’ scheme?
8. What were the watchwords of the house design?
9. What techniques were to help them be realized?
10. Did the client support the project of her future house?
11. On what points did the opinions about the character of the house differ?
12. What was the final scheme of the house?
13. Did Olson himself like it?
14. What was the “eco-committee” responsible for?
15. What is Olson opinion of conservation?
16. Does he have grounds to think so?
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