7.27.2014

bedside charging


One of the items on my honey-do list was to address bedside charging. When we designed the bedside cabinets and located the plugs, the idea was to be able to charge our iDevices bedside, useful because (1) we are generally reading on our iPads before we go to sleep (so it would be handy to plug 'em in to charge right there) and (2) we use iDevices as our alarms. Woe to the waker that has to wake and charge without bedside charging!

The plan went according to plan until it became clear that the back of the drawer wouldn't allow a charger to be plugged in and still allow the drawer to fully close. Finally, after debating whether or not to bring the cabinet maker back out to do this (we forgot to ask him during an earlier trip...) I tackled the task today with little trouble. 

The key things were (1) protecting the face of the drawer when sawing a space for the chargers and (2) having the right blades for the saw (a smooth-cut blade and a coping blade). The last step was drilling a hole in the side of the cabinet large enough to allow the cables to come through. 






7.23.2014

Frank Lloyd Wright for sale in Houston

Designed in 1954 for William Thaxton, Jr., this house (plus a substantial non-Wrightian addition) can be yours for only $3,195,000! Read and see more here. Thanks to B. Bro for the tip!



















Photos from MLS.

7.20.2014

sunday houses and the Schindler log cabin

Sunday house we rented.

The bride and I, over the past Third of July, rented a Sunday House in Fredericksburg, Texas. Sunday houses are tiny houses that farmers built so they would have a place to stay after traveling into town on Saturday for Sunday service (read here for details). In Texas, this seems to have been prominently done by the Germans in Gillespie County, the county that hosts Fredericksburg. These houses are cute as kittens, yet amazingly efficient in the use (and perception) of space (those Germans...).

Here are some examples we happened across while wandering about town:






Our particular house had three rooms: a large bedroom (which included a sitting area), a kitchen/dining area, and a bathroom. An ample porch adorned the front of the house. The attic was unused in this particular house (we've heard locals describe the attics as "That's where the kids slept"). It's hard to tell, but we suspect the back of our house was added on later or, at the very least, is a finished out cooking porch.






Our Sunday house was comfy, relatively spacious, and had lots of storage. How big was it? 240 square feet!!! At first the bride didn't believe it, but after measuring a couple more times, the house's dimensions--12 feet wide by 20 feet long--became clear. 

Wow!

I think the house was helped in large part by the tall ceilings, light colors, and the simplicity of the layout with just a few rooms. But wow-wow-wow!

The main part of the house was 12-feet by 12-feet, large enough to hold a king-sized bed and a sitting area. The kitchen was 8-feet by 8-feet, large enough to hold a full kitchen and a four-seat table pushed up against a window. The bathroom, 4-feet by 8-feet, was large enough to hold a shower, a toilet, and a good sized sink and counter. As mentioned earlier, the shower could have been bigger, but it all somehow worked.


So what does this have to do with R.M. Schindler's log cabin?

We've been talking for awhile now about getting a cabin up in the hills somewhere in the northern New Mexico/southern Colorado area. This would be a retirement thing where, during the brutal summers in Austin, assuming we stay in Austin, we'd have the ability to pick up and head to the cooler climes for a few months. With our more recent fascination with Schindler, we're now talking about building Schindler's log cabin, a project he designed in 1917-1918 while he was in Chicago. 




One of the concerns we've had is the cabin's size: 540 square feet. But at more than twice the size of the Sunday house we stayed in, it should be ample room! Similar to the Sunday house, Schindler's cabin has three rooms (really it only has two rooms, with one divided by something like a pony-wall).  This is all on the 10- to 15-year planning horizon, but it's kinda fun to start thinking about it now. 


7.15.2014

if we had all the money in the world...

...we would hire Richard Meier to design a house for us. Here is an amazing story of Meier recently designing (and building) a one-bedroom beach house for friends. Meier's schtick is harkening back to the purity of early modernism, channeling the likes of Corbusier, Neutra, and early Schindler. And my oh my does he do it well.

Simply. Stunning.

All the way down to the Eileen Grey tube lamp.

[side note: at a cost of $2.25 million for 2,000 square feet, we're talking $1,125 per square foot. Yikes!!!]




these are three of the nineteen photos in the article

7.14.2014

haiku for the book : "vienna to los angeles: two journeys" by esther mccoy



a vulture circles
opportunity awaits...
but what are friends for?


If there’s a theme to this book, it’s that Richard Neutra was an asshole. 

I’ve had this tome on my I-hope-to-buy-this-sucker-some-day list, in part because it’s so dang expensive. It’s out of print and, ironically, because of poor sales back in the day, a collectible. But after reading an excerpt from the book of an interview with the Lovells (he and she of R.M. Schindler’s Lovell Beach House and Neutra’s Lovell Health House) that dispelled an often written statement that Schindler had to close in the sleeping porches on the beach house because he couldn’t properly design a drain, I decided that now was the time to pick the book up, high cost be damned.

In the book, Esther McCoy focuses on letters between Schindler and Richard Neutra and between Schindler and Louis Sullivan (many of which were due to Neutra’s poor behavior relative to Sullivan’s manuscript, “Kindergarden Chats”, making the rounds in Europe in search of a publisher). She also includes snippets of the aforementioned interview with the Lovells.

Richard Neutra (standing, left) and R.M. Schindler (standing, right) at the Schindler-Chace House.

Schindler, although disheartened by his lack of recognition during his lifetime, was certain that his place in architectural history was guaranteed. Neutra also knew this truth, that Schindler would be recognized on an equal if not greater footing than himself. Sadly, despite Schindler’s critical help in bringing Neutra to the United States and California, starting his career in the states, and unwittingly providing the opportunity for Neutra to steal the Lovells and build his marque building (the Lovell Health House), Neutra set out to destroy Schindler, something he focused on his entire life, especially toward the end of his.

Neutra attempted to do this, and succeeded in the short term, in several ways:

- he fed on the fears of the Lovells and deceived them and Schindler to steal them from Schindler. Shindler was in line to build their house in L.A. (he had plans on the boards), and Neutra flat out stole the clients.
- when the joint design for the League of Nations building came in third place and toured Europe, Neutra removed Schindler’s name from the project (I know, I know: This is arguable. But at the very least, Neutra’s whining to his parents-in-laws caused Schindler’s omission, and Neutra didn’t work too hard to get Schindler’s name back on the display).
- When Neutra heard Schindler was working on a book about construction in America, he encouraged Schindler to wait until he arrived in America so they could publish it together. And then when he arrived, he wrote the book on his own while Schindler supported him and his family.
-  When the Museum of Modern Art was putting together its highly influential modern architecture show held in 1932, Neutra succeeded in turning Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock against him.
- Tried to change time.

Later in his life, desperate to expunge Schindler’s role in his history and the history of architecture, he bizarrely insisted that his Lovell house predated Schindler's Lovell house, a fact easily disputed by press articles, numerous recollections, as well as building permits. In an interview in a different book, McCoy tells the story of how Neutra flew out to New York to appeal to her editor to change the dates. Neutra felt his force-of-personality would be enough to change time despite the litany of easily accessed evidence to the contrary. 

In an attempt remove Schindler completely from Neutra's history, Neutra's wife, Dione claimed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that Schindler turned them away when they first came to L.A.. Pauline Schindler clarified that they had not been turned away and had lived there three years.

Schindler’s beach house (1922-1926) was problamatic to Neutra. First, it predated Neutra’s health house (1927-1929) by five years in design and by three years in finished construction, arguably giving Schindler the prize for the first modernist structure in the United States and among the first in the world. Second, Neutra’s house is clearly influenced by Schindler’s house, unveiling the illusion of Neutra’s initial raw brilliance. 

Neutra's Lovell House (1929) on the left, Schindler's Lovell House (1926) on the right. Nope, no similarities there...

It’s all quite sad, really. Despite his previous assholiness, Neutra’s place in architectural history was clearly set (and deservedly so). Most folks simply assess the work and not the bitter backstories behind what leads up to the work: The ends, sadly, justify the means. Frank Lloyd Wright was an epic asshole as well, and he is deservedly highly regarded. Instead of atoning for past sins (chalk it up to youthful exhuberance, dude), Neutra insanely doubled down, and his legacy is somewhat stained (and becoming more so) because of it. And the fact he doubled down suggests he knew he had been a giant asshat. Unfortunately his asshattedness hadn’t abated, so he responded with truly mythic asshattedness. Not that Schindler was an angel (he was self-destructive when it came to working with editors but a comparative saint when dealing with people in general), but despite Wright’s brutal treatment of him, Schindler continued to acknowledge Wright’s, and others, influence on his work. 

To a certain degree, Schindler deserves some of the blame for what happened to him. There were early signs that Neutra was a brat, and Schindler let Neutra take advantage of him for a long time before he wised up.

I love Schindler’s work, but I love it more deeply because of the man. He was a brilliant sweetheart that was taken advantage of by lesser men. His brilliance and those intimidated by that brilliance (and yes, this includes FLW), kept Schindler from receiving his due while he was alive. Yet Schindler had the confidence to continue doing what he loved secure in the knowledge that he would be recognized. 

And, ultimately, he was right.

Further factoids:
  • One of the interesting (and radical) bits about the Schindler-Chace House (1921) is the communal kitchen shared between the two pinwheeled units and the guest house. Schindler pitches this in his writings on the design as an outfall of communal cooking about a campfire and a way for the women of the house to share in the household chores. However, McCoy notes that the property Schindler (and Chace?) bought had a covenant that only allowed one kitchen on the property (a roundabout way of disallowing duplexes, apartments, or multiple houses). This commences Schindler’s tendency to embrace covenants and restrictions as design opportunities.
  • Many writings about the Lovell Beach House note that Schindler had to later close in the outside sleeping porches at the front of the house because of defective porch drains (in other words, they didn’t drain [for example, see this article]). There’s some truth to this: The Lovells asked Schindler to close in the sleeping porches because of the drains; however, it wasn't because the drains didn’t drain. The sleeping porches overhung the walkway to the beach. Passerbys, having never seen such a house before and unaware that the owners were resting above them, would offer unbridled critiques of the house. Mr. Lovell, tired of hearing unvarnished (and often unflattering) reviews of his house through the drains, asked Schindler to close the porches in.

Before the sleeping porches were closed (left) and after (right).
  • One of many ways Neutra preyed on the Lovells was amplifying their mild unhappiness with the beach house coming in at 20 percent over budget. Neutra assured them them that he had price control methods to keep projects on budget. How well did those controls work? The Lovell Health House came in 100 percent over budget, nearly bankrupting the Lovells.
  • Neutra led the Lovells to believe that he was working with Schindler in designing and building the house. The Lovells were shocked when they discovered during the build that Schindler was not involved.
  • The Lovells noted a key difference between Schindler and Neutra in design: Schindler was responsive to clients' programmatic needs and was willing to change the design during the build or later to meet needs (for example, closing in the sleeping porches, something that adversely affected the aesthetics of the house). Neutra, on the other hand, was not responsive in his design and went batshit crazy when clients wanted to change the original house).
  • The Lovells sold the Health House in the 1940s. The Beach House still belongs to the Lovell family (perhaps unfair to compare a beach house to a day-to-day living house).      
  • Schindler designed (and built) a hen house (1918) for Taliesen.

7.07.2014

rainwater rising

Falling actually...

Because we're using it!

We've pretty much got the system down on using rainwater. First, we're fortunate that our tank is located at nearly the highest point on our property, not that there's much slope, but every little bit helps (and you can't gravity feed against gravity...). Nevertheless, we'll be able to completely drain the tank and use it anywhere on the yard.


We currently have four dedicated hoses (going from right to left): (1) for the front of the house, (2) for the back driveway and patio, (3) for the back yard and garden, and (4) to fill watering cans at the tank. Since we're simply using gravity to feed the water, friction losses (loss of pressure and flow due to unnecessary bends, twists, and turns and the roughness of the hose interior) are really noticeable such that even greater pressure head drops across the lot don't fully compensate. Therefore, we've tried to keep the lines as straight as possible to maximize flow.


The coolest thing we've done so far with rainwater is wash the car. Austin is currently under drought restrictions such that you can't wash your car in your driveway, but we (ssshhhhh!!!!) pulled the car into the back patio area and washed it anyway (I'm hoping the restriction specifies the use of city water, but I don't know for sure...). The coolest thing about this coolest thing is that the "waste" water from the washing drips down and waters the grass in the driveway. Sweet!!! No pressure: Just used watering cans to pre-soak and then rinse. This is also the first time we drove a real car on the grasscrete. Held up just fine, thank you.

Watering the grass is a bit of a chore without pressure: You can't hook gravity fed water up to a sprinkler (not enough pressure), so thus far we've been watering by hand. Not a lot of fun because it's been getting so dang hot.

The worse thing about using rainwater? Using the rainwater. Seeing the storage in the tank go down is painful. We have to keep telling ourselves: "It's there to be used. It's supposed to go down." Nevertheless, it still hurts. Which is fine: It ensures we use what we have wisely (the bride wants another 3,000 gallons). And as we enter our traditionally hot and dry months, we're going to need to use as much as we can.