a second post on the architecture of I. M. Pei's NCAR building in Boulder, Colorado and some thoughts on its scale, materials, and design
Another in a series of posts of some of the remarkable architects that were working in Boulder, Colorado in the 1960s. This was a particularly fruitful time for questioning the basis for especially residential design and Boulder's building boom allowed some of the more talented local architects to experiment with new forms, materials and most notably, new sets of relationships between the house and landscape
Autumn has fully come upon us along the Front Range, with the usual frozen mix of snow and rain and the rustle of leaves blowing around the now dry grasses.
We have a couple of new projects in the office and maybe nothing is more exciting than those early days of a project, meeting the homeowners, traversing the site. For me, the only thing that compares is that moment in construction when the final project begins to take shape. This is not just at framing or drywall installation, but when the final finishes are beginning to show up - the tile, cabinets, countertops - those elements that give scale and color to the realized space.
This project is a renovation and small addition to a 1960-’s tri-level house in South Boulder’s Table Mesa neighborhood. These are particularly difficult houses to make changes to, their original plans and constricted entry and circulation making the work challenging. In this case, we turned the standard Living, Dining and Kitchen areas ninety degrees, running them the depth of the property instead of parallel to the street.
This increased the circulation areas and the bedrooms remained largely as originally constructed and the entry was increased by adding a few feet to the front of the house.
I am very excited to see this project come close to completion. A great client and a great contractor, Modafferi Construction, has made for a successful collaboration and nice outcome.
Another ongoing project is another collaboration with ACI design:build on a complete renovation and large addition on an old house near downtown Boulder on West Arapahoe. The framing is moving along and we are in the process of experimenting with different paint removal products and techniques.
The above project is at about the halfway point and just getting dried-in for the oncoming weather.
At the earliest stages of construction, the Palisade Farmhouse project is just getting underway with framing. Located in Western Colorado on a family-owned peach farm, this house is a multi-generational dwelling sitting on the edge between the orchard and the life-giving irrigation canal. To this dramatic landscape of mesas and lush, green orchards, we are adding a traditional, gabled farmhouse to serve as a family gathering place. MacPherson Construction is heading up the work and we will be posting images of the ongoing construction over the next 6 months or so.
School building architecture
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and attended suburban Mayme S. Waggener High School. I have written previous posts about Hyper-Attenuated Building Syndrome, and it only recently occurred to me that this building is in fact a prime example. Its plan proportions are something like 12:1 - a long, lean, learning machine.
What I remember the most is the unendingly-long hallways. Or maybe I should say "hall", for although there are a few transverse ones, the overall plan of the school is one long, continuous, locker-lined hallway.
The building is also a good example of that kind of generic, bland international style design that was so ubiquitous after World War II and has made most Americans hate Modernism. The long bands of windows and panels are systemized and designed more for the speed and cost of construction than anything else. Like a jamb-band live, it could conceivable go on forever.
The building opened in 1954, originally as a Junior High School. It grew as its population expanded and aged and it became a combined Junior and High School soon thereafter. Anyone who grew up in eastern Jefferson County knows this building not because of its unique character, but because so many of the schools around that part of the county are nearly identical. Maybe only the red doors, painted in the school colors, distinguishes this building from so many others.
A machine for learning. Maybe. Maybe not so much.
I recently made a trip back to New Haven and visited my grad school haunt, the Yale Art and Architecture building. To say that it is a remarkable building does not do justice to its monumental and cruel presence. Siting on the edge of Yale's collegiate gothic campus, the stark Brutalist hulk has a severe monumentality that perfectly reflects the role of architecture and architects at its 1963 completion.