Featured in the new issue of Metropolitan Home magazine is a house in Portland’s West Hills designed in 1937 by the great Pietro Belluschi. What’s particularly noteworthy about this project, though, is that the home’s recent expansion and renovation was designed by the one present-day local architect whose reputation has grown to a similar level of international notoriety: Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works. Although it’s only a small residential job, I was very excited to think of these two architects working on the same project.
And it was a personal one for Belluschi. As his grandson Jeff recently reminded me, Pietro designed the house for himself and his family. Jeff's father was born in 1939 while the family lived in the house. It was a very simple, modest house, which is why the Jays wanted to add some space. They and Cloepfil really respected the need to preserve the integrity of Belluschi's work, but they also didn't cowtow to it in a caricatured way, as had been done in previous renovations by other homeowners between Belluschi and the Jays. On one previous renovation, for example, Belluschi's trademark curving window bay was replicated in other smaller window fixtures, which Pietro certainly would have hated.
I wrote the Met Home article, and I wanted to pass on a few of the quotes, some of which didn’t get used in the story.
Brad Cloepfil talked about expanding the U-shaped plan for the house: “It was the idea of turning it into a kind of garden pavilion. It would open up that terrace a little bit. Before that terrace was kind of a dark, dead spot in the back of the house. By making a kind of glass pavilion that the space would go all the way through, it made that courtyard space less claustrophobic.”
The house is owned by John and Janet Jay, and John is the executive creative director at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy. John and Janet have also founded their own design studio here, Studio J, which is collaborating with Cloepfil and builder extraordinaire Don Tankersley (who worked on the Belluschi house) on a spec house in Portland also under construction.
Talking to me about Cloepfil, John said, “He is spectacular in his ability to articulate the idea, to be able to talk you through it. You sit down and you have a conversation about space, and concepts of the usage of space. I think that obviously this is a much smaller job, a renovation of a residential home, but he always asks those kinds of question, and draws that out of the client.”
I remember hearing the same thing about Brad when I wrote a New York Times profile of him three years ago, that for all his design talent, Brad’s charismatic ability to articulate space to the client but also to do so through the client’s own needs and desires, is among his greatest talents.
Again, it’s only a small renovation, but for Portland architectural enthusiasts I think this almost serves as a kind of passing of the torch.