BY BRIAN LIBBY
Condos in North and Southeast Portland. A prototype house in Northeast. A passive house in Southwest. Three midcentury gems in the West Hills and Beaverton. Even the scene of a Portlandia episode. This year's second annual Modern Home Tour seeks to offer a little bit of everything modern from the mid-20th Century to today.
Curated by Portland Architecture and scheduled for Saturday, March 9 from 11-5, the 2013 Modern Home Tour features a cross section of designers past and present, from acclaimed and award-winning firms of today such as Works Partnership, Holst, Departure Design, Edgar Papazian and William Kaven to earlier generation designers and builders such as Richard Campbell, Robert Rummer and John Dukehart.
Take Works Partnership's house on NE 53rd Avenue, an excersise in protyping over prefabrication.
"We, as a profession, speak romantically about prefabrication and mass production as a way to bring thoughtful design to mainstream homebuyers," the architects write. "We hope for tight construction costs of $150/sf and 'fast' schedules of 6 months. We are a little lost. The American mass housing industry’s bottom line is closer to $60-75/sf and houses are completed in 40-75 days out in the converted farmland of exurbia. Using the building blocks of the typical American house we asked not only what types of spaces they could contain, but what types of spaces could they create; a change not so much in architectural configuration, but a change in lifestyle. We wanted to return to utilitarian simplicity and a model of living large in a smaller home." The 3 bedroom, 2.5-bath home is oriented around a courtyard and designed around an existing mature cedar tree, with a one-bedroom accessory dwelling unit in back.
Architect Edgar Papazian's home in Southeast Portland was made famous last year when it appeared in a Portlandia episode. But it was distinctive long before that.
Papazian, who previously worked for prestigious firms like Polshek Partnership and SANAA, expanded a modest existing cottage on a low-budget with inexpensive materials like corrugated metal as well as an eye for curves and uncommon material juxtapositions. When I first visited the house in 2010, it seemed to be an odd marriage of house and Quanset hut. But the more I explored it, the more I came to love what Papazian had done.
The North House by William Kaven Architecture and the Clinton Condominiums by Holst Architecture both represent the multi-family housing boom of the 2000s as it came to Portland's historic neighborhoods. Each, at the time of its construction, met opposition from neighbors who decried the incompatability of the contemporary architecture with the existing fabric of homes. But I'd argue that each over the years has come to fit well into its neighborhood.
The North House fits three condos discreetly onto its site so as not to tower over existing houses, and inside the views are bright and airy. The Clinton has become a center of its neighborhood, with floor-to-ceiling glass and mahogany on the ground floor giving way to a gritty facade of weathered steel.
Built in 1966, the three-bedroom house by Richard Campbell is a delightful fusion of wood and open space. With oak floors and cedar ceilings under a soaring split roof, the home is a quintessential example of the Northwest Modern style that proliferated here from the 1930s-60s. Campbell, one of the co-founders of the firm now known as YGH Architecture, won awards from both the American Institute of Architects and Sunset magazine for his design.
Like the Eichler builder homes of California that inspired them, the midcentury Rummer Homes scattered across the Portland metro area are highly coveted, thanks to their open floor plans and bounty of natural light - not to mention a certain Brady Bunch meets Richard Neutra retro feel.
This original Rummer home was built in 1966 and is one of only two known homes with this floor plan. It went through a complete remodel in 2009 with an eye to maintaining the mid-century appeal while updating the mechanicals, kitchen, and bathrooms. Jeffrey Wiseman, homeowner and proprieter of Rose City Modern, has decorated the home with mid-century furniture and accent pieces from his own antique store as well as others around Portland.
Patrick O’Neill and Jayne Cronlund O’Neill purchased the home tour home on SW Beaverton Avenue in the Council Crest neighborhood in 2004. The house, originally designed by John Dukehart for his parents as a place to retire, was still in its original condition with no major remodels. Both Patrick and Jayne saw a great potential restoration/renovation opportunity.
O'Neill, founder of Greenline Fine Woodworking, developed potential restoration/renovation concepts over the next 8 years while living in the house. As part of the design development process, the O’Neill’s commissioned Japanese Garden master Hoichi Kurisu, to design the gardens. With the garden plan complete (though not constructed), Patrick was able to fully design the interior renovations.
Portland's Departure Design is the sole firm with two houses on the tour. Their Full Plane Passive House has quietly reached the ranks of Portland’s most sustainable residences, pursuing both Passive House and the Living Building Challenge standards. To meet net-zero water goals, composting toilets, stormwater catchment, and greywater reuse are incorporated. PassiveHouse technologies and photovoltaics help the Full Plane PassiveHouse surpass net-zero energy requirements, moving towards net-positive energy.
Departure's other project features a unique program including a simple one-bedroom, 1,400 square foot home with an open studio for music, painting, and videography. The straightforward design balances simplicity and restraint. Irregular but beautiful natural materials, like the salvaged fir siding from the Oregon State Mental Hospital, are set against playful colors and forms, like the bright yellow spiral stair.
Spring and fall are often loaded with home tours. Besides this tour, for example, the Historic Preservation League is producing a tour of historic midcentury-modern Saul Zaik homes happening on May 11. The Architectural Heritage Center is offering a "Kitchen Revival Tour" on April 13. But regardless of one's tour preferences, the return of sunny weather is a chance for Oregonians to check out what their neighbors have been up to, and how modern architecture continues to inspire across generations.