Friday, September 16, 2011

Eisenman House II On The Block

                                                                      photo Brian Venden Brink
Eisenman House II

Peter Eisenman’s House II is on the block.

For a mere $2,800,000 you can own this 3 Bedroom, 3 Bath 2,554-square-foot 20th century architectural icon that was built in the late 1970s. The house sits on 110 acres; there is also a 4-stall horse barn with a studio apartment upstairs.

                                             Photo Brian Vanden Brink
House II, Side View 

Not only does the house have impeccable credentials – Eisenman routinely appears on lists of the “World’s Top 10 Living Architects,” --  it has been fully restored. The current owners, John and Lydia Makau, bought a ruin in 2000 that had been on the market for 10 years, and they painstakingly brought it back to life, as Gwenda Blair vividly describes in a NY Times article with the header “House Proud: A White Elephant Restored.”

                                                   Photo Brian Vanden Brink
House II, Patio

House II, which is located in Hardwick, Vermont, is one of a series of ten houses that Eisenman designed early in his 5-decades-long career. The houses, which challenged every commonly held notion of “house” and “home,” catapulted Eisenman to architectural fame and, many would add, notoriety, as the houses had “confrontational” details like bedrooms separated by half-walls and large openings in the floors without railings or grates to prevent falling through.

                                                         Photo Cynthia Davidson
   Eisenman's Own House

In the years since he designed the houses, Eisenman’s own ideas on this subject have dramatically changed, as I discovered in an interview last spring:

For more info on the House II real estate listing and more pics:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Long Goodbye to a Dearly Beloved Neighbor

The House

For 22 years I lived across the street from a modest, one-story, modernist house designed by an architect who worked in Minoru Yamasaki's office in Troy, Michigan. The house was built in 1960, and it had some wonderful features. The most notable was the central living room with two glass walls and a 4-sided clerestory window that ringed the space.

The Central Living Room

My favorite thing about the house was outside -- an enormous, sheltering walnut tree in the front yard. It always reminded me of Longfellow and another very famous "spreading chestnut tree."

The Sheltering Walnut Tree

The original owners died. Their daughter lived there for a time and then sold the house last year. The new owners decided that they could not have the house they wanted simply by enlarging this one, so they elected to tear it down and start over. 

My beloved walnut tree went down the first day.

It took four days to knock it down.




The new owners are building a two-story house that's twice as big. It will be very green. In style it will be colonial. We hope that in time we come to love it as much as we did its predecessor.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Home Builder Contracts: Definitely NOT a New Idea

Fragment of a Roman Contract

There may have been a time in the US when building a house was a "handshake deal" between the home owners and the builder, but those days are long gone.

Today, every builder presents the home owners with a contract that details what he promises to deliver. The contract, which can be many pages long, may seem like a new wrinkle. But in fact, mankind has been writing contracts almost as long as we have been writing anything at all, said Matthew Stolper, a professor and archeologist at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

The first writing systems,  Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sumerian cuneiform, were developed around 3400 to 3200 BC. Even if written contract documents did not become common for another 200 to 400 years, that would still give legally binding contract documents a pedigree that is more than 5,000 years old.

Photo by Katherine Salant
Note: Comments and observations made during a trip to Italy in July and posted after my return.