I'm a big fan of old houses, ever since I was a kid I've always wanted to live in a house with history and, for the most part, it's always worked out that way. As a proponent of sustainability, working with what is existing is always where I begin and then hope to extend the lifeline that much more. With that in mind, I thought I would share 3 very different posts this week that I happened to run accross , each of which celebrates the potential of an old house...
The first was a post about the newest Mission Zero certified project under the Living Building Challenge. A 1910 house in Ann Arbor, Michigan which not only achieved net zero energy (produce as much energy as you use), but was a historic rehab project as well. The fact that a project could successfully manage to collaborate and meet all the requirements within two very stringent standards is a very hopeful sign, one that signals a progressive dialogue between a sustainable future and a preserved past. Check out the progress and the details of this project, including lessons learned along the way, at their site.
The second post I came across was while reading the Sunset Magazine blog, Westphoria. Apparently, the 2015 Sunset Idea House is a renovation of a 1954 Mid-Century Modern home in Denver. My interest is piqued because not only do I love this era of houses, but I live in a 1950's Mid-Century Modern home in Portland and I am curious to see the before and afters. The article noted the plans for the house include moving the kitchen from the front of the house to the back (I wish I had the $ to do that, it's my biggest pet peeve!!), adding a second story master bedroom and roof deck and updating the basement with a playroom and home theatre. It's been interesting to read the post comments, all basically negative towards the intentions of the design, which as in all Sunset Idea Homes will likely be over the top. The main concern is the "pop top", I guess that's been a popular though derisive thing in Denver to add a second story on a ranch which unfortunately impinges on the neighbor's views/space/privacy. It's no secret that American's love of ample square footage has increased since the 1950's, but the goal here is to create longevity along side what people consider a "need" for space. My hope is that the design is a clever solution that retains the charm of the original even if the scale is altered, and doesn't infringe on the neighbors' space - worth following to the grand finale later this year.
The third article of interest is the announcement that 10 Frank Lloyd Wright houses are being nominated as a singular World Heritage Site to the United Nations prestigious list of significant cultural sites. The inclusion of these works, which include homes as well as civic buildings, would be the first representation of modern American architecture on the roster which includes sites such as the Acropolis in Athens and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Some of my personal favorites on the list include Fallingwater, The Robie House and Taliesin West. There's no doubt those long linear stacked planes, the dramatic balance of shadow and daylight and embracing the beauty of natural material still influence today's designers. Including these as international landmarks can only help in the cause of preserving their legacy, which is ideally what will be decided as the nominations are reviewed by the United Nations committee over the course of the year.