Sunday, March 15, 2009

Elpidio Rocha, Architect - "What's the Story on that House?"

If you are driving south on I-35 out of downtown Kansas City, MO and look down to the right, you'll see an older neighborhood. Standing out in the area of older "shotgun" houses is a distinctive house design that from the highway looks like a Bruce Goff "Houseboat".

I spoke with John B., the owner, who asked his childhood acquaintance, Elpidio Rocha to design him a home he could build, which he did in 1967. This house is a direct result of the lectures Bruce Goff did in 1965 at the Kansas City Art Institute. Rocha said," I pulled the best I could for the budget, out of my Bruce Goff "Catalog of houses". Of course there is no catalog, but Rocha, listened to Goff, and the result is a tight little house with character and a "spirit" of fun. The family enjoys the distiction of owning a unique home and today the house remains in good shape.
This is a difficult house to photograph. These are photos of the front deck and "shadow makers".


This is a view from the alley behind the house. The entry is on the left of the house, now enclosed. The Kitchen is on the rear of the house, seen here and steps out to the terrace.

Closeup of "diamond" bay and lower level windows with triangular ends. Note the angled siding. Bedrooms were on the lower level, with ample light.
This is from the living area looking down toward the entry, note the "lozenge" shaped door...definitely "Goffian"...
This shows the wood tongue and groove ceiling and central beam. The door on the left gives access to the front deck.


Elpidio Rocha, Professor of Architecture at the Kansas City Art Institute, after hearing Goff's last lecture, quit architecture. When we spoke he said he was so impacted by what Goff said, he stated, " I don't have the right education or influences to be the kind of architect I want to be...Goff was light years ahead of Wright".

He went on to work for the KC Parks Dept., designing parks and shelters that we still see today. He was one of the "Fathers" of urban renewal, designing "pocket parks" in urban areas. Interestingly, He and Dale Eldred, noted sculptor and artist, collaberated on a park across the street from this house. It was removed during a highway expansion. His most noteworthy, and ultimately controversial design was for an urban park in downtown KC,KS. Today, he lives in California. (Click on images to enlarge) Elpidio Rocha, to be continued...

10 comments:

rayrast said...

Thanks for this great post! I got to know Elpidio Rocha a few years ago when living in Eugene, Oregon, and I've been trying to get back in touch. I'm a historian (teaching at Cal State Fullerton), and I'm starting a new project somewhat related to his work in Kansas City. My mother, who grew up in the Westside, remembers Elpidio's own very distinctive house (which must have been demolished for I-35). Any chance you know his whereabouts (beyond just California)?

- Ray Rast

Scott said...

Thanks for looking at our blog.The owner of this house said Mr. Rocha's house was still standing... .He said it was a "toned-down" copy of his plan, which probably threw me because I looked in the area but couldn't identify it. Across the street from this house, Mr. Rocha along with Dale Eldred, designed and built a park that was removed for highway expansion. We will have another post soon featuring some more of his Kansas City work...I can help with contact info: scottl.kcmodern@gmail.com

Nate Hofer said...

Fantastic research and post. Looking forward to more information. Rocha is definitely going on my list.

When you say: "He said it was a "toned-down" copy of his plan", do you mean that somewhere in a Westside neighborhood there is a house related but less elaborate than the house photographed for this post?

Thanks!
nate

Nate Hofer said...

Link to the city park you mentioned:

http://www.kchistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/Landmarks&CISOPTR=10&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

Scott said...

Thanks for the kind remarks...to answer your question, the owner of the house in the post said it was the same plan, side entry bi-level, but led me to believe it didn't have the "Goffitecture". I didn't find it in a hurried look south of the highway on Madison. This house is so distinctive, it's difficult to imagine a spare version without the exposed center beam, triangular windows, front deck, walkout lower level, etc. Ray said in his comment, that his mother remembers Elpidio's "distinctive" house. We'll find out if it exists or not, we'll get a post out on it... with pics I hope!

frustr8 said...

I took a class from Elpidio Rocha back in 1999-2000 at the University of Oregon. it was ground breaking work that I didn't understand until a few years later.

frustr8 said...

I took classes from Elpidio Rocha at the university of oregon (1998-2000). I didn't understand his theory until a few years later.

www.ikeepmoving.com

Jim said...

Ray, Elpidio Rocha is now 84 and retired in Sacramento. After leaving Eugene, he was a professor of architecture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He is a member of a small seniors group that I meet with every Wednesday for lunch. I will see him tomorrow and give him a link to this website and your comment and leave it up to him to supply details.

rayrast said...

Jim: thanks, I did reconnect with Elpidio, but it's now been a few months and I owe him a message. I hope you might tell him I said hello and will try to give him a call soon. - Ray

Jon Ryburg said...

Hi Elpidio and I go back to the 60's when we both taught at the Art Institute in KC as a student I took 6 photos of his park at 27th and Madison I do not believe they are available on line anywhere so I offer them to anyone wanting to post them - I would also like very much to get in touch with him by physical address or email telephone etc.
Appreciate all the comments very much.

Jon Ryburg
ryburg@comcast.net