Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bixby Residence Garden Facade - Bonus Modern Photo of the Week

Name: Walter Edwin Bixby, Sr. Residence
Architect: Edward W. Tanner
Landscape Architect: Hare and Hare
Interior Designer: Kem Weber
Year Designed: 1935
Builder: Unknown
Year Built: 1936-37
Size: Unknown
Location: State Line Road, Kansas City, MO
Type: Residential
Style: Moderne with International Style influences
Status: Exterior excellent; Interior altered
Photographer: Norman Hobart. Courtesy of Leon and Margaret Jacobs via The University Art Museum, University of California at Santa Barbara

See their website here:
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Since we have been covering the Bixby Residence here and here, I thought I would go ahead and add this vintage exterior photo of the rarely seen Garden Facade of the house. The cantilevered balcony on the right is much more visible from this view.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bixby Residence Rumpus Room by Kem Weber - Modern Illustration - Modern Photo of the Week

Kem Weber. Elevation of Rumpus Room for W. E. Bixby, Sr. Residence, 1936-37. Watercolor and graphite on board. The University Art Museum, University of California at Santa Barbara.

Rumpus Room of W. E. Bixby, Sr. Residence, Kansas City. Photograph by R. B. Churchill, 1937. The University Art Museum, University of California at Santa Barbara.

This illustration and photograph are the interior designs of Kem Weber for the Bixby Residence which we featured an exterior photograph of here last week. The Moderne Style residence is located on the Missouri side of State Line Road. I am sure that many of you have driven by this house hundreds of times.

Weber is best known for his designs for the interiors of the original Walt Disney Studios in the 1930's and the ubiquitous Airline Chair (1934), which was used thoughout the studios.

In 1936 and 1937, Weber designed thirteen rooms for the Walter Edwin Bixby, Sr. home that was done in an uncharacteristic Modern style by noted Kansas City architect, Edward W. Tanner, who designed many of the buildings on the Country Club Plaza.

According to the University Art Museum, University of California at Santa Barbara website:
In its 1939 review of the Bixby interiors the London-
based International Studio praised Weber’s exploration
of the full creative potential of the Moderne aesthetic
through bold colors—Dubonnet (maroon), midnight
blue, coral red—and such new materials as aluminum,
glass block, linoleum, and masonite as well as richly
veneered plywood and cork paneling. Weber used
moveable and built-in furniture, combined with
veneered wood paneling surrounds to manipulate the
existing outline of Tanner’s rooms. Critics singled out
Weber’s distinctive use of the curved line in his design
for the built-in furnishings of the basement rumpus room
and its drop ceiling with concealed overhead lighting.

Bixby sold the house 1949 and unfortunaly the interiors were eventually dismantled, but we still have Weber's original renderings to show us this great design.

See the University Art Museum, University of California at Santa Barbara website for a more in depth discussion of the Bixby Residence.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carl Stenstrom, Architect- "Stonestream" Revisted

The previous post about "Stonestream" generated quite a bit of interest from friends and acquaintances that wanted to see more of the house... I recently located some photos I had taken in 1989 and 1990. I hope you find them interesting...The above pic was taken from the "car court" looking toward the entry, garage/workshop on the left, bedroom wing on the right.
Looking toward entry. Stenstrom loved an entry sequence. Columns had integrated lighting at the tops...note Carl's 16 inch module lines in the concrete.
Looking toward entry, screens seen at left and below enclose the Tea Garden.
Car court perimeter is defined by this fence, 30 ft. by 30 ft. workshop below.
Above looking toward front door, dining room screened from foyer...below Carl and friend looking at plans in dining area. Early evidence of roof leaks which ultimately doomed the house.

Above, fireplace nook with low ceiling deck. Below, wall of french doors in living room. Carl designed the lamp.

Above, cantilevered roof over master bedroom terrace. Below, master bedroom terrace as seen from the south. The pond seen here in the previous post is long gone.
Below, master terrace looks into the woods.
Below, one of the many "straight as an arrow" retaining walls Carl built.
Below, a fusion of two photos showing the idyllic setting under the trees.
The next post about Stonestream will show more recent photos highlighting the poor current condition of the home.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Foley Tractor, by Architect, W. I. Fisher, Wichita, Kansas - Then and Now

Here is a vintage photo of a landmark Wichita, Kansas business, Foley Tractor. Now known as Foley Equipment, the original building by Architect, W. I. Fisher, displayed that wonderful everyday modern commercial style that is disappearing so fast. This one is close to my heart because I rode by this one often when I was a kid. It was just down West Street from the Wichita John Deere dealer in a similar building that my dad visited frequently. I borrowed this estate sale photo from KCMODERN friend, Keith Wondra's Flickr site, kawwsu29. He was kind enough to let us use it.

THEN -- I love how the large expanses of glass act as a billboard for the sale of the Caterpillar industrial equipment displayed in the showroom. Can you imagine driving by at night when the brightly painted, industrial yellow equipment was lit up behind that glass? The neon Caterpillar sign over the exposed steel canopy at the entrance was a nice touch too!

NOW-- It appears that a 1970's brick redo was done to the glass parts of the facade. This was probably done because the large expanses of south and west facing glass caused the showroom space to overheat in the summer. You can see that the industrial steel window sash is still intact in the left background. This is probably a shop area and might be older than the vintage showroom.
INTERIOR -- The vintage interior was clean and modern too. I bet they no longer display Caterpillar equipment in there since the equipment has gotten much larger and it appears that the overhead door is no longer there. The business was already closed for the evening so I didn't get a new shot of the interior.

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...

Carl Stenstrom, Architect- He called it "Stonestream"

A good friend of ours, Carl Stenstrom, (1927-2008) designed and built this house himself near Red Bridge Rd and the Blue River. After graduating(1950) from KU with a degree in architecture and being an avid devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright, he applied for apprenticeship at Taliesin. Wright asked him if he was married, he replied "Yes"... "Do you have children"? "Yes sir, one and one on the way", Wright said, "We don't have very much room around here right now, so you should go home and raise your family." Agreeing, but wanting to learn more, Carl worked on the construction crew during the building of Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville OK. He became a wizard in concrete construction. He believed the most rewarding home was one you built yourself or at least helped build, growing "organically" as needs changed. His home was a great example of his thinking. He started building it in 1958.
The neighbor kids, now grown, tell stories about always hearing the cement mixer, it seemed it was running more than not. With classical music playing in the background, Carl did an enormous amount of work for one man.. moving rocks, mixing concrete, not to mention all the form work, carpentry, pouring the slab with radiant heat, etc, all while making a living as an architect to support family and construction ...In the carport building, in the space labeled studio, is where the family originally lived. It's a small space with kitchenette, fireplace, and hardly enough room for two adults much less a growing family. You know they hoped for fair weather so they could enjoy sleeping outside on cots.
The mid 1970's photos above show the "Wrightian" fireplace with lower ceiling deck and built-in seating to the left, "World Book Encyclopedia" on the shelves. Behind the fireplace is the retreat with the tower integrated with the fireplace. The house has plaster ceilings and cork floors, except in front of the french doors where he randomly placed flat stones in the concrete border. Carl designed a lot of his own furniture and the elaborate geometric screen in the dining room. The previous photo is taken from the dining room looking south toward the Steinway parlor grand piano in the back of the living area, the fireplace is to the left. (Sorry, the ceiling isn't stained, it's my photo)
After the house took shape Carl threw himself into building rubble stone retaining walls that stretched into the surrounding landscape. Under the car court in front, Carl built a 30ft.x30ft. concrete room to store his tools and to use as a shop.
Stonestream is the English translation of the Swedish name Stenstrom, which was appropriate considering the rain runoff that flowed through the property that Carl endeavored to control. Initially, he dammed the stream that bisected the property, you can see the shallow pond with the cantilevered master terrace hovering above in the photos. This created a very picturesque setting and provided a lot of fun for the family, note the canoe. The city later installed sewers making it a ditch. Carl filled the pond with dirt and built more retaining walls turning the slope into flat elevations.

The above winter photo taken from the hill behind the house, shows the low horizontal plan of the house in full. Mostly french doors on this south side, you get an idea of the pinwheel sprawl of the house. In the foreground, under construction, is the elliptical swimming pool retaining walls. He added an adjoining taller cylinder to house the changing room and kitchenette. Though never completed, when walking through it, you can appreciate Carl's vision.
Suffering from declining health, and unable to maintain the property, Carl and his wife moved. He passed away last year, just a few weeks after the Kansas City Star did another story about him and his house. Today, the house sits empty and vandalized. Two subsequent investor/owners did nothing to protect the house from the elements... it is in extremely poor condition.

KCModern salutes Carl and his dedication to his ideal.