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Modern in Lexington, Kentucky

The Miller House is an unusual architectural specimen. No, not the Miller House by Richard Neutra or Eero Saarinen. This Miller house was designed by Jose Oubrerie, and most likely, you haven't heard of it. Designed over a course of five years with the cooperation of his students and local master builders, Oubrerie's 1988 Miller House is a testament to architectural discovery through variation and applied testing. Located on the outskirts of horse country in the suburban fringe of Lexington, Kentucky, this onetime residence is now a resource of public domain (at least for now). While clearly in the lineage of Le Corbusier, with whom Oubrerie was a student and protégé, the structure's current accessibility and context is threatened. Foundation for Advanced Architecture, a nonprofit trust founded and headed by local architect Scott Guyon, has pledged to save what author Kenneth Frampton has deemed a “master work” from ruin. Yet this neo-Cubist gem still faces an uncertain future.

While Dean of the college of Design and Architecture at University of Kentucky, Oubrerie was commissioned by attorney Robert Miller to design his dream home. It would be situated on a 30-acre lot, around which Miller and his partner planned to develop a neighborhood of suburban tract homes. Though Miller had the foresight to plant what serves now as a curtain of trees that blocks out two adjacent neighborhoods, there remains a striking dichotomy between the house's current field condition—literally a highly articulated object in a seemingly rural plane—to that of the Agrestic-like neighborhood one must pass through to reach it.

Proposals to save the house have come in several guises, from celebrity endorsement and a proposal to reprogram the building as a community center to outright sale. But why not benefit from the chance of an early zoning law—which until the late nineties deemed the lot outside the urban service boundary, protecting it from similar development? It wouldn’t take much to transform the land and house into a nature reserve and architectural retreat for the local and international design community to enjoy for years to come. It's easy to imagine this place as an oasis, invigorating creative minds of young and old alike, but like most things, ultimately it’s a matter of funding.

Oubrerie was moved by the predicament of urbanity and domesticity, in an arguably neoclassical and self-proclaimed lineage, from fifteenth century Italian humanist Leon Battista Alberti to 1960s Dutch Structuralist Aldo Van Eyck, and he addressed the notion of the city in this house. Whereas Oubrerie obeys the rules of human-centered proportions, in typical Modernist irreverence, he defies expectations, taking every opportunity to call attention to breaks in geometric patterning.

To learn more about the house and its history, please visit the slideshow.

For more information see the Miller House website:
thefoundationforadvancedarchitecture.org or modernacommunity.com

To help save the Miller House contact:
Scott Guyon, c/o Guyon Architects Inc.
401 West Main Street, Suite 321, Lexington, KY 40507
email at: guyon_design@msn.com

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