Modern in Lexington, Kentucky

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November 12, 2010
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  • 
  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.
    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.
  • 
  While contemplating the sunscreen slab, Scott Guyon declared, “every chance Oubrerie gets he expresses the structure in some slip or revealing way” braces are pulled outside the envelope and tied back, “its like a lab on methods and materials.” Indeed there was no fixed set of drawings, and none of the final drawings represented what was actually built.
    While contemplating the sunscreen slab, Scott Guyon declared, “every chance Oubrerie gets he expresses the structure in some slip or revealing way” braces are pulled outside the envelope and tied back, “its like a lab on methods and materials.” Indeed there was no fixed set of drawings, and none of the final drawings represented what was actually built.
  • 
  “You have this very unusual situation you could never reproduce: a masterwork house finds itself in the suburbs, and the development is stalled and they both need repurposing, and now we need to get someone to partner,“ explains Guyon. He estimates it would take an additional seven million dollars to keep and maintain in the house as a public house museum and park. From the second-floor balcony bathed in late afternoon light, one can see a field of bluegrass, and the grid of Lexington suburbs in the distance.
    “You have this very unusual situation you could never reproduce: a masterwork house finds itself in the suburbs, and the development is stalled and they both need repurposing, and now we need to get someone to partner,“ explains Guyon. He estimates it would take an additional seven million dollars to keep and maintain in the house as a public house museum and park. From the second-floor balcony bathed in late afternoon light, one can see a field of bluegrass, and the grid of Lexington suburbs in the distance.
  • 
  The hearth is central, and like the rest of the house, reassuring in its classism, in both proportion and assembly. While in a way austere, the richness of material keeps the house from feeling cold or operational. Still, it has to be understood as an exercise in Architecture for architectures sake, high couture, embracing certain abstract ideas of architecture and not necessarily a practical application in society.
    The hearth is central, and like the rest of the house, reassuring in its classism, in both proportion and assembly. While in a way austere, the richness of material keeps the house from feeling cold or operational. Still, it has to be understood as an exercise in Architecture for architectures sake, high couture, embracing certain abstract ideas of architecture and not necessarily a practical application in society.
  • 
  Above the fireplace, one can see the confluence of three bi-level cubes comprising apartment-volumes for parents (master suite), children, and public (piazza). And while the totality might elaborate notions of mansion-house or programs like foyer and hallway for example, one must traverse a network of stairs, exterior balconies and interior bridges, which seem to confound clear notions of programmatic space.
    Above the fireplace, one can see the confluence of three bi-level cubes comprising apartment-volumes for parents (master suite), children, and public (piazza). And while the totality might elaborate notions of mansion-house or programs like foyer and hallway for example, one must traverse a network of stairs, exterior balconies and interior bridges, which seem to confound clear notions of programmatic space.
  • 
  But don’t mistake the vibrant colors or hovering masses for Postmodernist work like the colliding geometries of Daniel Libeskind, Guyon warns, the narrative for this building could not be more different.
    But don’t mistake the vibrant colors or hovering masses for Postmodernist work like the colliding geometries of Daniel Libeskind, Guyon warns, the narrative for this building could not be more different.
  • 
  He asserts that Oubrerie “did everything he ever wanted to do here. The more you experience the house, the more intensely you will see the assemblage. “He went to great pains so that you would ultimately see differences in what at first seem repeatable instances.” Visible in the stairs, the underside of balconies, the infill of railings, they are all handled oppositely, with different mountings—“conditions, conditions, conditions, it’s almost baroque. Ornament on top of ornament.”
    He asserts that Oubrerie “did everything he ever wanted to do here. The more you experience the house, the more intensely you will see the assemblage. “He went to great pains so that you would ultimately see differences in what at first seem repeatable instances.” Visible in the stairs, the underside of balconies, the infill of railings, they are all handled oppositely, with different mountings—“conditions, conditions, conditions, it’s almost baroque. Ornament on top of ornament.”
  • 
  Guyon continues: “people have misgivings about pure modernism being sterile, too object driven and not feminine enough, [but here] its more than just white oak, sure materials are part of it and has an interesting value that’s really not typical of the first generation modernist houses…it’s not all ideology, it’s a friendly house, and it has these beautiful opportunities for transparency and light.”
    Guyon continues: “people have misgivings about pure modernism being sterile, too object driven and not feminine enough, [but here] its more than just white oak, sure materials are part of it and has an interesting value that’s really not typical of the first generation modernist houses…it’s not all ideology, it’s a friendly house, and it has these beautiful opportunities for transparency and light.”
  • 
  A view of one of the boys’ bedroom shows how the furniture was built into the wall and the relationship of walls to the floor, making clear, as Guyon has described, that this is really “an experiment masquerading as a house.” As is indicative of a pure Modernist home, all glass is fixed, with separate screened compartments for ventilation. Circulation and places of repose are also separated. As one can see at the right of the frame, the box is denied, the cube explodes, things come apart and nothing directly touches. “Its not egalitarian, its completely elite. Though many find it to be bare bones, its just really intense in its craft,” says Guyon.
    A view of one of the boys’ bedroom shows how the furniture was built into the wall and the relationship of walls to the floor, making clear, as Guyon has described, that this is really “an experiment masquerading as a house.” As is indicative of a pure Modernist home, all glass is fixed, with separate screened compartments for ventilation. Circulation and places of repose are also separated. As one can see at the right of the frame, the box is denied, the cube explodes, things come apart and nothing directly touches. “Its not egalitarian, its completely elite. Though many find it to be bare bones, its just really intense in its craft,” says Guyon.
  • 
  It was Oubrerie’s intention that the house be considered from all sides, and indeed its cinematic qualities undeniably experienced as a series of frames, make it difficult to capture. According to Oubrerie, “in terms of construction, [the aim was] to give to each piece its identity. Each piece is a project in itself. This was a classical facade (front), while the back is closer to Destijl; each facade becomes a dwelling unto itself.” To experience the Miller House is both an intellectual and intuitive delight, and at the very least one must appreciate that, in the words of Guyon, “someone actually financed a studio project to the end.” Sadly, and inevitably, in the words of its architect:  “The fate of the work today is out of my control.”
    It was Oubrerie’s intention that the house be considered from all sides, and indeed its cinematic qualities undeniably experienced as a series of frames, make it difficult to capture. According to Oubrerie, “in terms of construction, [the aim was] to give to each piece its identity. Each piece is a project in itself. This was a classical facade (front), while the back is closer to Destijl; each facade becomes a dwelling unto itself.” To experience the Miller House is both an intellectual and intuitive delight, and at the very least one must appreciate that, in the words of Guyon, “someone actually financed a studio project to the end.” Sadly, and inevitably, in the words of its architect: “The fate of the work today is out of my control.”
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