A Dream Home is an Architectural Self-Portrait

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By Amanda Dameron
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.

A dream home is an architectural self-portrait. 

A Dream Home is an Architectural Self-Portrait - Photo 1 of 5 - The house that Fleetwood Fernandez Architects designed for contractor Mehran Taslimi and his wife, Laila, embraces its surroundings. "They wanted doors that they could just throw open," designer Hunter Fleetwood says of the retractable wall system from Vitrocsa.

The house that Fleetwood Fernandez Architects designed for contractor Mehran Taslimi and his wife, Laila, embraces its surroundings. "They wanted doors that they could just throw open," designer Hunter Fleetwood says of the retractable wall system from Vitrocsa.

Many people work ceaselessly on their ideal house, whether it is conjured in fantasy or realized in brick and mortar. This kind of person loves refining details, and enjoys the feeling that, though they are always editing, they are never quite finished. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that you are one of the dreamers, or one of the doers, or both. 

A Dream Home is an Architectural Self-Portrait - Photo 2 of 5 - A collage of brightly colored geometric volumes comprise the Ettore Sottsass–designed residence of Lesley Bailey and Adrian Olabuenaga, proprietors of jewelry and accessories company ACME Studio.

A collage of brightly colored geometric volumes comprise the Ettore Sottsass–designed residence of Lesley Bailey and Adrian Olabuenaga, proprietors of jewelry and accessories company ACME Studio.

We couldn’t ask for a better pair of visionaries to consider than Ray and Charles Eames, captured in an exultant pose atop the skeleton of their yet-to-be-finished Case Study House in California. In the context of the modern American landscape, the legacy of that home can not be overstated, nor can the sheer mountain of works provided to us by that peripatetic duo. It’s worth noting that the Eameses stayed in their dream home for the rest of their lives. 

A Dream Home is an Architectural Self-Portrait - Photo 3 of 5 - Two families in Padua, Italy, combine forces—and resources—to build a pair of matching houses.

Two families in Padua, Italy, combine forces—and resources—to build a pair of matching houses.

In Vancouver, where there are strong laws protecting old heritage houses, one project illustrates a novel way to solve an architectural problem: How best to preserve the past while building for the future? We hope other developers will take note of the program by Shape Architecture, which eschews the lure of cramming in as many rental units as possible and instead capitalizes on shared space for all ages.  

A Dream Home is an Architectural Self-Portrait - Photo 4 of 5 - In upstate New York, two families unite to design a vacation house that will suit all their needs for years to come.

In upstate New York, two families unite to design a vacation house that will suit all their needs for years to come.

Leslie Bailey and Adrian Olabuenaga so revered their friend Ettore Sottsass, they gave him carte blanche to design their home on Maui. Sadly Sottsass never saw the final residence realized, but the couple kept their commitment to him by maintaining (nearly) everything to his exacting standards. We also present a story in Santa Monica, California, where a successful builder made the unusual choice to commission a young firm to build his dream home—an airy, LEED Platinum-certified residence (page 68). 

A Dream Home is an Architectural Self-Portrait - Photo 5 of 5 - Melanie Maher and her husband, David, understand firsthand how the built environment can pose challenges to a wheelchair user. Melanie, who has muscular dystrophy, had grown accustomed to encountering obstacles with her motorized chair both at home and in the community. As the couple began thinking about building a multigenerational house in Northern California’s Livermore Valley, their goal was clear. As David recalls: "We decided it would be nice to design a place that didn’t require us to make so many compromises." Enter Erick Mikiten. Raised in Texas, the Berkeley-based architect is a proponent of universally designed environments that are usable by all.

Melanie Maher and her husband, David, understand firsthand how the built environment can pose challenges to a wheelchair user. Melanie, who has muscular dystrophy, had grown accustomed to encountering obstacles with her motorized chair both at home and in the community. As the couple began thinking about building a multigenerational house in Northern California’s Livermore Valley, their goal was clear. As David recalls: "We decided it would be nice to design a place that didn’t require us to make so many compromises." Enter Erick Mikiten. Raised in Texas, the Berkeley-based architect is a proponent of universally designed environments that are usable by all.

Dreams are never more important than when everything seems lost. Such was the case in 2010, when Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was left in ruins by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. After his loved ones fled the region, Josué Azor decided to create a simple home for himself on his family’s plot of land. Though many believed that he was crazy to even try, Josué decided to educate himself on ways to rebuild safely, using simple materials and a limited budget. The resulting home is a quiet, yet powerful, reminder of what is possible when one chooses to embark upon an alternate path. 

Austin and Lida Lowrey spent their professional lives moving from one place to the next, and after decades of roaming, built a home with the help of their daughters in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The two artists knew they wanted to live together, but wanted separate live/work lofts and common space for cooking, eating, and entertaining. 

Speaking of unusual living arrangements, we visit a retreat in the Adirondacks designed by Gray Organschi Architecture for two families—a group with a shared history stretching back 100 years, though not connected in the traditional sense. Comprising nearly two dozen members, this team worked together with the architects to establish a home base that would be accessible for all. Design by committee is certainly a challenge, but in this case, it proved successful. 

It’s not common that we are able to feature a home that is so intensely personal that the architect is not only the resident, but the furniture maker as well. We visit Livingston, New York, where architect Allan Shope could finally build for himself after years of building for others, and where he and his wife can pursue their love of nature (they are licensed falconers and assiduous caretakers of the land). 

Respect for the power of architecture is the cornerstone of a project in Padua, Italy, where the client commissioned the architect of his childhood home. That’s not the only interesting part—in fact, in order to finance the project, the client had the idea to split the costs with another family and ask the architect to conceive twin structures. 

Architect-as-auteur is a theme that plays again in Sweden, where renowned architect Gert Wingårdh delivered a singular home built on a plot of land passed down through generations, as well as in Livermore, California, where architect Erick Mikiten conceived a fully accessible home that celebrates openness, gardening, and cooking. 

Though the stories in this issue are diverse, a few defining statements ring true: At home, you should feel capable and strong; your hopes and needs should be addressed, not just today but tomorrow as well; and last but not least, a true dream home should be the structural manifestation of your ideals, and never just a temple for your stuff. 

Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief
amanda@dwell.com / @AmandaDameron

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