Magnificent Modern Seven
Maybe one day we'll look back on this era of apartments that look like Apple stores and think it was a lot like the conservative 1950s. One good way to test the waters of aspirational home life is the 2018 Portland Modern Home Tour on Saturday, June 2. Every year the Modern Architecture + Design Society finds guest curators (this year, architecture critic Brian Libby) who pick seven architecturally interesting homes that can be visited in a day. The addresses are a secret until you pay and get the map, and you can't go inside without a wristband.
"These are all private homes that you are not going to see inside unless you are friends with the homeowner," says Ken Shallcross, vice president of the Modern Architecture + Design Society. "And it's the one day the architects get to show off their work."
The tour was curated this year by Portland architecture critic and Business Tribune columnist Brian Libby. It presents a chance to poke around a few stylish homes while also getting to talk to the people who live there, the architects and sometimes interior designers.
The houses are only on the tour once. "We don't do repeats," says Shallcross. "We hope people will support our architects and pick up ideas for stuff they want to have done, or maybe something they weren't thinking of touching, like tearing out that old wall..."
Caps Lock 'n' load
The obvious first talking point this year is YARD, the brownish-black monolith at the east Burnside Bridgehead. Many complain about it, but few have been in it. This is a chance to see not a show home, but an actual lived-in apartment. The residents are an architect couple, one of whom works at Skylab, the company that designed YARD as well as much of the new Nike campus. Whether the roof deck and hot tub will be open remains in doubt at press time, but hopefully the wrist bands are made of waterproof Tyvek.
"Every time I've visited YARD I've been blown away by the views," says Libby. "I know some people don't like the height or the darkness, but it's hard to argue with the view, in all four directions it's pretty incredible." Libby says it stood out because it's the first tall building in that location, but others will follow.
"I think the city is going to warm to YARD. It's been fascinating to see a building that is such a conversation piece, even when that is negative," he says. "What I like is it's bold, it seeks to stand out from the crowd."
When it is surrounded by tall buildings and loses its views, will YARD still be worth living in?
"I think so, because of the location," he says. "It's a walk from downtown, and you can argue it's at almost the center of the city."
Most people will want to work their way north if they're attempting to see all the houses and the after party in Camas. Starting in Lake Oswego, there is the house along Upper Drive. This is a remodeled 1958 daylight basement ranch designed by Walker Templeton. "They took the roof off and added a second level," says Shallcross.
They did "reverse living" and moved all bedrooms upstairs and the kitchen, living room and family room downstairs. With radiant heat floors and double insulation, the house is cozy.
"I've been a fan of Walker's for many years, he was an Oregon Ducks football player and he actually gave me tickets to the 2010 Rose Bowl game, so in a sense maybe I'm biased," says Libby with a laugh.
"I love the way he transformed the ranch house. The ranch house may be the most ubiquitous type of house in Oregon, and they are prime candidates for renovation."
Drew Hastings of Raphael Design designed this three-bedroom house for his wife and son on 56th and Hawthorne Boulevard in the Mount Tabor neighborhood in Southeast.
They hid the gutters and downspouts behind the siding, which allowed them to use rigid rockwool insulation for a higher R-value.
The gable shape rides the trend of houses that look reassuringly plain. The exterior is wood. As the home owner, architect and contractor, Hastings was able to have custom details and craftsmanship throughout the design of the house. This is reflected in particular in the custom cabinetry, stair woodwork and exterior detailing.
"This one has wonderful indoor light," says Libby. "It's not palatial, it's a modest infill house. It's very contemporary and I liked the use of industrial materials. Modern doesn't always have to be ultra-pristine, about ultra-luxury and housing for the One Percent. Contemporary housing can fit into existing neighborhoods and use modern materials."
There were only two dozen Alcoa Care-Free Homes built in the country. The aluminum company wanted to show off the properties of the strong, light, rainproof metal, but overlooked one detail: expense. This is a rare chance to see inside a 1957 dream home which was remodeled in 2016 with new plumbing, low-voltage lighting, flooring, sheetrock and paint.
The owners say they have kept everything in line with the architect, Charles M Goodman's, original intent, and they write, "This home may not be Care-Free, but it's a joy to live in!!"
"This house is utterly unique, and the Alcoa company wanted to demonstrate that aluminum could be a viable building material," says Libby. "I really like that someone has given it tender loving care. I was there on a warm day and it felt well insulated. It's a nice mixture of indoor and outdoor space, there's a nice courtyard."
The Alcoa Care-Free is not just an historical curiosity.
"If you didn't know about the Alcoa company you might think of it as a nicely-restored midcentury house. Today 'Modern' can mean midcentury or it can mean recent. The mid-20th century and houses today have an affinity. The mid-20th century introduced open plan living, and that's something people are still looking for today," he says. "So, I wanted to include a real midcentury."
That Eighties Show Home
Until it found a new owner, Urban Housing Development's offering was as dated as a mullet. The 1981 Street of Dreams home has been remodeled, but the real attraction is seeing how the bones have held up.
The new owner nixed the dark, floating cabinets, and added an island, new lighting and fixtures throughout. She also added new flooring, cabinets, tile work, a soaking tub and — George Michael would be impressed — built in Bluetooth speakers everywhere.
"The early '80s were not a great period for residential architecture, so I enjoyed the idea of seeing how a 1980s Street of Dreams house could undergo a metamorphosis," says Libby.
So, does it?
"It's certainly a big improvement."
Ben Waechter is the hottest single-family home architect in Portland right now, because his simple-looking dwellings conceal a wealth of design details while conforming to the modest, Protestant ideal that a house should look like a child's drawing of a house. Questions one normally asks are why are the stairs there, and what's behind this wall? This is a rare two-home project by Waechter, which takes advantage of code that allows attached homes on corner lots. This 3-level structure has a second level living space highlighted by a 20' wide stackable glass wall system separating the kitchen and dining room from a private, covered balcony. Interior designers Oregon Homeworks made the insides monochrome, with lots of dark wood and a paneled stair column with hidden powder bath and pantry.
Only one of these homes is actually in the tour. The tour doesn't usually traffic in homes for sale — that brings out the worst in people — but this is one to tell the grandparents about, a four-bedroom, 3.5-bath in Beaumont-Wilshire for $1,100,000. They don't normally give out the addresses, but this one's at 3307 N.E. 43rd Ave., if you're driving by.
Says Brian Libby, "I've been a big fan of Ben Waechter, he has a lot of pedigree. He's worked with Renzo Piano and Brad Cloepfil. Waechter has an incredible gift for houses, both inside and out. There's this amazing clarity, this elegant simplicity to his work."
This one is a little different. "The client did the interior and himself, which makes it a more affordable price point. Given that housing affordability is such an issue I wanted to spotlight a home that has good design, but you can also get in at a lower price point."
N.E. 76th Ave.
A modern home conceived more similar to a loft space than a traditional single-family home, designed by m.o.daby design and located in Roseway. Mo.o.daby has done some passive houses in Oregon so, while this is not full passive, you can still study the envelope and geek out on the heating and cooling system.
If you've made your way south to north, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. there's an after party with free food and drink in Camas, inside a pair of homes not on the tour. Anyone who went last year will recall the circular sunken couch of the 4,200 square foot Tishenko residence. The builders of that, Modern Northwest homes, have a development called Deerhaven at Lacamas Lake they are selling, and are inviting people in to see samples homes, one of which is at N. Adams St., in Camas, Washington, 98607.
7th annual Portland Modern Home Tour
When: Saturday, June 2, 2018. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Why: Architects, designers, and home builders a chance to show their modern residential architecture and designs to the community, and tour-goers get a rare chance to see some fantastic modern homes up close and chat with the minds behind the designs.
Where: The Portland metro area. A current map is shown on the event page. Ticket holders receive a pdf and Google map to follow in any order.
Who: The Modern Architecture + Design Society, Portland Community College Architecture Club.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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