Article: Laurie Virr's House 'Rivendell' - Canberra, AU

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DRN
Posts: 3961
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

Laurie sends this account of how he and his wife obtained the Griffin chairs in 1965:

In January 1965 I was at the University of Melbourne,
about to commence the final 2 years of my
Architecture degree. A few months earlier my wife
and I had returned from the U.S.A. where I had been
engaged in the studio of Malcolm Wells. We had very
little money, and no furniture, but were able to rent a 1
bedroom apartment in a riverside suburb.
Moreover, we were unable to afford any form of
transport: we walked everywhere we needed to go,
despite the fact that Mary was heavily pregnant.
By pure chance, in a library, she saw an advertisement
in ‘The Age�, the most prominent newspaper in
Melbourne, for some chairs for sale.
Walter Burley Griffin’s Capitol Theater - opened in 1924 -
was being ‘renovated’ at that time, and the furniture
referred to in the newspaper were theater seats.
Somehow Mary made her way to the theater, and
approached the man responsible for disposing of the
furniture. The space was in total darkness, but he
grabbed a flashlight and took her to the highest level
of the building. Most of the furniture consisted of
typical theater seats fabricated in rows, but swinging
the flashlight on the first floor below the beam alighted
on what are now our dining chairs. As the only free
standing furniture in the theater I surmise they were for
the use of usherettes. He had absolutely no idea of
their worth, and when Mary, steeped in Prairie School
Architecture, indicated an interest in purchasing them,
suggested that AUD$2.oo each would be a suitable
price!
We then had to get them to our apartment, which was
some distance away. A friend who possessed a car
was able to assist us with that task, and the chairs
have been with us since that time.
At university I was able to consult the drawings for the
Capitol Theater, and there at the bottom of one of the
sheets, signed by Walter Burley Griffin, were the chair
details.
In Australia Walter Burley Griffin was rarely able to
attract clients having the budgets for buildings he had
in the U.S.A. The construction of these chairs, neither
in content or craftsmanship, compares with that by
George Grant Elmslie for the Purcell-Cutts house.


This description explains the inclusion of the Capitol Theater pics earlier in the thread. It would seem these chairs might have otherwise become landfill fodder were it not for the Virr's giving them a home.

BBuck
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:48 pm
Location: Fort Worth

Post by BBuck »

"Bill- please keep us posted as to the progress on your place. The best things in life are worth the wait!"

I shall do my best, Peter. It's proving to be a real task.

peterm
Posts: 6196
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

Keep the faith, Bill.

Is the issue finding the right contractor(s)? Or getting building permits for an unorthodox design?

BBuck
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:48 pm
Location: Fort Worth

Post by BBuck »

Peter,

Finding the right contractors. I don't anticipate problems on permits, as I'm well away from "communities" that have so many restrictions. I can pretty much do whatever I wish, other than the usual safety inspections.

Few homeowners want an 832 square foot hut next to their 3,400 sq. ft. Tuscan.

peterm
Posts: 6196
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

Are other homeowners attempting to slow you down?

I notice your house is brick. Is the problem finding a good mason? We searched for nearly five years before we found our amazing guy in Oskaloosa. It's a dying art...

Tim
Posts: 330
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:52 pm

Post by Tim »

Yes, I was lucky to visit Sydney. I had the same sense.

BBuck
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:48 pm
Location: Fort Worth

Post by BBuck »

Are other homeowners attempting to slow you down?
Not at all. I'm out in the sticks, so that is not a problem.

There are very good craftsmen and masons in the area. I've seen very fine brick work in and around Hendersonville and Asheville. I'm finding that some builders are not great communicators.

peterm
Posts: 6196
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

This is where contracts can come in handy.

I can't tell you how many times I made the five hour drive from Chicago to Oskaloosa in order to meet a contractor when he had agreed to do the work, only to discover that he was a no show.

Builders don't want to let you down and optimistically think they can juggle multiple projects. In their defense, they often have no choice but to take on every job that comes their way, hoping for the quickest finish to each project. For various reasons, the job almost always takes longer than they anticipated.

I guess my point is that being vague is a way of keeping multiple options open, so the job that pays the most and is the least amount of work or time is prioritized, while challenging jobs are put on the back burner. Maybe your house is one of those challenging ones. When a contractor comes along who wants to grow and be challenged, it will all fall into place.

SDR
Posts: 19472
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

"When a contractor comes along who wants to grow and be challenged, it will all fall into place." That was Mr Wright's happy experience, from time to time. We were recently speaking of Harold Turner . . .


Bill Buck sends Laurie's elevations of Bill's new house:


Image

peterm
Posts: 6196
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

I can't wait to see this project realized.

If there was some sort of directory of contractors state to state who specialize in building unorthodox designs, it could be so helpful.

Bill- Are you having a tough time finding the general contractor, or the subs?

BBuck
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:48 pm
Location: Fort Worth

Post by BBuck »

peterm,

A GC that would have the enthusiasm and ability to build something this original and unique. I'll have some time to travel to NC this summer. It will be challenging to be present during critical phases of the construction while living in Texas.

Laurie sent me a note with some ways of going about it:

"Purchase maps of Asheville and Hendersonville.

Visit the building administration and ask if they will furnish you with a list of the houses it is superintending at that time.

Visit a hairdresser and ask him who the best builders are in that area. (I rather like this one).

Visit a bank manager - I surmise that in time you will want an account with a local bank.
He would be aware of the financial ability of all the contractors having accounts with his organization.

Drive around the areas of town that are presently being developed, and see if some of the craftsmanship catches your eye. As we have discussed on numerous occasions seek either a person on the verge of retirement, or a young man who can build, and is willing to accept a challenge."

SDR
Posts: 19472
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I can attest to an recent example of Laurie's last point. In my neighborhood have appeared this year two yard gates of superior layout and craftsmanship. I intend to find out by whom they were built; it would be
useful to have someone to recommend for a job I may not wish to undertake myself.


Here are Laurie's plans for Bill's new house:


Image



ImageImage


Design and drawings © Copyright 2017 by Laurie Virr, Architect
Last edited by SDR on Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

peterm
Posts: 6196
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

I'm sure when you're there it'll all fall into place. Our situation was similar, living in California trying to find craftspeople for our remodel in Iowa.

Have you contacted the Conservancy? Maybe they know of builders near Asheville. Or Joel Silver? Auldbrass isn't that far away, is it?

As we talked about before, Bill, the surprising move of entering the house and immediately finding oneself in the bedroom is unorthodox. But I'm sure you and Laurie have an excellent justification for the rule breaking! (I can't remember now what you said about this...)

SDR
Posts: 19472
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I'm assuming that the bed, dashed in, disappears during the day, the entry room then functioning as a library or den, perhaps ?

I see a desk near the fireplace. There is much sense of enclosure and privacy, as I read it. Perhaps the bath and/or shower are skylit ? The nearly symmetrical envelope is unusual for this architect, I believe; a very exciting thing, a new house by a veteran Organic architect !

SDR
Last edited by SDR on Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

BBuck
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:48 pm
Location: Fort Worth

Post by BBuck »

I'm not sure what could come about by contacting the Conservancy. Would be nice to be on a first-name basis to Mr. Silver.

Unorthodox indeed. I'll have to make my bed each day? I've never had a king-sized bed, but there it is. Laurie has done so much in this small space.

His design does make more from less, having only one interior door that leads to the bathroom. You'll note that the "rooms" have a sense of separation and discovery, yet still under the same compact roof. The carport would have become an odd appendage if attached to the main structure, therefore the smaller mass, on approach, acts as an introduction to the main house.

Honest materials...

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