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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 â€˜The Ageâ€�, the most prominent newspaper in
Melbourne, for some chairs for sale.
Walter Burley Griffinâ€™s Capitol Theater - opened in 1924 -
was being â€˜renovatedâ€™ 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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:
Design and drawings Â© Copyright 2017 by Laurie Virr, Architect
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...)
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 !
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.