Idea Patios, Ranch House, Architecture Essays

Space to Think

I think we all need a place to think (perhaps especially during the holidays). For me that sometimes means looking out the window or just finding a quiet place to read or write. Architect Jerry Veverka’s solution is what I would call a “contemplation courtyard” just outside his home office, combining elements from the house of Mexican modernist Luis Barragan and Japanese Zen gardens. It’s  in his new house in a fairly dense older neighborhood so outdoor privacy was important. The view is to a small, vibrantly hued but spare patio courtyard with its simple wall fountain pouring over a gravel floor pepppered with glossy bowling ball “stones.”

You walk through it to get to the study. Jerry’s desk faces it. His wife’s office faces the little patio from the other side; a very clever arrangement which can easily convert to a guest suite or in-law unit at some future date.  Here’s another view from the terrace off the living-dining area.

See how it draws the eye — you wonder what’s in there, and the sound of water adds to the allure. It’s a classic example of an “in-between space” that acts as a kind of a visual and mental palate cleanser, focusing the gaze to set the mind free. Even the sky takes on an artful aspect  when framed by such colorful walls. Such a simple idea — what a recirculating pump, paint, gravel, and a steel spout can do to make a  special “room with a view.” 

Speaking of frames (as I often do), here’s a quick update on our ranch house revival (Plan 508-1 by Nick Lee. I was worried that the water tank near the master bedroom would block the view but now I think it will be ok.  Here’s a photo looking through the window frame from where the bed will be, taken last week.

The tank becomes part of the landscape and doesn’t overwhelm it. The rest of the house is rising fast. The exterior walls are up.

And you can see the foundation for the long west-facing porch.

We are on track — though perhaps the pool will have to be postponed, for budgetary reasons. Next week the roof trusses should be up and I’ll have more to report.

Book Review

Shameless Self-promotion Department: I have an essay about San Francisco architecture between World Wars I and II (originally written for an exhibition at SF Museum of Modern Art) in a new book called Frozen Music: A Literary Exploration of California Architecture, edited by David Chu with a forward by SF Chroncle architecture critic John King (Heyday Press, 2010). The articles range from a chapter by 19th century novelist Helen Hunt Jackson to recent pieces by architecture critics Paul Goldberger and Herbert Muschamp and include classics like Charles Moore’s “You Have To Pay for the Public Life,” which was one of the first architectural appreciations of Disneyland. Needless to say I recommend the anthology — perhaps an essay here will spark your own idea patio.

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