originally written for Curbed
Atop thousands of homes in the warm western regions of the United States are roofs that turn the traditional housetop silhouette on its head. Two panels meet in the middle of the roofline and slope upward and outward, like butterfly wings in mid-flap. This similarity gave the "butterfly roof" its name, and it is a distinct feature of post-war American residential and commercial architecture. In Hawaii, Southern California, and other sun-drenched places, the butterfly roofs made way for high windows that let in natural light. Homes topped with butterfly roofs seemed larger and more inviting.
Credit for the butterfly roof design often goes to architect William Krisel. He began building single-family homes with butterfly rooflines for the Alexander Construction Company, a father-son development team, in Palm Springs, California, in 1957. The Alexander Construction Company, mostly using Krisel's designs, built over 2,500 tract homes in the desert. These homes, and their roofs, shaped the desert community, and soon other architects and developers began building them, too—the popularity of Krisel's Palm Springs work led to commissions building over 30,000 homes in the Southland from San Diego to the San Fernando Valley.
But the story of Krisel as inventor of the butterfly roof is actually "not true," as Krisel himself notes. While he did make the feature a Southern California mid-century trademark, it was another architect who first developed the butterfly roof. Twenty-eight years before Krisel designed tract homes for the Alexander Construction Company in Palm Springs, Swiss-French architect and Modernist pioneer Le Corbusier first came up with the soaring architectural feature.
Originally born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in Switzerland, Le Corbusier moved to France in 1917, gave himself the new moniker, and began associating with singers, sculptors, writers, and other artists. With his minimalist modern architecture, Le Corbusier sought to create a better functioning, more equal society (in fact, Le Corbusier was a supporter of both Communism and Mussolini). His designs put him at the opposite end of the spectrum from traditionalists and from much of the architecture in his adopted country. Le Corbusier was always ahead of his time—particularly so in 1930, when he designed the very butterfly roof for which Krisel would later get much of the credit.
Le Corbusier's first attempt at the butterfly roof took place in Chile, where he was commissioned to build a vacation home in Zapallar for Eugenia Errazuriz, heiress to a Bolivian silver mining fortune and wife of Jose Tomas Errazuriz, whose father and grandfather had both been President of Chile. Eugenia was a grand patroness of the avant-garde; in addition to the modern cliffside summer home she commissioned, Eugenia was a friend to and avid collector of Picasso. Eugenia's taste for modernism and minimalism was widely known within her circles. Mutual friends of Eugenia's and Le Corbusier's thought the two to be of one mind; fellow Swiss-French citizen and Modernist writer Blaise Cendrars introduced the two.
The vacation home, Maison Errazuriz, was set to overlook the Pacific Ocean from a remote spot that presented challenges for Le Corbusier. He met them with his trademark mix of organic design and modern innovation. Le Corbusier planned to build with a rustic mix of stone and wood—materials that were local to the area and would help combat and stabilize the uneven terrain. A combination of fieldstone and large boulders would serve for the floors and exterior, respectively.
Large cut tree trunks were planned for interior support columns. Kenneth Frampton, another Le Corbusier biographer, notes that Maison Errazuriz "gave rise to what would soon become his characteristic neo-vernacular. An expression both archaic and modern."
The other site-specific aspect of the project was, of course, the unique roof of the Maison Errazuriz: a broad, off-center V "resembling two unequal wings of a gigantic bird in flight," writes Weber. Where the two wings met about one-third of the way along the home, a gully formed, from which the large, winged expanses swept upward. The wings were to be covered in Spanish tiles. This striking design was a distinctive departure from the flat roofs that had become characteristic of the 1920s.
Le Corbusier laid out his plans for the Maison Errazuriz in numerous drawings. The grand vacation home for the Chilean heiress would go no further than that, however. Eugenia Errazuriz's lifestyle and patronage of the arts left her bankrupt (even after she sold several of Picasso's works back to him) the year before construction was supposed to start.
Read the rest at Curbed.com
Neighborhood Fixture: The Art Deco legacy built by an Echo Park Salvation Army worker
originally written for The Eastsider LA
ECHO PARK — 1650 Echo Park Avenue is a brick, four-story apartment building that dwarfs the surrounding homes and apartments. Now known as The Heights At Echo Park, the 29-unit building features an ornate green terra-cotta Art Deco facade with burnt orange accents. Tenants enter through an arched doorway and have access to an elevator – a rare amenity in Echo Park, then and now. Such an elaborate structure – both in height and in design – blatantly sticks out on the otherwise one and two-story residential street. So what exactly is it doing there?
The building was commissioned by Rosina Pauli, an adjutant in the Salvation Army. Architect E.J. Vought designed the building which was erected in late 1929. Voght was no stranger to such grandiose structures; in fact, he also had a hand in another 1929 Echo Park apartment building that was slated for Glendale Boulevard and Alvarado Street, according to the LA Times.
So who was Rosina Pauli and what possessed this 66 year old, single woman to spend commission such a grand structure, a building with an elevator and wrought iron detailing? Well, Rosina Pauli was a native of Switzerland and came to Los Angeles in 1904, according to her LA Times obituary. Just before that time she was in Goldfield, Nevada directing the Salvation Army efforts there, says the book United By Gold and Glory: The Making of Mining Culture in Goldfield, Nevada. Goldfield was a boomtown in the early 1900s due to the discovery of , you guessed it, gold in 1903. It’s not clear if Pauli struck it rich but, suffice it to say, Pauli’s assets were at least more liquid than most, considering the building, which cost $55,000 to construct, went up as the stock market was crashing in 1929.
If Pauli did find gold, she kept an otherwise relatively low profile here in Los Angeles. She lived just up the street from her grand commission, at 1820 Echo Park Avenue. It was there she remained until her death in 1953, according to the LA Times. Though Pauli’s Salvation Army acclaim is of great note, it is perhaps her elaborate structure on Echo Park Avenuethat will be her most visible lasting impression.
5 Critical Things To Know Before Buying A Historic Home
originally written for HomeAdvisor
Maybe the allure of a historic home is your taste – a home that comes with a story. A home that is filled the character of a bygone era. However romantic a historic home can be, it also comes with a certain set of considerations. Before signing on the dotted line, you might wonder if the home is up to code? How expensive is it to renovate? Or you might wonder whether you’re allowed to make your desired updates at all? There’s nothing worse than buyer’s remorse; and when that feeling is attached to the largest purchase you’ll likely ever, like you’re home, that feeling is only magnified.
With that in mind we want to ensure that you have the proper tools to ask the right questions when shopping for an older home. Here are 5 critical things to know before buying a historic home.
1. Is your home in a historic district or historic overlay zone?
A historic district, also sometimes known as a historic overlay zone, is a group of properties that have been designated on either local, state, or federal levels as historically and/or architecturally significant. Every historic district operates differently, however, no matter the region they’re located, they all share a similar goal: to maintain the visual character and culture of their community. This means that if you buy in a historic district there may be particular traits or a specific appearance your home must maintain (even if you choose to renovate). The city or the community may have boards of review to help regulate and maintain that character.
2. Can you make any updates to your historic home?
With a home in a historic district prospective buyers often assume they cannot make any changes to the home at all because of the previously mentioned boards of review and/or special zoning laws. That is an incorrect assumption much of the time. It may be a lengthier and more detailed process to make changes, however fixing up or restoring older homes is actually encouraged by most communities, not discouraged.
If your home has historic standing due to its unique architecture or architect, your ability to make modifications might be reduced. You might want to work with your real estate agent to create a contingency on your offer that gives you a way to opt-out of the purchase if you find out from the city that you’re unable to make your desired changes.
3. Are there tax credits or incentives for rehabbing this historic home?
Many communities encourage redevelopment of older areas and the continued care of the historic homes within them. For this reason there are often incentives (local, state, or federal) for buying, rehabilitating, and/or retrofitting these types of homes. These incentives could be anything from grants from local non-profits, to local or state income tax credits. Be sure to inquire with your real estate agent, local planning commission, and state government for details and eligibility.
4. What are the costs of utilities?
A historic home may have older windows, limited (or no) insulation, and less efficient electrical and plumbing systems. Be sure to inquire with the current owner on current utility costs. Some of these inefficiencies can result in be expensive utility bills, or ultimately require complex retrofitting to resolve (e.g. addition of insulation, replacing windows with double-panes). Still other older features can easily be solved with simple with modern upgrades (e.g. new boiler, furnace or stove). Be sure to figure out which, if any, of these solutions you’d need to tackle before you make your purchase.
5. What is the cost of insurance?
The tendency for breakdowns or repairs is higher with older homes. For this reason insurance on an older home might be more than what you are used to on a newer construction home. It is important to consult with your agent, the current homeowner, and your insurance company for the best insight into these costs.