06 December 2005

Wasson Summer Residence -- sketch

This quick sketch reveals something of Armstrong's method for drawing and architectural composition. Here the setting and landscape are only barely indicated, but many details of the proposed design are evident.

This somewhat strange log cabin is a blend of kitsch, modernism, and naturism. While the visual presentation is traditionally picturesque, the roof slopes are about as shallow as they can possibly be with this kind of construction. It appears that stones are laid over the roof shingles to hold them in place. The structure seems to be designed with an overall formal, symmetrical configuration, which is somewhat at odds with the intended naturalistic references.

Rugged stone masonry appears where the structure meets the ground, a typical detail found on many such rural structures. However, the massiveness and formality of the stone masonry suggested by the two planters surrounding the main entrance, the two short, stolid chimneys, and the buttress-like elements at the East screened porch, suggest that something more hieratic is at work. The darkest parts of the drawing are the plantings spilling out of the stone planters, highlighting their significance.

The interlocking logs expressed at the corner combined with the horizontally configured windows makes for a juxtaposition which spans time, materials, methods, and space. When seen together with the shallow gable and the almost art deco wood carving suggested, the house seems an improbably mixture of irreconcilable opposites. The progression from stone masonry on the ground, to stacked logs, to open expanses of glass and screen, and capped by the lightest wood framing possible is to span from archaic building technology to 20th century suburban modernism in the span of about ten feet.

Drawing courtesy of the Harris Armstrong Archives, Special Collections, Washington University in Saint Louis.

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