16 December 2005

Wichman Shop -- proposal

Armstrong's rendering of a proposed free-standing shop for the Wichman Nursery to be constructed in Webster Groves. The drawing appears to have been drawn in the years 1931-32. This version of the shop remained unbuilt.

The contrast of the fully glazed entry with the massive brick masonry block behind it is rather stark. The location of built in planters near the glazing in each case starts to lend this dichotomous design some coherence. The landscaping indicated, vines growing up the wall, and planters overflowing with greenery at the roof level suggest the passage of time and the notion that perhaps the solid block was a ruin that's been rescued from nature. The two relatively small corner windows make clear that this volume is of modern design since no allowance has been made for structural support of the brick masonry above.

The carved wood moldings creating the fascia for the glass entry provides some visual relief from the almost industrial austerity of the glass walls below. Again, no structure at the corners appears to be indicated, suggesting that this roof could be cantelevered from within.

The use of an overscaled molding like this isn't unique in Armstrong's oevre. The Goldman Bookstore of 1933 exhibits a similar molding used repetitively to achieve a quite modern horizontal banding, unlike the more traditional architectural applications of moldings of this sort.

The carved wood fascia above the glazed entry has a suggestion of lightness and floating not at all evident in the masonry block behind. Similarly, the built design employs massive surfaces of brick that appear to float over the horizontal glazing for the shop.

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

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