12 January 2006

Armstrong Residence II

project: Armstrong Residence II, 1938.
location: Oakland, Missouri.
condition: somewhat modified.
architect: Harris Armstrong.

The project started with an older farm structure which Armstrong renovated as the two story home topped by the hipped roof (which has a faintly Japanese air to it). The one story addition faced with stone appears massive, archaic, and modern all at the same time. the three large square windows of the architectural studio are repeated in the house. In each case, no structural support is expressed, such as a lintel, header, or beams. The banding of brick at the left side of the studio windows connects the deep set doorway with the window openings suggesting continuity. The darkness of the bricks seems to fullfill a similar function to the black spandrel elements wrapping the corners of the house beyond.

The stone wall is ultimately revealed to be a free-standing plane where a corner window without structural support turns the corner toward the white stucco garage. The massive stone planter stops the strong linear orientation of the sidewalk which offers access to both the architectural studio (first) and to the home (around the far end of the wall).

The gravel driveway is divided by the massive planter at the corner into the portion at left, accessing the rear facing garage doors, and the small parking area, presumably for clients of the architect.

The design makes effective use of tones and textures from the white of the stucco to the grey of the limestone, darker tones and shadows at the bricks, and darkest in the repeated composition of three square windows. While the stone face of addition partially concealled by vines and planting appears to be old, the white stucco of the garage extending beyond the end together with the flat roof of the addition, is a clear indication of its modernity.

Armstrong has developed his architectural expression by the careful juxtaposition of materials, forms, geometry, and textures. All of this is set off by the dark landscape planting: vines, shrubs, perennials, and trees. The plants simultaneously break down the architectural forms softening their edges and clearly defined spatial boundaries. At the same time, the landscaping provides continuity among the various forms and materials employed in the exterior expression of the house.

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

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