Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Part II: Architectural Mentors: LaVerne Lantz

Richers residence, living room elevation.
One of the most impressive designs by LaVerne Lantz is a small house that straddles a hillock in the Kettle Moraine country of southeastern Wisconsin. It is impressive for its simplicity. Like several homes by Lantz, it was featured in the Home Section of The Milwaukee Journal in an article by Oliver Witte. The photos reproduced here are from the Sunday, January 16, 1966 issue.
Though Lantz often explored the architectural possibilities of hexagonal modules and curved walls (as did Wright in his later years) he eschewed them in the Richers residence in pursuit of good architecture on a budget. The construction was supervised by Lantz and completed in four months for $21,500, including land, well, septic system, and architectural fee. Lantz accomplished this remarkable feat through four disciplined strategies:

  • The plan is a rectangle that can be roofed with one scissors truss profile.
  • The single truss profile is tilted at each end of the plan to create a quasi-hip roof that "returns" the eye to the ground and conceals the different angles between outside roof and inside vaulted ceiling.
  • The living space is stacked over the garage and family room,  putting the basement to practical use; this also allows the important rooms to take advantage of vaulted ceilings (a concept Wright used in the Heurtly and Coonley houses early in his career). 
  • Concrete block is used as a finish material inside and out, including the fireplace. Lantz devised a double block wall application to allow for insulation and a thermal break. 

Upper level floor plan.

Master bedroom mitered glass corner and six foot roof overhang.
The Richers residence is a brilliant example of good architecture responding to a limited budget. By economizing is some areas, Lantz was able to provide richness in others. Natural cedar is used for window frames and trim. A feeling of spaciousness is accomplished with extended lines of sight and high ceilings. Windows ring the entire house, including floor-to-ceiling mitered glass windows at all four corners. Radiant heat warms the house.
Wall of glass (including mitered glass corners) and vaulted ceiling in living room.
Concrete block fireplace dividing dining and living areas.
Mrs. Richers in the kitchen with her son Marshall.
In a testament to the efficacy of Lantz's design, the owner, Paul Richers, is quoted in the Journal article:
"The thing that determines whether a house succeeds of fails is whether it makes a truthful statement about the people who live in it. I think a sensitive person could look around this house and make a judgement about us that I wouldn't mind."
A "look through" connects the kitchen with the entry area.
For me, the Richers residence is a design I often come back to in my mind. I was a kid in high school when I first visited it. Its simplicity, honesty, and directness left an indelible impression.

Journal photos: John Ahlhauser

1 comment:

  1. This will be the sink that's capable to perform the tasks that the other sinks are too modest for. In some cases the laundry is going to be cramped for space but it need to always be probable to at least include a corner utility sink somewhere inside the room.