07 December 2006

Feeding My Architectural Obsession

Strange But True Psuedo-Fact: My favorite type of roof is the rare
hipped gambrel. This morning I sprained my hip, which gave
me time to read up on gambrels. Coincidence? I think not.


I'm sitting at my favorite writing chair - my only writing chair - wedged in by a sack of ice the size of Baby Jesus' head. I sprained my hip in the shower this morning, an injury I thought was reserved for geriatrics and prison romances. Luckily, I had an appointment scheduled with Calhoun. (...alternatively referred to as "Baby Jesus' Gift to Chiropractors" and "Dr. Brian Graham". -Ed.) Within half an hour of the incident, I was in his office having my ball and socket reacquainted with much limb-wrangling and a loud POP. Now I have to ice it and give it time to think about what it has done. The upside of all of this is that it gives me time to catch up on my reading, which is great because I just bought two new books on architecture.

Stop pretending to be asleep and pay attention. They're both actually very interesting books. And no, having a party boner for early 20th century domestic architecture does not make me a ponce. I don't pretend to snore when you start spouting off about the history of lint, so cut me some slack.

Okay. So. The Abrams Guide to American House Styles is a compact, complete and accessible guide to every manner of shack that has been erected on these shores since Cotton Mather was in knee pants. And it has lots of pretty color pictures, so you'd love it. Strangely absent: the late 20th century McMansions, or as I like to call them, Toilet Farms. If you're like me and you ogle Second Empire rooflines and Craftsman beamwork with a leer middle-aged men usually reserve for photos of the Olsen twins, then this is the book for you.

Incidentally, I picked it up at Powell's when I went to visit John last weekend. He says he can't recall having a brother named Greg, and seemed to be only feigning a recollection of me. He seemed happy enough, though, to receive the All Clad skillet I gave him for a Christmas present even though he kept calling me "Skip" and asking me about my time in The 'Nam. Speaking of music, John gave me an original model Waring blender (...invented by the Bandleader Fred Waring back in the '30s. I shit you not. -Ed.), the kind with the big, beefy chrome base and the glass pitcher. It has the only two speeds you'll ever need: "blend" and "pulverize a dachshund". This is no Procter Silex 25-speed made-from-plastic weenie model. It has enough torque to split wood. I'n so crazy about it that I don't think I'll ever use it. I'll just gaze upon it lovingly from time to time.

Oh - the other book I got at Powell's - it was The Most Beautiful House In The World by Witold Rybczynski. (...whose surname was horribly mangled in a blender accident. -Ed.) The book is about how we give life and meaning to the dwellings that we create for ourselves. Beyond that he has some very interesting things to say about the process of design being more like play than anything else, and in doing so, elevates play to a defining attribute of humanity. So you see, all the goofing off I do at work is actually an indication of my advanced evolutionary state. (No, actually it's not. -Ed.)

Maybe my obsession with domestic architecture has to do with the fact that I parted from my own home so early. What was it - at 15 the first time and then before my 17th birthday for good, I guess. Not that it bothers me, but I don't see other guys with architectural fixations unless they're in architecture school or co-starring on Queer Eye. Or maybe my fixation is so strong at the moment because this is the homey time of year and I live in a space that has no window frames (to speak of) and could really do with some crown moulding. You can practically hear the walls crashing into the ceiling. That's just not right.

So in closing let me say that if you're looking for the perfect Christmas gift for me, get me a gambrel-roofed, six-dormered two story Cape Cod with clapboard siding, a central brick masonry heater, a Japanese bath on the second story, a pergola on the kitchen end, cased doorways, box beam ceilings, quarter sawn cross-braced solid wood interior doors and plate rail wainscoting on the inside.

No, I haven't been giving this much thought at all.




Anonymous said...

If it had a gambrel roof it would be a Dutch Colonial and not a Cape Cod.

Thaddeus Gunn said...

Abrams shows a picture of a gambrel-roofed Cape Cod, so called because it's two rooms deep on the first floor. Colonials are supposed to be one room deep. And there are some other definitions that they give that have to do with the foundation and so on. But I agree - I thought that gambrel always meant Dutch Colonial. My favorite roof is a hipped gambrel, which I can't find a photo of, the kind that has a hip that extends across the hock points of the gambrel on the gable end. And I just read that the gambrel roof that we associate with barns was first used on houses, then barns when they realized it'd give them a much bigger hay mow in the second story. Who'd've thunk.