Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little House on the Prairie

While driving the dirt roads between home and Roman Nose State Park, we discovered this little house standing on a rise in a grassy field.  Old, obviously abandoned many years ago, with no windows or doors intact, it still has a presence that commands its site.  The view is spectacular and vast, with a vista of distant wooded hills to the west and a patchwork of pastures and fields all around. There is not another house, occupied or abandoned, in sight.

The proportions of the house are simple; almost, if not a perfect square, with windows placed for ventilation rather than views. There is a little flare in the roof line that adds a touch of panache. It must have been a very well built house to be still standing with chimney intact today.

The house is obviously not livable.  Neither its condition nor its small size and rudimentary features would suit tenants looking for a place to live in this day and age, but there is something about this house that is appealing, and that is that it has a simplicity that is very within itself.  It is not pretending to be an English manor house or a French chateau like so many of the tract house palaces we see today with all their fake dormers and jumble of windows of all sizes and complicated roof lines that are bound to spring a leak sooner or later.  This little house served its purpose in its day.

Yes, we admit there is something appealing about manors and chateaus--the patina of age on the materials, beautiful proportions and lots of eccentric charm in the details.  They have a presence that is very difficult to replicate in a new house, although many owners and builders have obviously tried very hard.  We saw a new house advertised recently in the local newspaper's real estate section that had dormers of different sizes, a pop-out sticking out over one side of the front door with a little fake eave sticking out below that.  Yes, a fake eave!  Obviously fake, or possibly a very obvious mistake that went uncorrected.  This is just wrong--it is not good design.  It is not useful, it is not beautiful and it was weird, like having an extra eye tattooed in the middle of your forehead. Why would you do that?

The complicated lives people live today demand more of a house than this house in the picture could ever offer.  We are not advocating coal stoves for heat and windows in lieu of air conditioning.  What we are advocating is the house that is functional in its beauty.  Eaves should provide shade and direct the run-off from a rainstorm away from the house.  They should not be fake--they need to be real!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Project In Retrospect--Bass Hospital

We recently went through an entire file drawer--3-1/2  feet of paper in horizontal files--devoted to one project--the addition of a fourth floor to Bass Hospital.  The plan was designed to provide state-of-the-art surgery suites for the hospital.  We had saved much of the publicity devoted to the project, now known as Integris Bass Baptist Memorial Hospital.   The hand-drawn site plan below was completed before computer drafting was common, although we did have word processing using an early version of Microsoft Word.

Computer rendering capabilities were also non-existent, but most architects were skilled in drawing elevations by hand.  The colored pencil rendering by architect Ken Corbin is recognizable as the south elevation of Integris.  The metal canopy was planned to provide a graceful transition from the 3-story building to the 4th floor addition, but also serves to provide shade and protection from inclement weather. 

While we are at it, why not add a helicopter landing pad on the roof?  As the Integris publicity below makes clear, a rooftop heliport is a definite advantage when critical care is necessary in medical emergencies.

In the Enid News & Eagle photo below, Dr. Eugene Baxter, then Bass Memorial Baptist Hospital administrator, pictured with architect Ken Corbin, shows community leaders the floor plan of the fourth floor addition.  In the article, contractor Bob Berry of Bass Construction extolls the advantages of using local contractors who in turn use local sub-contractors, thus benefiting the local economy.

One of the most noticeable changes to the appearance of the hospital (aside from the addition of a whole floor!) is the beautiful precast concrete wall panels with  inset windows.  The windows, designed by Ken Corbin, were fabricated with the help of Industrial Materials, a local firm.  The photo below shows Bass Construction workers carefully hoisting the panels, each weighing over 10,000 pounds, according to the article.  The second picture, showing a window up close, also shows the process of making the final color selections as well as the details of the window wall.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


What is more fun than tinkering with real tools in a well equipped workshop? Visit Leonardo's Children's Museum to see the newest exhibit designed by architect John Merz of Corbin & Merz Architects. Intern architect Kingkini Arend had a hand in making this exhibit the showpiece of the main floor by showing some real creativity in coming up with the concept for the tinkering sign that was fabricated by Henson Construction Company.  Intern architect John Arend also contributed to the functional creativity that makes this exhibit a popular stop for museum visitors.

John Merz, John Arend and interior designer Erin Haney play with the magnetic galvanized metal pegboard wall, arranging plumbing pipes and other component parts into kinetic abstract art.

Kids play with real tools at the fully functional workbench.  The Craftsman cabinets, laminated butcher block top, vise, and tools that hang on the pegboard wall are all the real deal, and any professional carpenter would love this setup!

Erin Haney, John Merz, Kingkini Arend, and John Arend of Corbin & Merz Architects are all smiles after giving the construction work on the Tinkering Exhibit at Leonardo's Children's Museum a thorough final inspection.  It all works!