Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Architecture Brief::Tree Streets

The principle of mid-century homes was to break down the formal barriers of previous generations. Growing out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s dictum form follows function, these homes eschewed elaborate interiors in favor of clean lines and simplicity. Reflecting early twentieth century architectural principles, homes would work with the landscape to fit the land instead of the house dictating to the lot.
In that spirit, homes that appeared to be closed off from the street would be open to backyards or common spaces. Walk-out basements and windows away from the street furthered the ideal. So that the whole family could comfortably spend time together, open floor plans were the norm.1

One of the most well preserved mid-century neighborhoods in Provo is the Tree Streets, also known as Oak Hills, directly East of Brigham Young University. The older homes were built in the 1940s and a few newer homes in the 90s. By far the most homes were built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. As Oak Hills housed many university educators and local professionals, the neighborhoods are still family oriented and well cared for. It can be difficult to buy a home in the Tree Streets because they are often passed down through families, never reaching the wider market. What a treat to see so many mid-century homes that are still lived in and loved. I’ve collected photos of some of my favorites.

On Fir Circle lives this great example of mid-century architecture. I’ve included both the rear view and the front elevation. Note the varying angles of the roof. Split levels came into vogue during the 50s and this home shows one of the first types of incarnations.

Of course, when this home on Fir Avenue went on the market about six months ago we were in no position to buy. I hope the new family loves the style of the home. Note the grand entry. In keeping with the corner lot, the house wraps around the land to take advantage of the space.

At the end of Fir and on Locust Lane is this fantastic example. Another corner lot with a house wrapping around, the varying angles of the roof are complimented by supports on angles.

See how the roof cantilevers out to offer the windows some shade? Although air-conditioning was an option, many homes were built without central air allowing the architect to design the home to remain cool through structural elements instead of spending electricity. The natural elements used in the home's construction allow it to sit gracefully on the lot without seeing obtrusive.

This home on Elm takes advantage of the sloping lot and the western sunlight. Even though the home is large it sits simply on the land. Note the corner windows that allows the Western sun to light the interior. Because the home faces the street small almost clerestory windows are part of the front bedrooms.

I like the way the flat roof cantilevers slighty from the house. The clestory windows are even more apparent in this view. The home mostly likely has a walk-out basement and quite an open plan out to the back.

This smaller house is across Elm from the above home. The angled roof reflects the slope of the lot. Out the back of the house is both a walk-out basement and an elevated porch that runs the length of the home's rear. The kitchen and living/family room open up to the porch, which while shaded from the sun, offers beautiful views West over the shady streets to the university.

Speaking of homes that take advantage of their lots and harmonizing with the land this home is near the end of Oak Lane. From the street you can barely even seen a house. The home is built to blend with its hill side lot.

While privacy from the road is certain an issue, the respect for the land is even more paramount. Further along the lane you can look down the driveway to this late 60s home. The plain front disguses a plethora of windows in the living spaces that look over the whole valley including the lake.

Ok kids, that's all for tonight. I hope you enjoyed your journey in the Tree Streets. I've got one swanky dig that I'm saving for its own post tomorrow.

1. B&W photos are from Eichler:Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream


Rachel said...

this is fabulous! most of these homes are from my old ward--OH 4th! i'm looking right at sis. wray's house (the one at the intersection of fir and cherry), elmer terry's, bronwen tate's (prof. tate's house) on elm, etc.etc.etc.....the funny thing is that when i was in high school i totally didn't appreciate this style....in fact, i remember thinking that the tate's home was horrid! i thought they needed windows in the front...my sister actually lived in that house for 6 months while they were in london. the floor to ceiling windows in the back are AMAZING!

some of the homes in OH are still a little quirky in my opinion, but i'm beginning to realize that it is a gem of a neighborhood--architecturally as well as community-wise.

Rachel said...

i'm waiting for the swandy dig!

Rachel said...

that should have said swanKy...but maybe swandy works.

christopher clark said...

Hi Carina.

These are all houses in the ward I grew up in. My parents' house, a 1950's cape cod design, is on the corner of Fir and Cherry. Anyway, the house across from us - with the descending supports and angled porch, was actually designed to mirror the slope of Squaw Peak. If you look at it against the mountain, you can see that it has the exact slope. Pretty cool!

AzĂșcar said...

I know where you lived, Chris, I've been stalking you for years.

I think I actually put two and two together a few years ago when seeing Clark someplace on the house. I mean, how many Clarks can there really be?

When I was growing up, I thought your house was just the epitome of what a real home would look like. Our house was always under construction while my parents removed all the really cool mid-century details in favor of a more traditional feel.