One of my favorite movies, a close second to "Mars Attacks!", is the slightly surreal Goff in the Desert by German documentarian Heinz Emigholz. The video has no narration; it is simply a series of video shots taken around 2002 of various structures designed by Bruce...read more
Louis Curtiss, who left his mark on Kansas City and other locations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was one of those incredibly rare architects who was just weird enough to do really, really, interesting work. While often compared to Frank Lloyd...read more
As you last remember, the bunkhouse was looking a little rough. It was dirty, dark, damaged, and downright depressing. Owner Jim wanted to not only put life and light back into the dilapidated structure, but put to use some of the salvaged woodwork and materials he...read more
A modest 1 -1/2 story Nebraska house with gable front, built around 1880, was given a stylistic makeover in the mid-twentieth century. The new look, reminiscent of an eighteenth century saltbox, was created by adding a lean-to addition with fireplace to one side...read more
While driving through a sparsely populated area of southwestern Nebraska I encountered a depressing amount of Victorian-era houses (which had once been grand for their locale) in advanced stages of deterioration. Despite their weathered facades, these houses were...read more
I drove by a house today which is undergoing an unfortunate and all-too-common procedure: it is losing its architectural integrity and will be gaining lots of vinyl and other synthetic products. I caught the house mid-way though the process... replacement windows...read more
Today it was time once again for the Lions Clubs' annual consignment auction... an event generally I think of as marking the near arrival of Spring. It was breezy outside, but at least it wasn't snowing as it had last year. As there wasn't anything that I couldn't...read more
I love looking at houses on Zillow.com - you never know what will turn up. I used to look only at old houses there (those built in the early twentieth century or earlier). But lately I find myself drawn to the clumsy and distorted newer houses which are increasingly...read more
This Sears Langston caught my eye while searching for an entirely different house on Zillow. The distinctive and memorable porch posts remain to proclaim their Sears heritage despite a rather clumsy addition on the side of the house. Images from the 1918 Sears...read more
Long before it became fashionable and trendy, living on a small scale was quite common. In most towns and cities, the earliest houses were built on a modest and utilitarian scale. Many such structures, particularly those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,...read more
Old buildings can be subversive? You may ask, somewhat incredulously, "How?". Well, quite simply, old buildings (if examined closely enough) have the very real ability to reveal the shortcomings of our present age - and thereby have the potential to encourage people...read more
Of the hundreds of house plans offered by the William A. Radford Company of Chicago, their design number 1517 appears to have been one of their most popular - at least in the nation's mid-section. Numerous examples of this house survive today. The design was so...read more
There is no doubt that television has had a huge impact on shaping consumer activity; it is a primary function of the medium. Like virtually everything, television can be used for good or bad. TV's power to shape our culture could have been harnessed to inspire...read more
A work still in progress, this two-room house wasn't much to look at a year and a half ago. The simple frame structure, built in the 1920's, originally served to house seasonal workers on a farm where it was referred to as the "bunkhouse". It had suffered from...read more
How is it possible that a house could be lived in for well over a century without ever getting a real bathroom?! That is just one example of how intact and relatively unaltered this amazing house is! On Wednesday I was surprised to learn that a house in Russell,...read more
I recently ran across this house on Zillow. It looks a lot like a kit house sold by Sears called the Osborn. The house was offered from 1916 to 1929 and seems to have been a popular model for them. I'm not sure if the house below is an Osborn, but if not it was...read more
Often the most dominant interior feature of Craftsman-style bungalows, the colonnade has lately been enjoying something of a revival - even showing up in new construction. Long before the term "open concept" forced its way into the world's homes via television,...read more
There are replacement window installations and then there are really strange replacement window installations. The center house of three contiguous row houses has had some rather uncommon surgery on its two primary windows in order to accommodate the installation of...read more
Americans have long been noted for their eagerness to embrace whatever is new - even when it's a revival of something old! This has been especially true of architectural styles. In the 18th century we were embracing Classical details in new construction; the 19th...read more
While not exactly a house, this 1970's domed structure could easily be one. It certainly has potential! This popped up today on Zillow and got my immediate attention. I became intrigued as I looked at the images - all are from zillow.com: ...read more
It's been over a year since I first posted about vinyl siding, so I thought it was high time to take a look at some more houses which are shrouded in it. Vinyl is often used to conceal the scars that result when window openings are unfortunately reduced or porches...read more
An astounding number of historic structures disappear each year simply because the owners have stopped caring for them. Known as "demolition by neglect", the phenomenon is on the rise. Recognizing that old buildings are instrumental in giving shape and character to...read more
Don't be alarmed; I won't be doing McMansions on a regular basis as there is already an excellent site doing just that. But I saw this on Zillow.com and couldn't resist. I've taken the following nine photos from the listing there which really don't need any captions...read more
The William A. Radford Company of Chicago was one of the most recognized names in the plans-by-mail business in the early 20th century. Homes built from their plans can still be found in surprising numbers throughout the country. While perusing their Portfolio of...read more
If dissociative identity disorders can afflict structures, this former Folk Victorian house appears to be symptomatic. The wood-framed structure has had several changes to its exterior since first constructed, likely in the 1890's. Portions of the house were clad...read more
Probably built in the 1890's, the Merit Building in downtown McCook, Nebraska, went through a radical interior remodeling in the 1960's. The redesign converted the basement level into a mini-mall with numerous aluminum and glass storefronts. The ground floor...read more
Taking advantage of a sloping lot, the builder of a c. 1920 bungalow achieved 3 goals simultaneously with concrete block: A garage A retaining wall A level lot There is a door at the back of the garage which opens to the adjacent sidewalk. A set of steps leads to...read more
At first glance, this house appears to be a rather ordinary Craftsman style bungalow (aside from the 1960's iron porch supports, vinyl siding and plastic shutters, that is). However, appearances can be deceiving. This "bungalow" is actually an addition to a much...read more
I happened upon this Craftsman-style bungalow a few days ago; the bright yellow facade initially caught my eye. The sides still display an earlier, less vibrant, color scheme. The new look, with its dark brown shingled gable, does a better job of emulating a period...read more
Modern design - as expressed in the mid-20th century - was never enthusiastically embraced in flyover country. Much of what little was built here has since been altered or destroyed. However, there are a few examples here and there which have managed to survive....read more
Structures which read as disorderly or awkward compositions are often victims of remodeling projects in which the maintenance of architectural integrity was not a top priority. Exhibiting a form of architectural psychosis, such structures are increasingly...read more
Not platted until 1886, the town of Haigler, Nebraska, is an unlikely spot to find a house built in the Gothic Revival style. Most popular in the mid-19th century, the romantic style was never commonplace anywhere in Nebraska for houses; it is especially surprising...read more
It has finally warmed up a bit so I took the camera out for a spin today. I was surprised to see that an old house I had noticed on a previous journey had changed, umm... dramatically. Unfortunately, I had not photographed the house earlier. However, Google did in...read more
The recent cold weather has made it more appealing to stay home and look through old photos than to go out and take new ones! Here are three old houses which have survived to the present day. The historic photos were found at estate sales or flea markets; I decided...read more
Those who are passionate about old buildings have often wondered why there has long been such a bias toward them. Those of us who value old buildings and houses understand that these places typically have numerous attributes; they are frequently built of superior...read more
It's the exceedingly rare house-in-distress which is treated to a truly historically-correct restoration. And it's almost as uncommon to find a neglected house which receives a merely architecturally respectful renovation. Most dilapidated houses which get a new...read more
Welcome to the 1956 "Parade of Homes" sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City! We'll take a look at ten of the fifty-five houses featured in the ninety-six page "plan and guide book" published in conjunction with the house tour. While...read more
The 1970's, while memorable in many different ways, was not a decade generally acknowledged to have produced a lot in the way of desirable residential design. There was some, to be sure, but a lot of it was just unappealing. One of the more popular architectural...read more
I was surprised to run across a real estate listing for a house in Tulsa originally designed by Bruce Goff. Though somewhat altered, the 1925 Fred Hansen house was among Goff's earliest commissions and could be restored to a more original appearance. If you are not...read more
There is much truth to the old Japanese proverb "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down". However, the phrase is far more descriptive of rural America than it is of Japan - especially when it comes to assertive examples of styled architecture. Victorian-era...read more
When houses in a neighborhood are built by the same developer (and at roughly the same time), they tend to look a lot alike. Some developers will make an effort to introduce a little variety, either by changing exterior colors or materials, or sometimes by using...read more
At first glance this house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, appears to be a Tudor Revival from the 1920's or 30's Closer inspection reveals that the house began as an 1880's Queen Anne. Sorry about the photo quality... these images were taken from a real estate listing...read more
A building which retains its architectural integrity is one which has been maintained as it was built and intended to be. When buildings are altered through remodeling or the installation of "maintenance -free" windows or siding, integrity is compromised. Such...read more
It's always exciting to discover a new type of architectural depravity (hat tip to Seth!) which I had not previously encountered. Such discoveries typically involve the loss of architectural integrity which is not exciting, but I'm getting used to it... it's now the...read more
Why would anyone update when it's just as easy to backdate? After all, there's not much appealing design out there these days; design from the early 20th century is almost always a sure bet to be more interesting than whatever has been marketed for the past 40 years....read more
We've all seen them. And with the proliferation of both Big Box home "improvement" stores and infomercials posing as television programs about restoration, renovation and design, we'll continue to see even more of them: entry doors which are stylistically...read more
I recently ran across a house in McDonald, Kansas, which looked oddly familiar. Pretty sure I'd seen this facade before... maybe a Sears kit house? So I took a photo. After some digging, I found what I was looking for. To me, the house at first appeared to be an...read more
Despite the handsome Queene Anne window sash depicted, this post is not about windows. I just wanted to let everyone know that my internet access will be sporadic over the next few weeks as I am finally able to get an ISP for the new house (finding a reliable...read more
The tile work enlivening the entry of a telephone company office built in the 1960's is just as energetic now as it was then... and right back in style, too!read more
The Architectural Observer rarely looks at “important” buildings; the focus is upon overlooked ones. Some will be antique survivors which have come through time surprisingly intact. Many will be old buildings which have been altered without regard to their stylistic integrity while others will be new construction which never had any stylistic integrity to begin with.
The decline of architectural integrity is just one more facet of the prolific and ongoing devolution of our culture. The Architectural Observer calls it like it is! Are there more important and pressing issues facing us now? Yes, but everyone needs a distraction from those other issues once in a while. And besides, this is relevant and much more fun!
There are four kinds of distractions here:
OBSERVATIONS highlights the lowlights of our built environment – and observes occasional architectural details which might otherwise be overlooked.
PLAN BOOK AND KIT HOUSES examines structures built from mail order plans or actual kits.
PROJECTS follows the progress on a variety of design-related endeavors.
DRAG QUEEN ARCHITECTURE showcases buildings built in one style but which are trying to pass themselves off as a different style.
Let’s face it; we built better buildings in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than we do now. Let’s take a cue from the past and start to remember how buildings are supposed to look and function. Thanks for joining me – please use the contact form for polite inquiry or to gripe at me.