Saturday, October 02, 2010

"I wake every morning and purr"

"I wake every morning and purr"

Toured five really lovely homes designed by the architect Dennis Blair in Long Grove, Illinois today, including the one that he designed for himself and his family and lived in for thirty years. All of the homes were nestled along the same sloping street, surrounded by Burr Oak and Japanese Pines.

The architect was in attendance, regal and grey, and told us about apprentencing with Wright at Taliesin (and scoring the Romeo & Juliet Tower as his quarters) as well as at the offices of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in Chicago.

Blair won his apprenticeship with Wright through a well turned letter, and earned his keep through his skill as a draftsman -- in particular, his skill at drafting domes, which he came by in wartime Detroit where he worked for the government illustrating captured aircraft; domed bombers a among them. As a result, his was the hand that drafted the dome on the architectural plans for Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York.

His architectural structures capture some of the quality of a heavy aircraft in flight -- long trim lines, brick and beam somehow soaring. That each was unique was the really telling part -- the architect has an eye for the interplay of geometry with the site and used a wide assortment of materials across structures from boulders to cedar planking to brick to flagstone.

The purring of the title came from a woman named Pat, whom we met on the walk between houses, and who lives in another mid-century home elsewhere, but mentioned it in reference to the qualities of really fine architecture and to what living within such a structure does to a person.

She's the caretaker of the home she lives in now; it's owned by a woman who will deed it to a foundation on her death, but this is the second house she's lived in that made her purr.

The first was one she visited with her husband when they first moved to the Midwest. He bought it to surprise her, knowing how she loved it, and called her to give her the news, telling her: "I bought a house for the cat."

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