Recently I had the chance to visit the Miller House and Gardens in Columbus, IN. Commissioned by J. Irwin Miller in 1953, the home and gardens are a masterpiece of midcentury modern architecture. Designed by 3 leading designers of the day- architect Eero Saarinen, interior designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley- the home features an outstanding example of the integration between architecture and landscape. However, it was the function of the home that struck me the most.
Irwin and Xenia Miller, along with their five children, resided in the home full time following its completion. That’s correct, the FAMILY lived there. The Miller’s had the joy of raising 5 children in the house. When thinking about Mid-Century Modern homes, this is not something that most typically consider. Much of the tour actually discussed how the home was designed to create living spaces for the parents, children, and guests, as well as how the family lived within the space. (For example, the children often roller skated across the white terrazzo floor, and the colorful pillows designed by Girard made for a soft landing when diving into the sunken conversation pit.) While our tour guide detailed the excellent qualities of the architecture, textiles, and landscape, he made sure we understood that this was first and foremost a home, in which the Millers resided until 2008.
This is something that we should always consider. Buildings and spaces only reach their full potential when we allow for interaction with the user. Designers often fixate on resistance of wear (i.e. keeping things looking as good as new), and while longevity of a space or materials is important, we have to allow a user to personalize or take ownership of their space. We need to give them opportunities to stretch their own creativity. These opportunities allow architectural spaces to become what they are meant to be, spaces for memories, interactions, and relationships.
If you’d like to see more photographs of the interior of the home, go to the following link
Carl Sergio and I recently had a chance to compete in a small design competition called the “1×20 Competition.” The goal of the competition was to come up with 20 different design solutions for the same urban lot located in downtown Indianapolis.
The competition was conducted by AIA Home Tour and involved a lot in the historic St. Joseph’s neighborhood downtown. The concept of the competition was to address a common problem of abandoned lots in urban settings. There were no other constraints for the competition other than the specific site.
Each entry had to contain the below site perspective as the overriding site image. We were able to alter the image however we saw fit. But this particular image had to make up the background of the project.
We took this design opportunity to address the problem of individual neighborhood identities within a larger urban fabric. Our proposal focused not on recreating the past, like what is typically done in historic neighborhoods, but rather on taking cues from the past, both social and built. Our proposal featured historical images and information, presented on a modular panel system. This panel system was meant to echo materials and makeup of local building methods.
These installations could then be placed throughout the city, in specific neighborhoods, creating a network of neighborhood identities within the larger urban fabric. The chosen neighborhood vignettes offer a snapshot of the character of each individual neighborhood.
Carl and I really enjoyed the opportunity to stretch our creative thinking on a small local project and we were fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the 20 entries to be put on display at the Harrison Center for the Arts during the month of September.
If you haven’t heard of TED, you really need to check it out. It’s a collection of intellectual talks by experts in all different fields. This talk by Bjarke Ingels engages the idea of sustainability by creating architecture as an ecosystem that enhance quality of life rather than looking at the practice as a sacrifice.
What is the role of architecture in today’s society? How often do we in the design profession really think about this? What should our role really be about? I’ve really seen two methods put into practice. Designers either dictate the environment or they respond to it. Continue Reading