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TIMELESS MODERN HOUSE
is a building ... that does not rely upon innovation or design
tricks for its impact. Rather it is impressive as an example
of thorough mastery of a wide range of architectural ideas
with clarity and intellectual economy. As any architect who designs
a large house knows, realization of the complex program can
infinitely more difficult than that for small houses. Traps such
as misunderstood scale, much too complicated plan relationships,
overly elaborate materials and finishes all can destroy the esthetic
validity of the architect's intent. Mallow has avoided all
them. Designer of the interiors, furniture, and landscaping as
well as the building, he has produced a timeless modern house.
In the design of any house, as important as the solution of the
program is the way in which the architectural forms relate to
the site. Instead of placing the long axis parallel to the contours
of the hillside, Mallow has tucked the private end of the house,
above, with its many small rooms, into the grade and allowed the
living room pavilion to stand free. A steel structural system,
using 110 tons in all, not only permitted the cantilevered balconies
and mitred glass corners of the pavilion, right, but on the entrance
side, using an 8-inch car channel, permitted crisp fascias which
clearly articulate the several changes in roof planes and which
contrast with the Delaware Valley sandstone walls. Nowhere is
the subtle scale, one of the most evasive architectural qualities,
more obvious than on the terrace around which the house wraps.
On one side the pavilion, seen at its crystalline best in the
twilight. On the other, above, the master bedroom suite which
gently steps down the natural grade, conveying its intimate quality.
In front of the pavilion, a carp pool and a swimming pool, which
seem to flow together, lie on axis with various parts of the house.
These relationships, not obvious at first, tie the whole composition
together in ordered serenity.
Perhaps the single most interesting architectural event of the
Schmertz house is the 127-foot-long axis from the porte-cochere
to the balcony overlooking the swimming pool. The section above
illustrates one of architect Mallow's rules for assuring a sense
of order as one moves through the house: when the floor plane
changes levels, the ceiling plane remains constant; the ceiling
plane changes only when the floor plane is constant. From the
7-foot 6-inch ceiling at the landing to the high degree of enclosure
within the vestibule, there is an increasing sense of compression.
Then, when one reaches the base of the steps up to the living
he not only sees the clerestory for the first time, but to
his right can see the dining-room-kitchen axis. Yet the explosion
of space that occurs when one enters the living room, above,
is unexpected nonetheless. Scale, enclosure, texture of materials,
careful detailing and most important, light, have been used
to create a powerful example of axial composition."
James D.. Morgan
Record, October 1971
A Treasury of Contemporary Houses, pp. 92-97, Edited by Walter
F. Wagner, Jr., McGraw-Hill Inc., New York, ©1978,
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