©2002
All rights reserved.

<< GO BACK <<

A TIMELESS MODERN HOUSE

"It 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 synthesized with clarity and intellectual economy. As any architect who designs a large house knows, realization of the complex program can be 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 of 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 room, 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
Architectural Record, October 1971

A Treasury of Contemporary Houses, pp. 92-97, Edited by Walter F. Wagner, Jr., McGraw-Hill Inc., New York, ©1978, ISBN 0-07-002330-1

<< GO BACK <<