by Ern. Freese and its response, The Peridiotic Cottage by
Los Angeles/Pasadena architect Arthur S. Heineman. First published
in The Architect and Engineer of California in March and
April, 1918 and reprinted here for the first time.
By Ern. Freese
A Bungalow is a species of inhabitable mushroom that springs up over night on vacant lots. It might be more comprehensibly defined as the manifestation of a peculiar style of Western domestic architecture that causes lady tourists from the two-storied East to be precipitated into involuntary and rapturous comments, such as "Oh! How cute!"
Architecturally speaking, the bungalow is a composite of Swiss chalet, Japanese tea-house, Frank Lloyd-Wright leaded glass, Spanish hacienda, Chinese influence, Mission furniture, monstrous originality, disappearing beds, and disillusioning appearance.
What? You are incredulous? Listen, then. Allow me to describe one of these bungalows as I hypothetically view it from where I sit. No, I shall first describe the whole flock.
"Flock" is the proper term. They appear to have just "lit," or as if flight were imminent. That is the first impression; restlessness and impermanency, created by the multiplicity of flattened-out gable roofs and enormous flapping eaves, all abristle with fantastically fashioned rafter ends. However, on further survey, it is realized with a jolt that if the bungalow proper takes to flight, at least a part will remain eternally anchored to earth. I refer to the huge piles of masonry--brick, cobblestones, concrete--that constitute the porch piers. For, behold, even though a bungalow have no foundation upon which to rest other than a two-by-six redwood plank, yet in the porch piers must there be at least ten tons of solid masonry to support the two-by-four raftered roof. Why mention the mysteries of ancient Egypt? Imagine future antiquarians discoursing as follows of the days in which we live:
"Huge piles of masonry still stand upon the sites of those ancient Western cities. The origin and purpose of these great and numerous Cobble-Isks are shrouded in mystery. The only rational theory by which we can account for their existence is that the people of that Peculiar Era did start to build what were then known as Skyscrapers, but that Land Values changed over night and the project was abandoned because there was no Money in it."
One bungalow in particular attracts my attention. The porch piers of this one are of cobblestone. And the cobblestones are studded with brick--for effect. The effect is that you wonder why the contractor neglected to furnish enough cobbles to finish the job. The rivers are full of them--not contractors: cobbles. They are a dominant note in the scenic grandeur of far Western rivers. These rivers are peculiar; they are upside-down most of the time. That is to say, the water is underneath, the sand and cobbles on top! You simply drive down the river and pluck them.
Well, a I have said, the porch piers of this particular bungalow are studded with brick--for effect. You have noted the effect--upon me. Wait. There are four of these great piers, all in a row. At the ground line they are perhaps six feet square, and they rise roofward in sweeping curves of the fourth or fifth dimension to the dizzy height of about seven feet. At this point, the sweeping curves have swept into tangency with the vertical. And here they terminate, two feet square, capped with a chunk of concrete half a foot thick. But the end is not yet. There still intervenes a space of two feet between the top of each pier and the overhead roof-beam. And now--O ye of little understanding--I beseech ye to behold the monstrous originality of the bungalow builders! This intervening space of two feet is occupied by a four-by-four stick of timber that rests in supreme and supercilious stability upon its enormous base of stone. This construction is artistic. What? I repeat--artistic. It is moreover delightfully frank--not Frank-Lloyd-Wright: frank. For it acknowledges the fact that instead of a tonnage of masonry to support that paper roof, all that is actually required is a four-inch stick of Oregon pine!
In the end-spaces between these piers are described graceful catenaries. A Catenary is no part of cat or canary. It is the curve described by a hanging chain. Perhaps I should have said that between these piers hang chains, describing catenaries. Then describing on my part would end into the eternal masonry of the piers. They replace the antiquated classic balustrade--and they serve a useful purpose (beauty and utility should be co-existent)--they serve as swings for children. Not necessarily the bungalow-dwellers' children, but your children, my generations yet unborn. The chains are procured from the manufacturers or harbor dredges and also from the builders of steel derricks.
Farther along on bungalow row is what is technically known as an "aeroplane." This particular aeroplane is a bi-plane--that is to say, it has two sets of white planes--two paper roofs, one above the other. The upper roof hovers over a second-floor sleeping apartment. The walls of the sleeping apartment are set back, all around, from the walls of the story beneath. This is an aeroplane of the bungalow army. It is also a highly successful combination of freight-train-caboose and Japanese pagoda. And the Chinese influence is decidedly marked in the jig-sawed, tip-tilted rafter ends. Other influences are also in evidence.
Another bungalow exhibits a melee of original and startling timber work. The starting point of it is that it does not crash to earth of its own weight. Mighty timbers--with ends cut into every conceivable form of curve known to higher geometry, planing-mill mechanics and jigsaws--are piled up this way and the other ways in a bewildering and spiked-together intricacy that causes the beholder to gasp in unbelief. Theoretically, this bewildering intricacy is the "support" of the over-gravitation is an undisputed fact. Wherefore, these flapping, wing-like, overhanging eaves of two-by-four rafters sag under the very weight of their aforementioned "supports," and a typical bungalesque down-drooping roof curve manifests itself just beyond the wall line. Have patience. Not yet have you learned all the wonders of the bungalow. Enter. Grasp the ponderous store-front handle of that four-by-six-eight slab of solid oak, and come in. Solid oak? Ah--vain and for the nonce are the front doors of the bungalow builders, for the paper veneer on that door is already wrinkling its back where the sun hits it. But come in.
Look out! Don't open the door too wide--"twill crash into the Mission rocker. And if the rocker starts rocking, "twill smash the leaded glass of the book-case doors. Now look at the mantlepiece and the beamed ceiling. All of solid mahog--Oh!--one-by-six Oregon pine boards nailed together and stained--stained out of all semblance to Oregon pine boards.
You are curious as to the meaning of that lowered ceiling-beam occurring midway between the front door and the kitchen. Ho! Ho! Surely you are from the far, far East--mayhap from Massachusetts. Listen. That particular beam is the dividing line between this and that, "this" being the living-room and "that" being the dining-room.
Follow the path into the kitchen. Careful. Don't bump your shins on that seat-end. Oh, I nearly forgot--that built-in seat conceals the head-end of a perambulating bed. The feet-end projects into the bedroom closet. The roof of the bed-space is the floor of the closest, and the floor of the closet is three steps above the floor of the bed-room. If you stand up straight in the closet you bump your head on the ceiling.
Isn't this kitchen a wondrous thing! In comparison, a dining-car kitchen becomes a vast and immeasurable space. Stand there by the sink. You can reach everything in the room.
And this is the bed-room. Where is the bed? In the wall behind that mirror. Step back in the kitchen and I will let the bed down. There! That's how it works. But now if you insist upon seeing the bath-room, I shall have to fold up the bed again or we shall have to crawl over it--we are on the wrong side!
Enough. I would a confession make.
By Arthur S. Heineman, Architect
In your March issue, I read the truth about the Bungle-Ode, and I am minded to discourse upon the Peridiotic or Colonial type of cottage--pronounced cottage, as in garage or cabbage.
The Peridiotic cottage is designed by an archi-choke, and by the time it is completed the owner invariably hopes that he will or has.
As all are aware, period things had their origin in the Orders. The Orders were taken--not given--and the incubation of the Peridiotic cottage involves the "following of Orders if it breaks masters"--and it usually does. These houses are done in a style or type of architecture, and by the time the modern needs are shaped to the ancient style the cottage achieves all its Peridiotic appendages.
An ancient proverb sayeth: "Hew to the line, let the quips fall where they will," and "there's a destiny which shapes men's ends, rough hew them how we may." The appendages of a Peridiotic style of architecture and decoration, when dwarfed into a modern cottage, do enough to the destiny of the architect without the rough hewing that the event does to him.
So much as to effect. Now as to caws:
Exteriorly speaking, over the front door is placed a deleted eyebrow--arranged to shed not even a tear.
The front porch is provided with a guard rail, so that the opening of the front screen door won't catapult the porch occupant onto the flower beds.
Above the front door is a fan window--baseball parlance--meaning it doesn't make a hit.
From the exterior the windows are arranged symmetrically, equally spaced, and the spaces equally divided, so that you are constantly reminded that the architect had a tape line--and used it. In fact, that is the principal impression you get--the measured-off effect--and each time you pass and re-pass the house you measure it up with your eye, hoping to find that they slipped up an inch or so and that you may go and tell the architect about it.
And the windows are all full of panes, and the housewife has to take still more pains to keep them clean. Generally they are in squares, like a checkerboard, and the flies learn to jump from square to square--sort o' speculating on them.
This symmetrical arrangement of the windows on the exterior has a sporadic effect on the interior. The windows are sort o' sillymetrically in the rooms. Everything in the room is what you might call in profile--or three-quarter-wise--because of those windows. They pop up in all sorts of places, and wherever you expect and hope and want a wall to be--there's your window; and where you really want a window--for a beautiful view or a charming vista into a pergola or something--why, there's a nice, full-sized, transparent section of plastered wall.
The best thing about the living rooms with the windows arranged symmetrically for the exterior is the wall spaces. Pianos, particularly baby grands, if intended for use, are hung with chains from the ceiling. It's the only way to place them in the room and not disturb the sillymetricness of those windows.
Outside and adjoining and abutting and bounding those windows are shutters- green ones. The shutters might be called openers. At least they are never shut; usual they can't shut; but they are ornamental and decorative and cute. Its a case of form following function, just like the nose ring of a cannibal- ornamental, decorative, cute, and oh! so functional!
Most of these Periodic cottages have eaves- not overhangs and exposed rafter ends- oh, dear no. Nothing so vulgar and indecently exposed as that! Just nice, smug, useless, and enclosed Eavs. too short to protect the walls and windows from the beating of the summer sun; too short to protect the walls and windows from the driving of the semi-tropic rains; not wide enough to create an air eddy as under the broader overhang which pulls the heated air from the room; just a dear, chopped off, useless- snub-nosed Eve- designed in the paradise of its own misunderstood function, because A-dam architect is wedded to it.
The other parts of the interior of the house are really very livable; and if you can forget and forgive its effect of Prunes, Prisms and Priscillas, and the hard-and-fast four-squaredness of it--you can, by the use of modern touches and the expression of your own free soul, in the choice and arrangement of furnishings, really live along very sweetly and independently.
True, the life of peace and independence is not always compatible with period type residences, but the cottages as a class escape the fungus of varying and multi-period rooms which usually clusters the larger houses of this type. I have passed through dwellings wherein each room was done--well done, one might say--in a different period of architectural and decorative treatment-- one of those houses, you know, of which the decorator proudly boasts that the owner gave him carte-blanche--and I, for one, am fed up on decorator's "carte-blanche" houses. As you go from room to room, to avoid the blind staggers you must make a complete metamorphosis, and if, like tabby, you are conducted through a Victorian hall, a Baronial dining-room, then a Louis Quintz salon, mein host's daughter, affecting to live up to her surroundings, lifts pince-nez and says, "Je ne sais pas," to which you reply, "No, I didn't see your pa, but there's a hell of a lot of other queer-looking things here."
Period rooms, abutting and abounding in one defenseless house, are nothing but cheap sensations, artificially produced--a sort of second-hand realism--and realism is vulgarity under a mask of authority.
The use of well-chosen words to conceal one's meaning is the very apex of oratory; hence the above.
From all the great and unblushing world truths that have gone before, the reader may have concluded that the Periodic cottage is wholly without merit. Such an assumption would be well founded were it not for the barrage of protecting and saving qualities about to be divulged:
The saving genius of the Periodic house is the housewife. Battling like a Greek at her Thermopoli, though she sells dearly her long cherished ideals of livableness and homelikeness, she must be entirely annihilated by architectural barbarism before she will sacrifice the stronghold of convenience. And preferring a living client to a dead prospect, the architect, not mindful of his fee, sacrifices art for art's sake, and fills the cottage with the thousand and one contrivances that have made the bungalow--love's hand maiden--the children's paradise--and the old maid's temptation.