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Java.March.2017

RESTORATION FANFARE

RESTORATION FANFARE O’Donnell recalls that when he started practicing architecture, there was a renewed sense that Palm Springs had an important stake in the annals of architectural history. Preservationists led this effort by rebuilding and reestablishing the importance of iconic buildings, learning from their successes and failures. The “Kauffman effect,” referring to the well-known Kauffman renovation of a Richard Neutra house in Palm Springs, helped illustrate that a sensitive approach, adhering to the original character and intent of the building, was feasible. For the unbuilt Beadle, however, current building code restrictions, in combination with modern living sensibilities, proved challenging to adhere to without tweaking the plans. Sympathetic to certain societal proclivities with respect to how people presently dwell, O’Donnell accommodated as needed. For example, the kitchen was on the original plans as a minute appendage of a much larger space and placed off to the corner. O’Donnell instead included it as a prominent part of the loftier open-concept main living space. During the mid-century, kitchens were not so liberally accommodated. O’Donnell relates, “If Al Beadle were alive today, he wouldn’t have placed the kitchen where he did in the ’50s and ’60s.” The site itself was purposefully chosen, balancing the ideal mix of light and wind, maximizing views and balancing geometry with the natural landscape. This heady symbiotic relationship between the elements situated the house on a familiar axis, with expansive windows at a southern and northern orientation and minimal glazing on the east and west sides, which would receive the bulk of the intense summer heat. Composed of a delicate balance of expansive glass façades, exposed structural steel and concrete, this material palette was indeed de rigueur of what one would come to expect of a Beadle. In contrast, the velvety corten steel panels depart from this, fashioning a unique twist that simultaneously updates the look and speaks to the desert surroundings by mirroring and abstracting its reddened pigment. Typical of Beadle residences, the landscape is tied closely to the geometric detailing of the building itself. Often this would include any accessory “objects,” forming an extension of the main house—most commonly, pools. Aware of this, O’Donnell was not enthusiastic about the prospect of visually detaching the pool from the house, but he and Sawyer were profoundly aware that the site, and where they had placed the structure, wouldn’t allow for a direct, inclusive relationship. Here, landscape dictated the placement of this element, breaking away from Al’s customary orthogonal processes; situated at an acute angle from the house, creating a less than ideal relationship between the two major elements. The greatest trial yet came when harmonizing the design that put a premium on supple proportions and a strong connection to the outdoors via floor-toceiling glass, while providing a system that would meet stringent structural requirements, as demanded by the home’s proximity to the San Andreas Fault, some four miles due north. A more robust structure to address any concerns was provided, while retaining the form’s horizontal linearity. Resistance to raising the ceiling, conversely, proved more difficult. From O’Donnell’s perspective, the house is not merely a composite of floors, walls and a ceiling, but rather a collection of three walls and an outdoor space. He relied heavily on this principle when defending the original plans. Although the experience when one is inside the Beadle space would justify this, many homeowners and builders habitually rely upon a common trope that higher ceilings translates to a more spacious appeal. “I urge those who feel this [way] to just come in and experience the space. A nine-foot ceiling is going to feel every bit as generous and expressive in Al’s design, more so than a higher height, in a closed box, with a few punched-out windows. Don’t discuss this, just bring them in the house and let them experience it,” said O’Donnell. From looking at Beadle’s archival drawings, you can tell that he struggled with the predicament of balancing form and structure, personally. In fact, one scheme developed for the house utilizes a cantilever system, which is most interesting to O’Donnell. Beadle was proposing to appropriate a cable-stayed structure (commonly found in bridge design) by taking the four main structural columns up through the roof and cantilevering the building, thus allowing the floor framing to be elegantly waif-like. O’Donnell comments: “That is not a design direction we took. But if we ever do this again, it might be another possibility to try, because we could take more structural economy out of it. His archive had both—the one we applied, and the other one that was more daring and interesting. Maybe that would be an Al Beadle 2.0.” Photos courtesy O2 Architecture Effie Bouras is a sometimes wordsmith, but mostly an engineer with an architecture penchant, and has created a traveling exhibit about both titled, “Considering the Quake: Seismic Design on the Edge.”

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