24th june 2014
My recent visit to the Gamble house, washed by the late afternoon sun, was inspiring. Something I had only experienced vicariously in cherished books that lingered for decades on my library shelves. Two remarkable American architects, the brothers Charles and Henry Greene, designed this Pasadena (USA) craftsman house in 1908.
English architectural critic and writer, Reyner Banham, had the privilege of living in the house, on and off, for a period of 8 years. In the introduction to the book, Greene and Greene – Architecture as Fine Art, he implores, “Living in it you must …. such intensely residential architecture is not truly to be known otherwise.”
Banham suggests that you have to be there “at all hours and in all weathers” to know the house and all it has to offer. He has a delightful description of growing to understand this seemingly living building recalling “where it creaks when the weather changes or as it cools after dark in summer, and how it rattles in the rain, as the water cascades around the numerous sharp bends in the square – section downpipes that conduct it away from the seemingly innumerable roofs. To know how it smells in the morning, and to see one stupendous architectural vision that is only available to the early riser around 6.30 of a winter dawn.”
My brief encounter was limited to a walk around the outside of the house viewed across the spacious manicured lawns. The late afternoon solitary experience, away from the many visitors to this national monument, gave me a hint of the ambience to which Banham was attuned. My ‘bucket list’ now includes the three-hour ‘craftsman and detail tour’ on a return trip to Pasadena to thoroughly appreciate a Greene Brothers’ house.