March 21, 2015

It Buys A Village

Here is a real estate project that must happen.

First is the utterly amazing yet apocalyptic story in the NY Times about kids shopping for their families' seven- and eight-figure real estate. The headline, "When the 13-Year-Old Picks a $14 Million Condo", is not hyperbolic, but a real thing that an actual Upper West Side family did.

My friend Ron Lieber has an excellent book out, The Opposite Of Spoiled, about educating your kids to be wise about money by involving them in family financial decisions, and by giving them both responsibility and tools for earning, saving, and spending money. I don't think he had this kids-buying-beach-houses scenario in mind when he wrote it; perhaps his advice comes too late for some elements of our society.


Due to an extraordinary set of circumstances, an early, significant house designed by Frank Gehry is set to be auctioned in May. The Winton Guest House was originally commissioned in 1983 to sit alongside a Philip Johnson-designed house on Lake Minnetonka, MN. Its collection of sculptural forms clad in different materials is inspired by the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi, but also by a village, where each element grows up independently, but still coheres into a unified whole.


The house is around 2,400 square feet, has two bedrooms and two baths, a full basement, a sleeping loft/crow's nest above the kitchen, and its main feature: a 35-foot truncated pyramidal tower for a living room. The materials are limestone, lead-painted copper, steel, Finnish marine plywood, flagstone, and brick.


The Wintons sold their property in 2002, which the next guy subdivided, and since he couldn't tear down the Gehry, he donated it to the University of St. Thomas in 2009. They moved the house in ten parts over 60 miles to a conference center in BF Minnesota, and rebuilt and updated the mechanicals. It took ten months. The work was completed in 2011. The house has probably never been better.

And now the school has sold the land, and the house must be moved again. By August 2016. On the bright side, at least you know it's possible. I bet it's even easier the second time. The Chicago-based design auction house Wright 20 will sell the Winton House on May 19. Their estimate is $1-1.5 million. Plus shipping and handling.

BUT don't worry. The Mississippi River is only 65 miles away. Surely the house could be put onto trucks, then barges, and taken anywhere in the world. And thus the Winton Guest House is rebuilt, on a lot reasonably near a navigable waterway.


And then this climbing net goes in the living room tower. Probably with a rock climbing wall installed along at least two, if not all four, of the walls. Frank Gehry will certainly approve. And if he doesn't, I wish him a long, healthy, and productive life. He is 86. But come on, he'd have to be so psyched at the prospect. psyched.


This kids' climbing tower/studio is from Tower House (2014) by Andrew Maynard Architects in Victoria, Australia. The 2,300-sf renovation and expansion added various structures in various forms and materials to a standard row house, transforming it into an indoor-outdoor village. It is basically the Winton House minus the starchitecture.


And here's the kicker. Maynard told ArchDaily that the tower which catalyzed the entire project was based on drawings created during an early meeting by the client family's twin boys.

So basically, the kid is going to make me do this unless one of you beats us to it. So please, bid before it's too late.

When the 13-Year-Old Picks a $14 Million Condo [nyt]
Frank Gehry's Winton Guest House, 5/19/15 [wright20]
Tower House, Andrew Maynard Architects [archdaily via dt reader rolf]

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