Architectural Monographs: Competition for an Unusual Lakeside House

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In 1918, an owner of a lakeside lot in New York sought plans for the perfect vacation home, to be built for no more than $5,000 in a design that would blend in with a nearby village. The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs sponsored a competition for plans that include a spacious living room, a grand fireplace, recreational space, a sleeping porch and a boat dock, inspiring dozens of architects to participate.

But the resulting entries, as noted in Volume IV, Issue IV of the Monographs entitled ‘Vacation Season,’ were largely disappointing because they ignored the call to design a house that isn’t in the typical cabin or lakeside bungalow style. Apparently, the architects got lost in daydreams about what they would like in their own vacation home on a lake, rather than addressing the needs of the homeowner (and can we blame them?)

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The jury’s description of the entries reflects what they call “an almost painful absence of direct, synthetic, logical thought.” Though several designs – which ultimately won first through fourth places – clearly stood apart, others had to be excluded “on account of a perhaps small but significant indication of a blind spot in the brain.” The first prize-winning entry is simple, direct and logical, but also beautiful, and artfully rendered.

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“It is rare that artistic skill of such a quality is combined with such practical good sense as is shown by the floor plans,” they write of the winner, Richard M. Powers. “Most of the practical solutions were painfully deficient in any sense of purely aesthetic values, while the ‘snappy’ drawings too often served only as cloaks for flagrant architectural sins.”

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Read more about the winning entries, and see more images, at the White Pine Architectural Monographs Library.

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