A recently reopened residential project by famous Italian-American architect Pietro Belluschi provides a lesson in the value of simple, straightforward design. Literally reassembled piece by piece after years in a storage locker, the Griffith House, a single-family home designed for newlyweds, has been rebuilt at a new site in Lake Oswego, the Portland suburb where it was originally constructed in 1951. Now known as the Belluschi Pavilion, the 951-square-foot structure will be used by nearby Marylhurst University as a "living classroom" and arts space. The story of how this "minimum house" came to be rediscovered and rebuilt is a bit of a family affair.
The home is one of a handful the architect built during his stay in Portland during the '30s, '40s and early '50s, when he helped define what would become northwest regional modernism. Designed with a Douglas fir ceiling that extended past the exterior walls in a wrap-around eave, the home was built to be expandable, and plans for the project were even published in LIFE magazine.
Soon after its completion, Belluschi move to MIT to teach, and the original owners lived there for more than half a century until 2006, when Arthur Griffith had put it on the market after his wife, Lucy, passed away. In 2007, Tim Mather, founder of MCM Construction, discovered the little-known home was for sale. To save the structure after the land was sold, Mather bought the house, then disassembled and cataloged the entire structure, putting 2,000 carefully recorded pieces into storage until a new site and purpose could be found.
A leader of the Modernist movement who designed the Pan-Am building, Belluschi advanced ideas of sustainability, so the adaptive reuse of an entire single-family home seemed like a fitting tribute to his legacy. Mather helped organize a coalition, including Marylhurst University and the Kinsman Foundation, to help find a new purpose for the home. While working on finding a new site, the foundation was surprised to discover it had more of a connection to the home than it previously thought.
"It came out that the original contractor, Jon Kinsman, was the father of Keith Kinsman, who started our foundation," says Sarah Bailey, the new CEO of the Kinsman Foundation. "The address on some of the original paperwork is actually the same address as the building we work out of now."
Now a part of Marylhurst University, the home has been rebuilt and redecorated with period pieces, including Eames chairs and lounges. Marylhurst plans to use the space, which just reopened last weekend, for public lectures, films and presentations.