Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mistake House (1931)

image via flickr

Technically this is not a playhouse, but it is an interesting little structure worth talking about.  I visited this tiny cottage several years ago on a college field trip to The Principia College.  Shouldn't every architect have at least one mistake house in their back yard?  (Would be better than mistake buildings).  From each angle the house takes on a slightly different look, with materials changing at every turn.  It has strong storybook characteristics and fits beautifully on the campus.  Thankfully it was not demolished.

The first structure built at Elsah by Maybeck was an experimental building originally named the Sample House, and now known as the Mistake House. Between April and June of 1931, Maybeck personally supervised the construction of this cottage-like structure erected as a point of reference for methods and materials in the new college construction. It was his intention to use the Sample House as a basis for written instructions coming from his San Francisco office to the architects and construction supervisors in his Elsah office. The little building illustrates all kinds of construction techniques, including half timbering mixed with brick, concrete, and stone. In order to imitate the effect of thatch in an English village, Maybeck used gunite on the north slope of the Mistake House roof with poured concrete dormers and a concrete chimney. Principia administrators required that the architect experiment with terra cotta tile on the south slope, the method ultimately adopted for the executed dormitories.    
December 1963 Article from Modern Mechanics
Contractors Build Freak Test House to determine the feasibility and artistic effect of various materials for a group of new college buildings, a test building using many different materials was erected at Principia College, Elsah, Ill From the results gleaned from the novel experiment, the combination and types of material to be used in the construction of the main buildings was determined.  The small test building was constructed of stone, brick, cast concrete, and timber in brick and concrete. One side of the roof was made of concrete covered with slate, while the opposite side was plain concrete.

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