Architectural Articles

Special Spatial Memories

My grandparent’s home near Ann Arbor, Michigan, brings back vivid memories when I was a regular guest during my preschool years. I can picture the floor plan clearly. The sequence of rooms allowed me to chase my sister from the kitchen to the living room through the master bedroom into a hallway leading back to the kitchen. I have always thought that a house for children should have such a circular plan. One Thanksgiving Day in pursuit of my sister again, I tripped on the edge of the carpet and broke my arm. The family meal was delayed when my parents drove me to the doctor in town. That evening, I recuperated in the guest bedroom too nauseated from the ether used to set my cast to eat gramma’s cookies, which my sister enjoyed.

While thinking about a grandparent’s domicile, you may be conjuring up images of Currier and Ives or Thomas Kinkade’s cottages. Not so! In the early 40’s, my grandfather had built a long, low-slung, modern house, which was undoubtedly influenced (I have since conjectured) by Wright’s popular Prairie style. My grandfather selected a slate roof with deep overhangs, stone and plaster walls, on a concrete slab with radiant floor heating. I was content to run toy trucks along the geometric patterns of the Oriental rug on the warm floor in front of the large stone fireplace. Curiously, I remember the small metal clips that fastened large pains of butted plate glass in the front bay window.

Not only did Grandpa and Grandma Perryman fashion an unforgettable house, they also built an adjacent restaurant, hotel and cabins on old Route 112 which catered to truckers traveling between Detroit and Chicago with gas, food, and lodging.

One of the most impressive works of architecture I have ever had the pleasure to experience was the Affleck House (built in 1941) in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. One could argue that Wright had designed more important structures, but this building made a significant impression on me because it was my initial exposure to Wright’s aesthetic genius. I was a sophomore student of architecture when I followed other impressionable young pupils into the brick and wood structure. We ducked through the low entrance porch into a small but lofty foyer. The very long and low living room looked through a row of windows onto a balcony cantilevered over a wooded ravine. A small kitchen was sunlit from windows at the top of high brick walls.

I was so captivated by the organic design that I persuaded a friend to return with me the next day. We sneaked up the driveway only to be caught by Mr. Gregor Affleck coming out of his garden. I quickly offered an excuse for trespassing, explaining that I had been on the school tour a day earlier. Surprisingly, Mr. Affleck graciously welcomed us both into his home for a private viewing. Before we left an hour or so later, we had been given a recipe for “lighter-than-air” pancakes.

To be published in arcCA, the Journal of the American Institute of Architects California Council

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Back to Articles