Nakoma Residence

Nakoma Residence (Dallas, Texas): interior view

Modern Residential in Dallas

Symbiosis of Modernism and the Texan Vernacular

While practitioners of the International Style, such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, elevated the exposure of structure and “weightlessness,” Meyer strove to balance the conflicting tendencies of maintaining spaciousness while providing substance.

Built in 1951 for Mr. and Mrs. Ben Liphsy in Dallas, Texas, the Nakoma Residence would come to symbolize Howard Meyer’s cohesive architectural aesthetic. Having toured the most acclaimed Modernist residences and having met Le Corbusier himself in 1928, Meyer had a significant and unusual education that allowed him an immersion into the modernist aesthetic. As a result. Meyer had cosmopolitan perspective that many American architects of the time lacked. The principles of the International Styles would become prevalent in the Meyer’s designs through his free-flowing arrangement of space and simplicity in rectilinear forms; however, the architect felt the need for connectivity to site and greater substance that could not be found in the “lightness” of Modernist architecture. As much as Meyer admired Le Corbusier and his Toward a New Architecture (1921), he additionally borrowed from the craftsman-centric and honesty-to-materials of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Through Meyer’s wealth of knowledge regarding the International Style and his prevailing interest in indigenous materials, the Nakoma Residence comes to be an adept reconciliation of Modernist expressed in indigenous materials to be in harmony with the local circumstance.

Sources: Newby, D. (n.d.). Architecturally Significant Homes. In Howard Meyer- Greenway Parks Modern Home. Retrieved from Doug Newby & Associates website http://www.dougnewby.com/ Architecture/Architecturally%20Significant/5381nakoma.asp


Nakoma Residence (Dallas, Texas): additional interior view

The Elements of 5381 Nakoma Residence

Dedication to Materiality and Site

Blending elements of modernism and organicism (preface that), the Nakoma Residence reveals a balance of the somewhat contradictory architectural stylings. Prior to the Nakoma Residence, Meyer seems to more strictly follow the Wrightian architectural precedents. However, the Nakoma Residence reveals Meyer’s newfound sense of sophisticated International Modernism. In place of sloped eaves and irregular stone wall conventions of Wrightian Prairie Style, the Nakoma Residence reveals a stronger influence of Modernist principles with its playful arrangement of rectilinear forms and flat roofing system.

Enlivened by the combination of concavities and convexities into the façade, the Nakoma Residence attains a textural complexity through the juxtaposition of simple geometric forms. Although the volumetric massing of the Nakoma Residence pertains to Modernist principles, Meyer’s pronounced sense of horizontality and responsibility to the materials lends to his commitment to site, nature and Frank Lloyd Wright.


An All-Encompassing Interior

As Meyer exhibited a rich counterpoint of architectural form, the architect similarly engaged with contrasting color and texture. The vibrant orange-hued flat Roman brick laid in perfect rows with mortar raked, in Wrightian manner, only in the horizontal joints emphasizes the lengthiness created in the form of the house while brilliantly contrasting the emerald-colored Bermuda grass. While working architectonically and chromatically, the flat Roman brick serves as an essential material element to Meyer’s integrated architectural aesthetic.

Meyer’s responsiveness to materials continues through his use of grey-stained redwood planks that work not only to accentuate the horizontality stemming from the influence of the Texas plains, but also to demonstrate the use of native materials.

Sources: Preservation Dallas, & The Dallas Architecture Forum. (1997, November). Howard Meyer: Temple Emanu-El and Other Works. Dallas: Preservation Dallas.


Nakoma Residence (Dallas, Texas): interior programming with front door

Howard Meyer’s Interior Programming

Spatial Connectivity

Perhaps one of the persuasive elements of Meyer’s architectural aesthetic can be seen in his sense of spatial connectivity. Meyer’s use of transparent spatial dividers in the creation of framed interior reflects the persuasive influence of the German Werkbund, a progressive group of German industrialist that were at one point led by Mies van der Rohe.

While the interior spaces pinwheel around the central brick partition and hearth in a fashion similar to that of Frank Lloyd Wright, Meyer provides a sense of stability for the idea of interior for the idea of open planning, which was a relatively new concept in Western residential design. The tangibility and the weightiness of the brick massing provides an architectural and visual contrast to the expansive, ribbon window-wall prominent in the International Style.

Large expanses of glazed partitions, or windowed wall, were dominate in Modernist aesthetic, especially in the work of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Meyer’s implementation of this floor-to-ceiling glazing with sparse, thin mullions creates blurred boundaries as the interior space visually become synonymous with the exterior. This transparency within division permitted Meyer to produce a space visually much more expansive than in actual dimension.

Sources: Dillion, D. (2011, May 4). Regarding Architect Howard Meyer. Interview presented at Howardmeyer.org. Preservation Dallas, & The Dallas Architecture Forum. (1997, November). Howard Meyer: Temple Emanu-El and Other Works. Dallas: Preservation Dallas.


Nakoma Residence (Dallas, Texas): exterior view

Restoring 5381 Nakoma Residence

An All-Encompassing Interior

Although the Nakoma Residence has been through several periods of less-than-sensitive renovation, this post-World War II era residence has through the restorative efforts of Mr. and Mrs. James Clark. The Clark’s commission of Meyer to aid with the preservation of the architect’s original features unveiled his well-established reputation as a sort of “renaissance man.” Displayed in the furnishings and the interior space of the living room of the Nakoma Residence, Meyer’s designing methodology was on in which he was fully involved. Meyer concern was not only the creation of space, but also the desired aesthetic that was ultimately executed through furniture designs within the home.

With acute attention to detail and material, Meyer created unique built in furniture pieces that exuded a responsibility to the honesty of material and simplicity of form. As a result, Meyer’s key principles of design transpire regardless of the scale of the project.

Preservation Dallas, & The Dallas Architecture Forum. (1997, November). Howard Meyer: Temple Emanu-El and Other Works. Dallas: Preservation Dallas


Nakoma Residence (Dallas, Texas): staircase and brick wall

Howard Meyer and Materials

A Homage to Substance and Space

While earliest practitioners of the International Style, such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, elevated the exposure of structure and “weightlessness,” Meyer strove to maintain spaciousness while providing material substance. Whereas stuccoed planes and exposed steel structures dominated the Modernist aesthetic, Meyer’s alliance to providing a home of substance while maintaining the intrinsically including the qualities of discretion and understatement.

With the rustic and brick partitions, Meyer married indigenous Texas charm with a modernist aesthetic with the free flowing arrangement of space. The prevailing engagement with the outdoors through the large windowed expanses lends greatly to the connectivity to nature that Meyer wished to achieve in order to create a suitable form of domestic architecture.


Entering the Nakoma Residence

Balance Within Asymmetry

Looking into the entryway of the Nakoma House, Meyer’s considerable facility with geometric form is revealed as a recurring motif. The sense of craftsmanship, honesty towards materials, and the predominance of carefully arranged rectilinear forms become the primary language of Meyer’s domestic interiors. Meyer plays the two congruent entry portals asymmetrically within the context within a orthogonal framework . The off-centered arrangement indicative of modern, International Style influence in Meyer’s creative handling would have seemed less startling to fledging circles of Modernist patrons in Dallas. Meyer achieves this equitable arrangement by balancing the asymmetry with the natural wood paneled door. Instead of the stark and unadorned surfaces of Modernist interiors, Meyer captures a moment of intimacy and warmth that is befitting of time and place.

Nakoma Residence (Dallas, Texas): exterior view with walkway

Meyer Designing Form Following Humanism

A Moment of Illusion and Reflectivity

Providing the core and centering element to the home the visually stunning cantilever wooden staircase with the attenuated brick wall entry piece provides the moment of verticality in the home. Juxtaposing the “floating” yet tangible triangular-prism wood stair treads with slender steel rods against the irregular geometric pool, Meyer designed a breathtaking moment of illusion and drama. As the staircase suggests verticality, the reflection of this architectonic element heightens the attenuating feature into the realm of the surreal.

Due to the placement of the brick-lined pool within the entrance of the Nakoma Residence, Meyer created not only an area of theatricality and wonderment, but also reflectivity and an area for pause. Residential entrances are often overlooked and seen as mere passageways to other more captivating environments; however, Meyer’s manipulation of a free-flowing entry with small water feature provides an area of focus and calm. The eye-catching bend within the form of the pool gives evidence to Meyer’s acute sensitivity in handlings of detail as he created a truly captivating sculptural piece.


Capturing Design Aesthetic Through Lighting

The expansive windowed-wall provides not only spatial connectivity to the outdoors, but also organic illumination. While the windows allow for variability for lighting quality responsive to the climate and time of day, Meyer supplements the daylighting with concealed cove lighting. With indirect lighting built into horizontally floating ledges, Meyer creates a space that reiterates the motif of horizontality while maintaining the warmth and ambience that seems innately natural.

While the ribboned, expansive glass partitions express illumination in the sense of verticality, the cove lighting provides a diffused glow through the placement on the horizontal landing. Contrasting the attenuations of the lighting lends to the continuing theme of counterpoint in Meyer’s work.


The Pleasure of Craftsmanship and Detail

Meyer spoke in response to his architectural process saying, “you let yourself go, then you refine as you design.” The fineness of detail that is a signature of Meyer’s work can be seen within the purity of the staircase construction. The oblong triangular prism form of the treads is an intriguing detail of Meyer’s design as it gives the stairs depth and rhythm.

The black steel supports and connectors between the stairs provide a vertical element that contrasts the horizontality of the stairs. While juxtaposing horizontality with verticality, Meyer additionally manages to reveal his signature dedication to craftsmanship in the construction of the staircase that is reminiscent of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.