richard meier’s 1973 douglas house in michigan granted historic designation

richard meier's 1973 douglas house in michigan granted historic designation richard meier’s 1973 douglas house in michigan granted historic designation

richard meier’s 1973 douglas house in michigan granted historic designation

richard meier’s famous ‘douglas house’ — completed in 1973 — has been included on the united states national register of historic places — becoming part of a select list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation. recognized by the ‘national park service US department of the interior’, the dwelling was designed for mr and mrs douglas, a couple who originally wanted to buy the blueprints to meier’s ‘smith house’. to celebrate the announcement, new images have been taken of the property by photographer james haefner. read more about the residence below.

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each of the property’s levels echo the horizontals of the lake’s surface, the horizon, and the shoreline
image by scott frances/OTTO

one day I received a letter from a mr and mrs james douglas inquiring if I would sell them the blueprints for the smith house,’ explains richard meier. ‘I replied that while I was not prepared to sell the drawings I would certainly be willing to design a new house for them along similar lines. they accepted, and I started designing a house for a site that they had purchased in a residential subdivision in northern michigan. as it happened, the developer who had sponsored the subdivision insisted on reviewing the design of any house that would be built within its boundary. he asked me to submit photographs of my work, whereupon he immediately refused to permit a house designed by me since it did not have the prerequisite classic pitched roof. to my delight, the douglases responded to this impasse by promptly selling the plot and looking for another site, and that was the beginning of a very gratifying collaboration.’

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internal and external staircases provide vertical circulation routes
image by james haefner courtesy of michigan state historic preservation office

‘douglas house’ is situated on a secluded site that slopes down towards lake michigan. embedded into the dramatic terrain, the entry to the house extends beyond the building envelope. the east side, facing the road, is protected by a white membrane pierced by square apertures and horizontal strip windows. ‘usually when people enter a house, they expect the outside to be brought in, but in the douglas house, the opposite occurs: you are transported outside, over the lake and into the trees,’ says richard meier.

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the building is embedded into the steep terrain
image by james haefner courtesy of michigan state historic preservation office

internal views open to the west, oriented towards the living and dining levels, as well as out to a large roof deck overlooking the lake. horizontal circulation moves along four open corridors, stacked one above the other behind a screen wall. internal and external staircases provide vertical circulation routes. a skylight running nearly the full length of the roof-deck brings sunlight into the living room. this also reinforces the separation between the public and private sectors of the home. each of the property’s three levels echo the horizontals of the lake’s surface, the horizon, and the shoreline.

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a ‘bridge’ connects the multi-storey property
image by james haefner courtesy of michigan state historic preservation office

richard meier adds: ‘reflecting on the history and the design of the douglas house I believe the architect is really the facilitator of creating something which goes on to have an existence that is much greater than itself and has a life that is longer than any of the people involved in the creation of it.’

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brightly illuminated living spaces offer panoramic views
image by scott frances/OTTO

‘in thinking about the ideas that go into making architecture one has to think about not just the context, the circumstances of the site, its history, the surrounding buildings, the topography, and the nature of the place in the public realm, but also about what it can be, what it will be, and how it will be meaningful for future society. with all of the changes that are taking place in the world today, it is important that architecture continues to move us aesthetically, as great architecture always has. we are deeply honored by this historic distinction of the douglas house, and we are very grateful for all the dedication, care and supervision given by the current owners of the house.’

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the structure has been included on the united states national register of historic places
image by scott frances/OTTO

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a skylight running nearly the full length of the roof-deck brings in sunlight
image by scott frances/OTTO

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