Craftsman Landmark: The Gamble House

By Dan Gregory

The Gamble house in Pasadena is the most famous example of the Craftsman style.

A recent tour of the Gamble House in Pasadena, the great 1908 Craftsman style landmark by Greene & Greene, made me appreciate anew the key elements of Greene & Greene architecture, such as the expressive use of wood and the strong connections to outdoor living through trellises and terraces. The rustic-elegant brick terrace wrapping around the
the house from the front door to the rear pergola off the living room, shown above and in the floor plan, below,
is especially remarkable for the way it ties the house to the surrounding landscape (plan courtesy Library of Congress).
Here is the rear terrace -- See how the bricks, stones, vines, and other plantings knit the the house to terrace,

and the terrace to the garden. Is the house dissolving into the landscape or is the landscape evolving into a house? The distinction is wonderfully subtle -- you need to watch your step to avoid falling into that pond. (Vertikoff photos courtesy the Gamble House.)

I think this radical idea — that house and site should be virtual extensions of each other — is more deftly expressed here than in the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and it paved the way — literally! — for mid-century modern designers and architects who used larger expanses of plate glass -- not to mention sliding window walls -- to blur the distinction between inside and outside.

The interior of the Gamble house is equally full of suggestive -- and inspiring -- design ideas. The house is treated as a huge piece of fine furniture, where the wood and joinery become vividly expressive, as here in the inglenook fireplace.

— which is rather like a very elegant compartment on a train that just happens to have a large fireplace between the bench seats where the window would be (photo courtesy The Gamble House).

07/21/2014