Friday, April 13, 2012

Bird Cloud

I just finished reading Annie Proulx’s new memoir, “Bird Cloud”.  The story is about building your dream home and the land it sits on. So where does a 70 year old famous wealthy writer decide to build her final home? Wyoming... on 640 acres of desolate land with a fantastic view of a bluff that sits along the Missouri river. 
Bird Cloud had mixed reviews....This is not one of her best books and the New York Times review by Dwight Garner, nails her with sharp words. However, It is still an interesting read, especially for those of us interested in design and architecture. 

Considering that there were hardly any expenses spared to build this home - you would expect it to be gorgeous and  I was anxious to see it!  The home was designed by Harry Teague Architects based in Colorado.

Like the cowboy land it sits on; it is large, rustic and raw.  The interior views are directed out towards the big beautiful bluff.  The front door is unusual and was constructed from a nearby abandoned metal barn.  Proulx is conscientious and requests sustainable, planet smart, materials.

While these ideas were successful, she describes all the familiar foibles to building that all homeowners struggle with.. I imagine that Proulx was a difficult client. Opinionated and obstinate, she goes into detail about how some of her choices were mistakes. She thought she wanted an office without windows to distract her but now finds herself wandering to the living room with the view to do all of her work and... the high ceilings seemed like a good idea - but there are no cozy spaces to curl up with a good book.  The small ceiling custom pendant light fixtures that are everywhere were a bad choice and are too distracting.  The poured red, concrete floor was a disaster and had to be covered with tiles.

Although Proulx wishes she had picked an easier site to access in the harsh winters, I think she is happy with the house in the end and it suits her well.  Unfortunately for the readers, Proulx’s descriptions were tedious and at the end of the book she is consumed by bird watching and wanders off the house design altogether. Maybe that is what a good design should be all about -- the wandering off from the concreteness of the form and instead heading off into the land which it occupies?

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