When architect Anthony Belluschi and his brother inherited the Portland, Oregon, home of their late father and stepmother, in 2009, their realtor pronounced the spectacularly sited modernist house a potential 'tear-town.' As Anthony stood stunned, he recalls, 'The first words out of my mouth were: 'Over my dead body'.'
Pietro built the 2,500-square-foot residence in 1948 for the D.C. Burkes on a secluded, wooded hillside with panoramic downtown and distant mountain views.
Three years later, he moved his family from Portland to Boston to begin his deanship at MIT. But in 1973, when the widowed Mrs. Burke offered to sell, says his son, 'the house lured him back.' He lived there until his death, at 94 in 1994, as did his wife until hers, in 2009.
For six decades, the place saw minimal repairs. Finally, in 2008, Anthony replaced his stepmother's severely leaky roof. (Mrs. Burke had insisted on a flat plane, emulating Southern California modernism, despite Oregon's climate. The new roof, with such advances as a ceramic layer, finally makes that form viable.) The same year, he also built a 235-square-foot guest pavilion. But reclaiming the main house was more daunting.
'I couldn't have worked on it during my father' lifetime,' says Anthony, who was then living in Chicago and had always steered his career far from Pietro's formidable shadow. But, in 2009, the prospect of a teardown spurred him to action.
As he meticulously restored the house ' with its timber construction, expanses of glass, and cedar cladding, both inside and out ' he and his wife realized they "wanted to live here, but not enshrine it like a museum," he says. "It had to accommodate our needs as a family.'
They expanded by 1,200 square feet, adding a bedroom and doubling the 1948 kitchen, which still integrates such original features as Pietro's brick rotisserie. Cedar walls and vast windows left few surfaces for art, so Anthony converted a trellised walkway into a white-walled, sky-lit gallery, joining the house's old and new sections with a spatial breather between them. He also replaced the cork floors, enclosed the carport, and modernized the master bath, retaining the original glass wall panels and sunken Roman bath. Once water stained, the woven-wood bedroom ceilings are now pristine.
Whether or not Pietro was peering over his son's shoulder, local preservationists were. And this project ' a 2013 recipient of Restore Oregon's DeMuro Award ' ultimately won their approval.
Completion Date: Original house 1948; Guest House (Teahouse) 2-2009; Additions, Alterations and Restoration to main house 2-2012
Gross square footage: GSF = 3460; (Original house 2500 SF; Addition 725 SF; Teahouse 235 SF)
Total project cost: $935K (Main house restoration, renovations, additions, landscaping = $665K; Teahouse = $275,000)
Anthony Belluschi Consulting Architect
Anthony Belluschi FAIA, Principal
700 NW Rapidan Terrace
Portland, Oregon 97210
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