Modernist architect Pietro Belluschi's modest farmhouse for sale (photos) - OregonLive.com
Architects and designers employ ideas at home that might later find a wider audience. A famous case is the dilapidated dwelling in the outskirts of Beaverton that modernist architect Pietro Belluschi bought and renovated for his family to live in during WWII.
At the time, Belluschi had already achieved architectural success and national acclaim. In the 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright, the world's most famous architect, endorsed Belluschi's boldly spare design for the Portland Art Museum.
Over his long career, Belluschi envisioned churches with soaring bell towers and image-making corporate headquarters. His skyline-changing 1948 Equitable (now Commonwealth) Building in downtown Portland generated tinted glass-and-aluminum lookalikes across the globe.
And yet for his family's home, he chose a modest farmhouse in the country.
Instead of erecting a statement residence in the city, he amended a humble house in unincorporated Aloha that had been built around 1915 with rustic Craftsman-style features.
In two phases, starting in 1944, Belluschi carefully added and subtracted from the farm's plain structures.
He designed a wide roof to connect the house to a two-room shed that stored wood and fruit, and laid concrete on the ground in between. The practical, welcoming loggia -- it was much more than a covered patio -- was perfect for dining outdoors under exposed rafters.
He kept the home's original wide-plank Douglas fir floors and most of the simple floor plan, and further relaxed the boundaries between indoor-outdoor spaces by installing unpainted spruce on the walls and ceilings, and tall, well-positioned windows that framed trees and sloping land.
The improvements represent some of the hallmarks of the Northwest Regional style that Belluschi and his architectural contemporaries John Yeon and Van Evera Bailey had been introducing to their residential clients and that endear them to modernists today.
The rural setting inspired Belluschi to live with nature, not from it. It also provided building materials during wartime scarcity. He used salvaged materials and cedar logs from nearby woods. A carpenter was hired to turn a young maple tree from the farm into legs for dining room furniture and a coffee table.
Living here also helped Belluschi sharpen his vision of modern design, freed from what he called "artificial standards," "architectural pretense" and "superficial culture."
Belluschi was quoted in The Architectural Forum in 1946 saying he had "become quite attached" to his straightforward farmhouse.
The most dramatic changes came when he removed interior walls to create an L-shaped living-dining space that opened to the once-isolated kitchen. Visible from this large, open space is a two-sided fireplace that's elevated 16 inches off the floor, a floating technique seen in modern houses. Belluschi sculpted a smooth hood out of concrete and angled the hearth.
"The hearth became a focal point for family and guests," recalled architect Anthony Belluschi, Pietro Belluschi's son, who will talk about his boyhood home, known to historians as the Aloha Farmhouse, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30 at the property, 1080 S.W. 197th Ave.
The free event is limited to the first 100 people who RSVP at www.eventbrite.com/e/pietro-belluschi-stories-at-aloha-farmhouse-with-anthony-belluschi-tickets-50135878763
After Sunday's tour, the property and its future will be put up for sale. Kim Allchurch-Flick, of John L. Scott Real Estate is hoping to find a buyer who appreciates history, native materials and a "quaint and comfortable" home that has ample land for "orchards, dogs and chickens."
Pietro Belluschi's vision
Pietro Belluschi immigrated to the U.S. from Italy with an engineering degree and determination. He attended Cornell University on a scholarship and earned a second degree, in civil engineering. After he arrived in Portland in 1925, he was hired as a draftsman at Albert E. Doyle's prestigious architectural firm.
At Doyle's urging, the 28-year-old Belluschi was put in charge of design after Doyle died, and the firm's already illustrious reputation grew. Time magazine reported that Belluschi bought out his partners and opened Pietro Belluschi, Architect in 1943.
He operated his busy company out of a remodeled concrete industrial building in Goose Hollow, which was about a 20-minute drive, in those days, from his home in Aloha.
Belluschi and his wife, Helen, decided to move out of the family's Council Crest house he designed to a six-acre orchard to raise their young sons, Peter and Anthony.
"With his remodel designs, the Aloha Farmhouse became a small size example of my father's vision for Pacific Northwest Modernism," said Anthony Belluschi days before his Sunday talk. "Old photos also show the Scandinavian influences of my mother's Finnish heritage with her choice of rugs, fabrics and decor."
Anthony Belluschi was only three when he visited the farmhouse remodeling project. "My father always praised the craftsmanship of local carpenters and builders," he said. "He appreciated the rural-style helpfulness of the neighbors in the area."
The house was hidden from the highway by rows of Douglas fir trees. The family harvested apples, pears, cherries and filberts, and the boys would run down to the creek to catch crayfish.
More remodeling around 1946 allowed the boys to move out of a converted pantry that had served as their tiny bunk room and into a new wing with two bedrooms and a second bathroom. At this time, a bay bumping out the living room became a study space and the expanded house spanned 1,516 square feet.
Belluschi sold the property in 1948 and moved the family to a home in Dunthorpe that he didn't modify and that no longer exists. The small house he built for the family in Council Crest has been enlarged and updated beyond his original, simple design, although some of his concepts survive.
The Aloha Farmhouse, however, remains close to the way Belluschi knew it - with some exceptions: Field stones now cover the simple concrete fireplace hood, a neighbor's barn, moved on the land in the 1980s, has a second-story apartment, and the six-acre farm is now less than one acre.
Still, the aesthetics, materials and heart of the home are attributed to Belluschi, whom architectural historian Diana Painter calls "Oregon's most renowned 20th century architect."
Painter, who owns the consulting company Painter Preservation in Spokane, was the National Register of Historic Places coordinator for Oregon's historic preservation office for five years. She researched and wrote the nomination form that earned the Aloha Farmhouse listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
The time Pietro Belluschi lived in Aloha was "one of the most important and prolific" of his career, according to Painter.
In 1951, at the height of his influence, Belluschi turned away from his 0,000-a-year practice to accept a ,000-a-year academic job as the dean of the school of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While living on the East Coast, he served as a design consultant, partnering with other top architects to refine projects such as New York's 1963 Pan Am (Metlife) Building and 1969 Juilliard School.
Belluschi was awarded American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal in 1972, and in 1991, he was the second architect, after I.M. Pei, to receive the National Medal of Arts.
An offer from a former client to sell one of Belluschi's earliest Northwest modern residences in Portland's West Hills motivated him to return, in 1973, to the city where his reputation for innovation and elegant buildings began.
Pietro Belluschi lived in what's now known as the 1948 Burkes-Belluschi House until he died in 1994 at age 94.
Pietro's son, Anthony, now owns the handsome hillside house, with his wife, Marti. On display in the carefully curated home are memories of Anthony's childhood, including some of the paintings by local artists that Anthony's mom hung in the Aloha Farmhouse.
--Janet Eastman | 503-799-8739