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Dallas Architecture and Real Estate Insights

by Douglas Newby, Real Estate Broker

Dallas Architecture Blog discusses Modern Architecture and Mid Century Modern Homes, Dallas Neighborhoods, Dallas Real Estate and the Aesthetics of the City.

Architect designed home demonstrates link — Mediterranean and Modern

Recently, I represented a very stylish and sophisticated young couple who desired a modern home. These buyers recognized the Robert Meckfessel design of this Mediterranean home in Greenway Parks is a link to classic Mediterranean and Texas Modern styles. They knew the influence of Spanish Colonial homes on David Williams who created the Texas Modern style of architecture. They immediately responded to the modernity of this Robert Meckfessel-designed home, which they quickly purchased.

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Modern home lovers also usually appreciate Mediterranean homes.

I often find that clients and friends who really enjoy modern homes have a similar affinity to Mediterranean-style homes. The open floor plans, abundance of natural light, and lack of heavy ornamentation are the most apparent similarities. The more subtle similarities are rooted in the concept behind Mediterranean and Texas modern homes.

Symmetrical structure and subordinate wing found in Mediterranean and David Williams Homes

One can see the similarity of the classic Mediterranean homes in Europe, the Spanish Colonial homes in Mexico and the David Williams designed Texas Modern homes in Dallas. All these homes typically had a spare, symmetrical and formal structure with a subordinate wing that added later. Courtyards were often framed with these subordinate wings or low courtyard walls. Covered terraces provided shelter from the summer sun while allowing the low winter sun to infiltrate the home and provide and outdoor space that captured the summer breezes.

You can see these same architectural components at the house designed by David Williams on McFarlin in University Park.

The David Williams designed homes at both McFarlin and St. Johns reflect the formal structure, the more informal wings, continuous walls to outside rooms, and protected porches. These homes, like the early Mediterranean homes and the recent home by Robert Meckfessel share their architectural honesty, lack of excessive ornamentation and a crisp modernity softened by rolled corners on the plaster walls on the Meckfessel design in the Greenway Parks home and the hand-carved woodwork and hand-hammered iron work in this David Williams-designed Texas Modern home in the Park Cities.

Robert Meckfessel Draws From Proven Styles

Robert Meckfessel, known for his modern architecture, was asked to design a Mediterranean home in Greenway Parks. Robert Meckfessel confirmed in a recent conversation that he was inspired by his research in classic Mediterranean homes and his familiarity with Texas Modern homes. “When I researched Mediterranean homes, I realized there were no hard-and-fast rules when it came to design or proportions,” he told me. “But I did find a pattern of symmetrical structures with subordinated wings that were added later. This is how I approached the house on Wenonah in Greenway Parks. It started with a fairly formal structure that becomes more relaxed when a wing is added along with a courtyard wall with a planter top. The feel of the house becomes softer because there are no wood casements around the doors, only rounded plaster openings. I eliminated ornamentation in the interior and around the doors, creating a crisp but rolled edge.”

Meckfessel added that the planter top on the three-foot tall courtyard wall was inspired by one of his favorite residences, Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea outside of Helsinki.

Architect David Williams also Had Hand in Greenway Parks

Not only has David Williams had a great influence on modern architects in Dallas, but he had a great influence on Greenway Parks. Here he laid out a plan of curving boulevards and triangle parks, and shared private greenways. Along with his architecture being influenced by the time he spent in Mexico where he made his small fortune between 1916-1923, Greenway Parks is also influenced by his residential project in Tampico where David Williams sited the homes in Aquila Colony facing public greens and parks.

Greenway Parks Attracts Homeowners Who Appreciate Architectural Style and Significance.

There are a great number of architect-designed homes representing many architectural styles. On the other end of the block is a Fooshee and Cheek Colonial home that I sold and is now completely renovated. Around the corner is a midcentury modern home I sold that was designed by Hidell and Decker. Another midcentury home is the one designed by Howard Meyer on Nakoma

Greenway Parks home owners have retained talented architects and interior designers, including Svend Fruit and Mil Bodron, Allen Kirsch, Jason and Signe Smith, who preserve and burnish these delightful Greenway Parks homes. While original 1930s and 1940s houses are reinterpreted in a modern way, many are not spacious enough for a large family or open enough to fulfill the desire of modernists. This Mediterranean home on Wenonah designed by Robert Meckfessel, FAIA, accomplishes what so many homeowners are now looking for – space and style.

One Response to “Architect designed home demonstrates link — Mediterranean and Modern”

  1. Robert Meckfessel FAIA Says:

    Doug,

    I just read the piece on your blog about the Wenonah house. Thanks for the very kind words and for the very intelligent discussion of the links among a traditional style (“Mediterranean”, Texas vernacular, and modernism). I am, as you say, a modernist, and I accepted the Wenonah commission with some trepidation over whether I could be true to my modernist training and philosophy. We obviously worked it out and I’m happy with the results and glad the new owners are, too.

    I believe that too often we architects and others are overly dogmatic about the purity of our chosen “style”. In some (many?) cases, when one digs just a little, the rationale behind the dogma breaks down quickly. On the other hand, I find the ambiguity we see in so much good Dallas architecture refreshing and intriguing, especially when viewed in the context of the rich heritage of Texas design – modern and historic.

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