Lawrence Modern and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance may seem an odd couple, but they held a very successful joint event on April 15. Participants toured two North Lawrence houses, facing one another across Walnut Street, that could hardly have been more different. Dueling houses! Bring on the banjos.
The first was a 1908 Victorian farmhouse renovated over the last decade or two, the second a 2006-present minimal modernist affair. Every surface in the Victorian and its outbuildings was covered with artifacts from the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. Its owner, David Baird, owns a company called Ethnofacts that trades in these art and craft materials. Every surface in the contemporary house seemed to reject the possibility of artifacts. This house is owned by Scott Tettel, design-builder and owner of Gria Inc.
They were both wonderful. Both houses reflected personal, thoughtful labors of love. Neither could have been created by owners seduced by the idea of “re-sale value.”
The event revealed a common ground between the two organizations: that buildings of quality deserve recognition and respect because of the human capital that has been invested in their design, construction, maintenance and/or resurrection. And that respectable buildings can coexist comfortably in spite of radical differences in their makers’ notions of architectural style.
It should go without saying that most of the buildings erected during any period of time are mediocre (since “all of the children” cannot be “above average.”) Some acquire distinction merely by surviving their peers. Others, like the Walnut Street Victorian, acquire it through single-minded efforts to revive a failing structure. A few begin their lives as outliers, awaiting the judgement of generations to follow.