Construction coaching and Allyn Morris

As a way to make money and get me out of the house, Michele suggested I coach people building new homes or remodeling their homes. She had run into a guy who labeled himself a Landscape Coach and immediately thought I should be a Construction Coach, to quote her, Being a construction coach is a perfect application of your knowledge. It seems like a great idea; after all, one of my specialties is giving advice. And I have been building and remodeling houses for a very long time.

It has been fun building my resume, running across names I have not thought of in years. One of them is an engineer/designer named Allyn Morris, in the early 60’s, I worked for Allyn Morris as a carpenter. (The way he spells his first name says it all.)  Today architecture seems to be all about the past, the best architects, like Robert A. M. Stern, creatively riff on the past, but it still seems about the past. As the building below shows, often spectacularly. Sometimes even 60’s modern as past, but, still, the past.

In the 60’s, it was all about the future and Morris was a master. An almost unknown master.

I worked on finishing and detailing a couple of duplexes(1) for him and on the steel framing of a custom home(2) he designed. His own home and studio were among the best buildings I have ever been in and I still remember it in detail. That home(3) is up for sale and it is still exciting. I remember entering by a bright red door at the back of the carport – whose roof was a huge cantilever – and standing on the third floor, facing a three story glass wall overlooking the Glendale Freeway and – in the distance – the San Gabriel Mountains. Morris thought the Glendale Freeway was a dynamic piece of art. It is, especially at night. The house even has its own website, check it out.

1. The apartment house had wood floors made up of 2×4’s on edge that then cantilevered out – way out – over the garages. People, especially kids would walk out to the end of the cantilevered deck and jump up and down like a diving board. It was starting to cause damage and I suggested propping it up with a 4×4 and then painting it out. Morris’s solution was to put a brightly painted car jack under the end of the cantilever. He said, I want to learn from my mistakes, not cover them up.

2. The vertical members of the steel frame were tubes, each one the exact size that was structurally needed, so that one was six inches in diameter and another was four inches. Sheer, out of the box, genius.

3. One – for lack of a better word – whimsical thing I remember is that there was an open downspout running down the middle of the spiral staircase. When it rained, the water ran down the downspout into a fishpond on the first floor. What nerve, what elan.

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