The role architecture plays in our day-to-day lives is quite interesting. On the one hand we have a tendency to elevate architecture to almost organic pieces of art. On the other hand we have conditioned ourselves to expect beautiful, functional, and even controversial homes and buildings to the point of ignoring them altogether. We devour issues of DWELL and hold as authority Architectural Digest. In the tiny house community we even satiate our daily need with sites like Tiny House Swoon and Small House Swoon. Architects like Gehry, Lloyd Wright, Hadid, and Nouvel have brought to light ingenious design, marvelous innovation, ground-breaking materials, and environmental recognition, all at once elevating themselves to artists and cultural icons.
As with Tom Wright’s Burj Al Arab in Dubai shown above, architects bring to the forefront a sort of other-worldly vernacular that most don’t understand but feel they can no longer live without. Such is the case with Robert Oshatz who in 1971 established the firm of Robert Harvey Oshatz, Architect. In the last 45 years or so the firm has paved the road of organic architecture, planning, interior design, and even construction management for developers and special clients.
The Gibson Boathouse (shown above) on Lake Oswego (designed in 1993 and finished in 1995) is one of Oshatz’s most visual works. The Gibson family had an existing boathouse but felt like it was a bit of an eyesore on their property. They didn’t want to sacrifice the existing boat stall but did want to add a new studio and study as Mrs. Gibson is a well-known artist in her own right. The property did have some challenges. The driveway is shared with neighbors and visible to passers-by. In order to maintain the landscape it was decided to build the studio into the hillside and have a sod roof so the structure would seemingly disappear into the land and not sacrifice the use of the drive. In addition to maintaining plant life and a natural setting the roof is constructed with straight Douglas fir glue laminated beams and fir decking.
Oshatz is so much more than just an architect or guest lecturer or even guest professor though. He maintains that he is a generalist who associates with specialists feeling comfortable as a client, architect, and contractor. Because of such acknowledgements he is able to value the budget and desire of a client, artistic vision of an architect, and discipline required by a contractor to manage subscontractors and stay on schedule.
Bridging the gap between seemingly “at odds” worlds is par for the course for architect Oshatz. His Miyasaka Residence – constructed in Obihiro, Japan and featured on HGTV’s program Extreme Homes – , bridges the aesthetics of two vastly different cultures. Built to accommodate the hectic life of the president of one of Obihiro’s major commercial building contractors, as well as provide a quiet environment for his parents, the house was designed to seem almost jewel-like while situated in an urban garden oasis.
This beautiful and unique modern family home shows elegance and generously calls on natural materials such as stone and wood. The roof exudes a futuristic look but the interior has a zen-like aesthetic lush plant life, stone supports, and teak wood built-ins. It’s level of sustainable design and natural harmony is something one would expect from a tree tent or even the Hytte Tiny House.
Oshatz is not just known for his high profile homes – Chenequa residence, Weiss residence, Elk Rock residence, and Killian residence to name a few – but also for non-residential projects like the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon and the C.A. Bright Tower also in Portland, Oregon. He is a long standing tour de force in sustainable and nature-inspired architecture and will surely be an influence for years to come. (Mount Crested Butte residence shown below)
- Can houses other than tiny houses be seen as sustainable?
- Is Oshatz’s work on par with architects like Lloyd Wright?