Foster, Richard T.

Round House

Added by Jennifer Madeline Frazer, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:13 pm

Round House
Round House, source: Jennifer Frazer, date: January 30, 2011
Location
122 Olmstead Hill Road
Wilton, CT 06897
United States
41° 12' 58.662" N, 73° 26' 56.9328" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

Mentioned, but not yet designated, in the National Register of Historic Places under “Mid-Twentieth-Century Modern Residences in Connecticut, 1930-1979.” This Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) is a document that provides information for class of historic sites that may still be nominated individually. Though this document makes the argument for listing of the Round House, it will not be eligible until 2017.

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Built by Richard Foster in 1967-68 as a residence for himself and his family.

Dates: Commission / Completion:1968
Architectural and other Designer(s): Richard T. Foster
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): None
Current Use: This structure has only been employed as a private residence.
Current Condition: Very good
General Description:

Richard T. Foster, a New York City-based architect who worked with Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson on many high profile projects, designed the Round House for his family. Aside from its well known architect, the structure's shape sets it apart from any other structure; it is a glass, steel, wood and concrete cylinder mounted twelve feet above the ground on top of a concrete base. The house rotates 360 degrees on its base. Given that its entire circumference is clad in glass, the rotation affords all inside perpetual and ever changing views of the bucolic countryside setting in which the house is sited. The site forms a natural amphitheater, with a large pond on the north west side, and a 400 acre natural preserve to the north and northeast, the views are stunning.

Construction Period:

1967-68.

Original Physical Context:

The house, as built in 1967-68, aside from interior updating in 2005, stands today as it was originally designed and built. Accessed from Olmstead Hill Road, down a long narrow drive, it is located on a sloping 3.83 acre lot in Wilton, Connecticut. Surrounded by meadow and pond in the front and wooded nature preserve in the north and east, the home is provided a private, expansive view from its 360 degree vantage point.

Approaching from the drive, one first encounters a 576 square foot garage/gatehouse (rectilinear) to the west. This structure serves both as the pool house and gatehouse for the home. Further west, in front of the structure is located a 600 square foot in-ground pool.

Located at the end of the drive, just past the gatehouse, is a six foot retaining wall and fence which serves as a privacy shield for the rotating home. Rising above that wall, one sees the first glimpse of the 2,997 square foot Foster structure. It rests on a round concrete, but shingle clad, 12 foot diameter base.

From the drive, visitors walk down a set of stairs, across a circular cobblestone terrace, spanning the width of the structure above. The curved wooden front door, leads the visitor into a small vestibule and a wood and metal spiral staircase leading up to the main floor. The base of the structure is the immobile component of Foster's design, and serves as the center for the axis from which the house spins.

The 12 foot diameter base houses a non-structural hollow column that runs up the center of the base and through the structure to the attic.The column shields the home's waste pipes and electrical and cable wires.

The original plan included nine rooms, but the 2004 Owner, Michael Von Oehsen, had the space reconfigured to seven rooms: the rotunda/foyer serves as the first concentric circle surrounding the base's circle, then the next and largest concentric circle of the 72 foot diameter home includes the home's primary wedged-shaped living spaces: kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom with a walk-in closet and bathroom, office and a second bedroom with bathroom.

Foster design of the exterior has floor-to-ceiling panels of glass with occasional sliding glass doors that lead to a 1245 square foot porch that fully wraps around the structure.

Built with concrete, steel and glass, the house is clad on its roof, underside, and on the exterior of its base and gatehouse in cedar shingles. The exterior metal, on the railings and window mullions, is pre-rusted steel.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The house is nearly 3000 square feet, laid out inside a cylinder that sits cantilevered over a twelve foot high base. The 72 foot diameter, 500,000 pound structure revolves around its base, using its concrete base as its axis. The base houses a three-ton ball bearing system. The shoebox sized set of controls are powered by a 1½ horsepower motor. Three movements are possible: forward, backward and stop. Round House's rate of rotation can be adjusted, from nine inches to five feet per hour, rendering a possible range of five to twenty six rotations per day. Remarkably, the house is known to rotate smoothly so that those inside note the movement only by the passing scenery outside. At highest speed, the house can complete one rotation in only forty-eight minutes.
Foster's design planned for equal distribution of weight throughout its cantilevered structure. His design transfers both live and dead loads, through a complex design of steel rings, columns and bearings to the the concrete core below. When weight is loaded more heavily in one area in the house, because of Foster's system, a counter balance reaction does not occur in another portion of the house.

Social:

The house was well noted during and just after its construction; Architectural Record, the New York Times and Interior Design all ran pieces on the home in the late 1960s. The American Institute of Steel Construction gave one of its twelve annual awards to the home's design. The Round House has remained a private residence from its inception.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Modernist architecture in 1960s and 1970s Connecticut exemplified the movement's trend towards a more sculptural effect. Richard Foster’s Round House in Wilton is unusual in shape and style; the floating, rotating cantilevered disk composed of steel, glass, concrete and wood follows the movement's choice of materials while creating new forms of expression that employs emerging mid century modern technology.
Historical:

Richard Foster lived in this house until his death in 2002.
Valedictorian of his Architectural class at Pratt Institute in 1950, Modernist Architect Richard T. Foster (1919 - 2002) was founder of Richard Foster Associates in New York City and Greenwich, CT. He worked with Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe on multiple projects; his career was enormously prolific. Included in his accomplishments are the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center (1964), the New York World Fair Pavilion (1964/65), Meyer Hall of Physics, Kline Geology Laboratory and Kline Biology Tower at Yale (1965/1966), Kreeger Museum in Washington D.C. (1967), Bobst Library at New York University (1972), Tisch Hall at Stern School of Business, New York University (1972), Hagop Kevorkian Center at New York University (1973), Eastman Dental Center at the University of Rochester (1978) and the Hatch Interdenominational Chapel at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

General Assessment:
In 1968, Foster's Round House was the first and only round, fully rotating residence in the world. Sometimes compared to a space ship, the Round House is best understood as part of the group of modern homes built in and around New Canaan following the precedent of the Harvard Five.
Documentation
Text references:

_____, “122 Olmstead Hill Road, Wilton, CT 06897,” Online Database for Wilton, CT, Vision Appraisal Technology, http://data.visionappraisal.com/WiltonCT/findpid.asp?iTable=pid&pid=4069, as viewed 2.2.2011.

_____, “360 degree living: architect Richard Foster designs a house in Connecticut which can make a complete revolution every 48 minutes”. 1968. Interior Design. 39:102-105.

_____, “Beautiful detailing enhances a very special house,” 1969. Architectural Record, New York: McGraw-Hill Publications, 145, 6:177-180.

Field, Carolyn Rundle, “Rooms with a View,” Townvibe, July/August 2010, Morris Media Group, Wilton, CT.

_____, “Connecticut’s Modern Homes Part of First-Ever Statewide Listing to National Register of Historic Places; Raises awareness for nation’s underappreciated, but vastly influential mid-century architecture,” PreservationNation.org, Washington, DC, http://www.preservationnation.org/about-us/press-center/press-releases/2..., as viewed 2.2.2011.

_____, “Mid-Twentieth Century Modern Residences in Connecticut, 1930-1979,” National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, National Register of Historic Places, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:y3HbAf056ioJ:www.preservationn..., as viewed 2.2.2011.

_____, “Richard Foster Associates: About the Company,” Emporis Corporation, Frankfurt, Germany,
http://www.emporis.com/application/?nav=company&lng=3&id=100499, as viewed 2.2.2011.

_____, “Round House,” Realty Guild, New Canaan, CT, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tspXb1NdAMI, as viewed 2.2.2011.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Jennifer Frazer 2.2.2011
Additional Images
Round House
Round House Entrance, Source: Jennifer Frazer, date: January 30, 2011
Audio and Video Web References

Depicted item: Round House, source: Realty Guild, New Canaan, CT

New York State Pavilion

Added by jon buono, last update: March 10, 2014, 2:19 pm

New York State Pavilion
Location
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Queens, NY 11375
United States
40° 43' 15.5928" N, 73° 50' 52.0332" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Recreation (REC)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Governor Nelson Rockefeller commissioned Philip Johnson to design the New York State Pavilion for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair after Johnson received critical acclaim for his design of the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center.

Philip Johnson was originally commissioned to design only two structures for the pavilion site: the “Tent of Tomorrow,” which was to serve as a fashion theater, and the “Theaterama,” a circular theater to display 360-degree movies. While in the midst of designing these two structures, Governor Nelson Rockefeller decided that he wanted New York State, the host state for the World’s Fair, to have the tallest building at the fair. After a long debate between Governor Rockefeller and Robert Moses, the fair’s corporate president, who had set a height rule for the fair and was initially against making the New York State Pavilion the event’s tallest structure. Rockefeller convinced the State to fund the addition of three observation towers to the pavilion site to tower over the other structures. This added $2.5 million to the cost of the New York State Pavilion project.

During the latter half of 1963, a decision was made to change the use of the Tent of Tomorrow. The original plan was to use the space as a fashion theater. However, plans changed during the design process and the Tent of Tomorrow was to be designed as an art exhibition space instead. The switch of use led to a change in design elements, and Philip Johnson had to incorporate air conditioning and a mezzanine into the structure in order to control the climate for the art.

The New York State Pavilion was meant to stand out and illustrate the accomplishments of the State of New York as the host of the World’s Fair and as a center for arts, culture, and recreation.

Dates: Commission / Completion:1962/1964
Architectural and other Designer(s): Philip Johnson and Richard Foster, architects; Lev Zetlin & Associates, structural engineers; Zion & Breen Associates, landscape architects
Others associated with Building/Site: Syska & Hennessy, mechanical engineers; Carl W. Larson, State Architect
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): 1977: The Tent of Tomorrow’s roof was removed after several plastic panels blew off the structure and landed on the Grand Central Parkway. 1991-1993: Philip Johnson was appointed architect of the interior renovation for Theaterama, which is turned the Queens Theater in the Park. The new theater had a 500-seat main auditorium and a 99-seat studio theater.
Current Use: The observation towers and the Tent of Tomorrow were abandoned. The Theaterama structure is used today as the Queens Theater in the Park.
Current Condition: After the 1964-1965 World’s Fair ended, the city found no further use for the configuration of the New York State Pavilion. Besides the Theaterama which is now the Queens Theater in the Park, the rest of the pavilion is abandoned and in disrepair.
General Description:

The pavilion site was divided into three sections, and occupied nearly all of its 129,392-square-foot site, the largest amount of square feet devoted to a state sponsored exhibit.

The Tent of Tomorrow, the assembly hall, was the main feature of the pavilion. It is elliptical in plan, stretching 250' x 350' and is supported by sixteen concrete pylons. The structure’s roof originally supported multicolored panels of Plexiglas that were suspended on cables attached to a steel roof rim. The floor of the Tent of Tomorrow had a Texaco map of all of New York State, which was the world’s largest terrazzo map at the time. The tent had exhibition space on the promenade and mezzanine levels, looking over the plastic map of the state.

The Theaterama, the lowest structure of the pavilion site, is a 100' diameter circular theater (sometimes referred to as the “Circarama”) and was used to project 360-degree films. Surrounding the pavilion’s theater’s fa?ade, there were large art installations by famous pop artists on display. Featured artists included: Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Liberman, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, John Chamberlain, Robert Mallary, Peter Agostini, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly and Andy Warhol.

The northernmost portion of the site features a grouping of three circular observation towers that are 90, 185, and 250' tall. Slender concrete columns support the circular, 64'-in-diameter observation platforms, as well as exterior, glass-walled elevators that allowed access to the three structures. The shortest of the three towers housed restaurants, while the other two taller pavilions had open observation decks. The two shorter towers have single-story platforms while the tallest tower has a two-story platform.

Construction Period:

Slip-formed concrete, cable suspension roof

Original Physical Context:

The 1964-1965 World’s Fair was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe” and its theme was “Peace Through Understanding.” It was the largest fair ever held in the United States. Robert Moses, then New York City Parks Commissioner, was the corporate president of the fair and took on the project in hopes that its income would support the completion of Flushing Meadows Park. In order to cut costs for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, Moses reused the master plan, infrastructure, and roads from the 1939 World’s Fair that was also held in Flushing Meadows Park.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The Tent of Tomorrow featured the largest suspension roof in the world at the time, measuring over 50,000 square feet. The roof, which had two outer ring girders and a central tension ring tied together with forty-eight double sets of cables, was lifted into position at the rate of six feet per day by thirty-two synchronized jacks.

While the suspension roof was not a new concept at the time, the Tent of Tomorrow’s roof was an early example of this type of roof’s ability to overcome instability in high winds, something that had just recently been developed by engineers.

The New York State Pavilion was also technically innovative with its use of slip-formed concrete. For Theaterama’s construction, concrete was poured around steel reinforcement and the forms, which were dimensionally 3 feet high and 12 feet in diameter, were raised at the rate of one foot per hour. As concrete was poured at the top of the form, concrete at the bottom of the form was already three hours old and set. For the observation towers, contractors used 3-foot-high slip-forms to pour the concrete and moved at a rate of about 1 foot per hour.

The Fiberglas panels were installed while this process was happening. Approximately 1,500 multicolored translucent panels, attached to each other with a weathertight batten system, were used in the construction of the roof. The translucent Fiberglas panels were placed into an aluminum grid that was fabricated by Kalwall Corporation and fit over the strung cables.

Social:

By commissioning Philip Johnson, one of the architects of the Lincoln Center Complex, Governor Rockefeller wanted to showcase New York State as a center for arts and culture, as well as a home for great Modern architecture.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
By using concrete and metal to create enormous pavilions with round and elliptical plans, Johnson was developing futuristic forms by subtly referencing flying saucers. Overall, the design of the structure was meant to be playful and welcoming, as is evidenced by its use of bright colors and open-air design.
Historical:

The New York State Pavilion was considered by Franz Schulze, author of Philip Johnson: Life and Work, as one of Philip Johnson’s “zanier” designs and considered it “unlike any other work he [Philip Johnson] did at the time.” The pavilion’s enormous concrete columns in the Tent of Tomorrow can be seen as a precursor to the type of monumentality used in Philip Johnson’s later work.

The design of the pavilion was critically acclaimed. Ada Louise Huxtable, then architecture critic for the New York Times, described the pavilion as a, "runaway success...a sophisticated frivolity...seriously and beautifully constructed. This is 'carnival' with class."

General Assessment:
Documentation
Text references:

Garn, Andrew. Exit to Tomorrow: World’s Fair Architecture, Design, Fashion, 1933-2005. New York: Universe Publications, 2007.
Johnson, Philip. Philip Johnson: the Architect in His Own Words. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1994.
“Moses Builds a Fair,” Architectural Forum, USA, v. 120, 1964, pp. 64-77
“New York World’s Fair: the biggest building story ever told,” American Builder, USA, v. 86, 1964, whole issue.
Remembering the Future: the New York World’s Fair from 1939-1964. New York: Rizzoli, 1989.
Schulze, Franz. Philip Johnson: Life and Work. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1994.
Stern, Robert A.M. New York 1960: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Second World War and the Bicentennial. New York: Monacelli Press, 1995.
“Suspension Roof is Installed on State Pavilion at Fair,” New York Times, October 29, 1963.
Wilson, Forest. Emerging Form in Architecture: Conversations With Lev Zetlin. Boston: Cahners Books, 1975.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Sara Sher / March 2010
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