SAVE Jose Oubrerie's The Miller House

One of the top 100 modern homes of the 20th century is being threatened by suburban development.

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    Moving Forward

    Katie Halsey
    Jul 25, '13 5:16 PM EST

    Today has been crazy. First, Ray Ball returned my call this morning and said that Ball Homes has plans to build on the lots surrounding the Miller House, but has no current plans to do anything with the Miller House. However, one comment that stood out to me the most was that when talking about the asking price of the house he said, "It hasn't dropped low enough to entice me yet." 

    A step in the positive direction was that I have been talking to Marty Perry, the National Register Coordinator, about beginning the paperwork to put the Miller House on the National Registry. This will be an extremely hard task considering that the house doesn't meet a majority of the benchmark requirements, but by doing the paperwork and having a strong argument for architectural significance I can then take it to the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government and try to have them put into effect a zoning change to where there's a certain circumference around the house in which you can't build new development.  


    • It's the perfect building for an artist-in-residence program: for writers or scholars or researchers or anyone doing small-scale making of non-hazardous objects (jewelry and the like).  Three very private bedrooms each with their own sitting/work space and bathroom, arranged around a beautifully lit large shared space that could easily be used for gallery/reception space with a public powder room, and the kitchen would work equally well for residents to make meals and for catering.

      It would only need landscaping to hide the hideous builder homes around it.

      Jul 26, 13 11:29 am  · 

      A nice idea to turn it into something like an artist in residence program.  

      The sad thing is, that if they're going to build a development around there, they'll fill it with a bunch of garbage.  The logical idea would be to call Jose.  He's in Columbus, which is what 2 or 3 hours up the interstate?  Call Jose and see if he'd be interested in the project of creating a cohesive overall site with a sympathetic visual and architectural language for the new built work. 

      He could design a prototypical housing villa unit that could be built in multiple iterations and mirrored plan configurations to create a sensible, logical, quality group of homes.  The integrity of the Miller house would be spared somewhat and it could have a positive result.

      It may be a tough sell (on both ends).  But the result, if successful, would allow the existing structure to not appear so out of place within the expanded built context, and it would doubtlessly bring about infinitely better design to the new surrounding construction.

      Is that a crazy idea?  Or is it just too obvious?

      Jul 29, 13 10:28 am  · 

      not a crazy idea, menona, but would require capital investment. the problem right now is that they have never been able to find a buyer for the house *as it is*. while it's probably worth the $1.1m or whatever that they were asking, the house isn't in a location that supports that kind of cost for a single-family house configured like this one is.

      donna's suggestion is a good one - in fact, what the foundation most recently holding the house was trying to do. but, again, the assessed value of the house got the better of them. 

      it's best potential was when it was surrounded by open land, commanding the landscape. now, surrounded by builder homes at close proximity, it will definitely be a challenge to determine a path forward for the house.

      the only thing i can think of at the moment is - if the bank would make known the money they need to recover - sell the property at that cost, ignoring any assessed value of the house. that may be the only way that someone who would love it and be a good steward of it (i.e., an architecture fan instead of a money/real estate person) could afford to make it work. 

      Jul 30, 13 8:53 am  · 

      Yeah, it's a real shame.  The comment from the developer:

      "...when talking about the asking price of the house he said, 'It hasn't dropped low enough to entice me yet.' "      is very telling. 

      A cruel irony is that the type of person that would be in the market for such a home (at the high end asking price) is not the type that would want to live in a little development full of the standard "marketable" real estate.  So by building a neighborhood around the Miller property it accelerates the devaluation of the Miller House, and starts a type of asking-price-death-spiral.  In the end, when all is said and built, the Miller House will probably sell for less than the things that were built immediately adjacent.  It will be the spooky, Boo Radley house at the end of the street.  "Who would want to live there?" sneer the neighbors.

      I thought the principle behind the Miller House was something along the lines of "The House as City" or something in that realm.  So there's a community, urbanistic facet already present in the project.  So having the Miller design theme extended into the landscape around would/could be an approach with some logic.  Of course that's all moot really.  I think I saw a photo with a couple of the surrounding houses already firmly rooted to the earth.  The thousand cuts have already begun.

      What a shame. 

      Jul 30, 13 12:41 pm  · 

      I took this photo about two weeks ago, it's the opposite of the view above from the balcony.  Painful to see.

      Jul 30, 13 9:17 pm  · 

      Now that is painful.....

      Jul 31, 13 7:53 am  · 

      maybe the whole situation would be helped if a giant mylar screen were erected at the (new/reduced) property boundary of the miller house - with rolling meadow screen-printed on *both* sides!

      honestly, i was serious above: if someone like me could buy it at land cost, it might be workable. 

      Aug 1, 13 7:46 am  · 

      I totally agree, Steven.  If it was sold as a LOT, then someone making an architect's salary could afford it.  Then they would maintain it and it wouldn't become the creepy abandoned house down the street and negatively affect all the neighbors' property values.

      Aug 1, 13 10:45 am  · 

      In the interest of raising awareness, here's a (long-ish) article I wrote for ArchDaily:

      They're open to posting a "call to action" in a separate post, if anyone can tell me who's "in charge" of the preservation effort down in Lexington!

      Aug 19, 13 12:43 pm  · 

      Great article, Evan! And seeing those images, ugh, hurts my heart.

      Aug 20, 13 1:13 pm  · 

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About this Blog

The Miller House, located in Lexington, Kentucky, is slowly being encroached on by generic suburban housing developments. Designed by Jose Oubrerie, the last living apprentice to study under Le Corbusier, the Miller House which once sat on a little over 29 acres and overlooked a lake, is now a single lot in a developing cookie cutter neighborhood. The house has been repossessed by the FDIC and its value has been significantly decreased monetarily and culturally. #SAVEtheMillerHouse

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