Carl Stenstrom- Architect A Private Residence

Located near Lake Quivira, this house sitting on twenty acres with a fabulous private lake has been under construction since 1985. Designed by our friend Carl and built by essentially one person it remains unfinished. With a gated entrance and a long winding drive to the house it is a special environment of organic architecture and nature. Unfortunately you can not see the beautiful pond which would be to the right and below the house.

Above is the car-court and front door to the left of the tree. These pics were taken some time ago. Below: is the perspective rendering by Carl of the rear of the house.

Carl was an avid Wrightian architect as revealed by the "rubblestone" walls, corner windows and use of a difficult site...

Below: Unfinished soffits cap the low-slung earth hugging design. Note the clean, well laid stone walls with the horizontal band eching Wright's Taliesin West Complex. This is a seating nook outside just beyond the entrance.

The metal scuppers add roofline drama to the deck off the kitchen and living room.
A treasure in the making and a ton of work for one man, it's a testament for the book "The Natural House" by Wright in the 1950's that advocated buying acreage or land and building one's own house, preferably designed by Wright himself.

For more info on Carl Stenstrom click on the label...

Carl Stenstrom-Architect His Opus-Part Two

The following studies depicts Carl's efforts to reconcile size and shape along with exterior walls, balconies and windows. Interesting to see "Wrightian" design elements such as planters, water features and spires. In the early 1950's, Carl applied for the apprentice program at Taliesin. Upon hearing that Carl had two young chidren, Frank Lloyd Wright told him they didn't have accommodations at the time...disappointed, Carl soon was in Bartlesville, OK working on the Price Tower. I believe that is where he developed his love affair with concrete...though the geometry of this building is different from the Price Tower, there are similar characteristics.

The image below is a revision for an enclosed top floor. I don't know why but this sketch reminds me of drawings by Mendolsohn... These two sketches (above and below)are interesting...a shorter building design and below, it featured open balconies...are those spotlights shining into the sky? It appears there are semi-circular fence elements on the surrounding stone wall... perhaps to tie in with the balcony railing and the top of the roof deck enclosure that looks a lot like the skylight in Wright's Guggenheim?

The sketch above is an early perspective with "clunky" elevator towers that look awkward compared to the more refined later perspectives...Carl would often sketch at the top of the paper and have a lot of white space before you see the name of the project at the bottom, almost in the same way as Wright used the Japanese woodblock techniques in many of his earlier perspectives. Note the "inverted-L house" is omitted from the drawing.Once the final design concept was in place Carl built this model to help the client visualize the building...With an enormous number of drawings and effort expended, the client started to lose money on other investments, the early 1980's were an economic mess. Concurrently, he started losing interest in the building, which would have been complicated and expensive to build...he stopped paying Carl and during litigation the client committed suicide...

Below- This "Typical" floor plan is easier to read than the previous ones...

The reason I call this Carl's "Opus" is for the next fifteen years he met with developers in many cities and the Lake of the Ozarks as well as Branson, in an effort to get it built...Unfortunately, it never was. Below- The "Solar Deck"...

Below- Great photo of the model taken while at the lake.

Below- This angle shows the entrance on the north of the building and the car court with drive to underground parking.

Stay tuned...I'll post some other interesting work by Carl Stenstrom

Carl Stenstrom-Architect- His Opus - Part One

It's been almost two years since my friend and architect, Carl passed away. I have had the pleasant/painful task of organizing his many drawings from a career that spanned over 40 years. Carl had to pay the bills, with hundreds of drawings for projects like U-Haul Stores nationwide to his "Wrightian" leanings such as the distinctive roof lines of his Gates BBQ designs. In his work you can see where his heart was...the more challenging the site, the more adventuresome the client, the opportunity for a more "organic" design...amplified his efforts. I call this his "Opus"...originally conceived in the late 1970's and after meeting an enthusiastic investor, John Lucas, Carl threw himself into creating a unique, eye-catching architecture for a dominant site west of the downtown skyline at 17th and Jefferson in KCMO. If you look closely at the renderings above, you will see in the background the concrete "inverted-L" house that was recently demolished...note the large stone wall that still remains at the site where a large modern house was constructed a few years ago...can't miss it when on Hwy I-35.
Carl worked and reworked his design, revising and manipulating space in the confines of a circular structure...the roof and balconies were challenging for him to resolve to his satisfaction, all the while dealing with and encouraging a temperamental client to "stay the course".
The single unit plan below would have offered a lavish lifestyle with great city views.

Below- A revision of the double-unit plan(2 dwelling spaces on one floor)

Below...By February, 1982 the project was now called "Monticello West"...the owner of the tower would have the top floor, capped by a "Solar Deck" on the roof.

Part Two will feature more drawings of the exterior, a detailed model and the reason this building didn't get built...Stay Tuned.

Carl Stenstrom, Architect- "Stonestream" Revisted

The previous post about "Stonestream" generated quite a bit of interest from friends and acquaintances that wanted to see more of the house... I recently located some photos I had taken in 1989 and 1990. I hope you find them interesting...The above pic was taken from the "car court" looking toward the entry, garage/workshop on the left, bedroom wing on the right.
Looking toward entry. Stenstrom loved an entry sequence. Columns had integrated lighting at the tops...note Carl's 16 inch module lines in the concrete.
Looking toward entry, screens seen at left and below enclose the Tea Garden.
Car court perimeter is defined by this fence, 30 ft. by 30 ft. workshop below.
Above looking toward front door, dining room screened from foyer...below Carl and friend looking at plans in dining area. Early evidence of roof leaks which ultimately doomed the house.

Above, fireplace nook with low ceiling deck. Below, wall of french doors in living room. Carl designed the lamp.

Above, cantilevered roof over master bedroom terrace. Below, master bedroom terrace as seen from the south. The pond seen here in the previous post is long gone.
Below, master terrace looks into the woods.
Below, one of the many "straight as an arrow" retaining walls Carl built.
Below, a fusion of two photos showing the idyllic setting under the trees.
The next post about Stonestream will show more recent photos highlighting the poor current condition of the home.

Carl Stenstrom, Architect- He called it "Stonestream"

A good friend of ours, Carl Stenstrom, (1927-2008) designed and built this house himself near Red Bridge Rd and the Blue River. After graduating(1950) from KU with a degree in architecture and being an avid devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright, he applied for apprenticeship at Taliesin. Wright asked him if he was married, he replied "Yes"... "Do you have children"? "Yes sir, one and one on the way", Wright said, "We don't have very much room around here right now, so you should go home and raise your family." Agreeing, but wanting to learn more, Carl worked on the construction crew during the building of Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville OK. He became a wizard in concrete construction. He believed the most rewarding home was one you built yourself or at least helped build, growing "organically" as needs changed. His home was a great example of his thinking. He started building it in 1958.
The neighbor kids, now grown, tell stories about always hearing the cement mixer, it seemed it was running more than not. With classical music playing in the background, Carl did an enormous amount of work for one man.. moving rocks, mixing concrete, not to mention all the form work, carpentry, pouring the slab with radiant heat, etc, all while making a living as an architect to support family and construction ...In the carport building, in the space labeled studio, is where the family originally lived. It's a small space with kitchenette, fireplace, and hardly enough room for two adults much less a growing family. You know they hoped for fair weather so they could enjoy sleeping outside on cots.
The mid 1970's photos above show the "Wrightian" fireplace with lower ceiling deck and built-in seating to the left, "World Book Encyclopedia" on the shelves. Behind the fireplace is the retreat with the tower integrated with the fireplace. The house has plaster ceilings and cork floors, except in front of the french doors where he randomly placed flat stones in the concrete border. Carl designed a lot of his own furniture and the elaborate geometric screen in the dining room. The previous photo is taken from the dining room looking south toward the Steinway parlor grand piano in the back of the living area, the fireplace is to the left. (Sorry, the ceiling isn't stained, it's my photo)
After the house took shape Carl threw himself into building rubble stone retaining walls that stretched into the surrounding landscape. Under the car court in front, Carl built a 30ft.x30ft. concrete room to store his tools and to use as a shop.
Stonestream is the English translation of the Swedish name Stenstrom, which was appropriate considering the rain runoff that flowed through the property that Carl endeavored to control. Initially, he dammed the stream that bisected the property, you can see the shallow pond with the cantilevered master terrace hovering above in the photos. This created a very picturesque setting and provided a lot of fun for the family, note the canoe. The city later installed sewers making it a ditch. Carl filled the pond with dirt and built more retaining walls turning the slope into flat elevations.

The above winter photo taken from the hill behind the house, shows the low horizontal plan of the house in full. Mostly french doors on this south side, you get an idea of the pinwheel sprawl of the house. In the foreground, under construction, is the elliptical swimming pool retaining walls. He added an adjoining taller cylinder to house the changing room and kitchenette. Though never completed, when walking through it, you can appreciate Carl's vision.
Suffering from declining health, and unable to maintain the property, Carl and his wife moved. He passed away last year, just a few weeks after the Kansas City Star did another story about him and his house. Today, the house sits empty and vandalized. Two subsequent investor/owners did nothing to protect the house from the elements... it is in extremely poor condition.

KCModern salutes Carl and his dedication to his ideal.