Manuel Morris- Architect - King Louie West

The other day I drove by the old King Louie West, now called the AMF West Lanes, and saw that it was for reminded me of when I met the architect, Manny Morris. He was considering selling his home in Prairie Village, Ks. and a later meeting when we sat down to discuss his work...interesting man that did some cool work in Kansas City, but in his later years very cold to your interest in it. He lent me these architectural aerial renderings to copy.
King Louie was built in two phases; the original building was designed by Manuel Morris and Associates in 1948. There was a lot of green space in the area at the time! Overland Park didn't become a city until 1961. The 32 lane bowling alley was a rectangular white masonry building with a hovering red "thin-shell" canopy facing east. The block structure is still visible at the rear of the building. The original sign remains in this place today.

Thin shell canopies were a hallmark of the architect's early work. My friend(fellow blogger) and architect, Robert from MCLAUGHLINDESIGN said, "The tilted arch canopy formed an entry scoop towards the parking lot facing Metcalf Avenue and was the only thing that articulated this low windowless box. This was a unique biomorphic touch, which gave a nod to parabolic structures that were popular at that time." A modern sculpture and entry fountain further marked the entry area, but these features were obscured by the later ice skating rink addition.

In the mid-sixties, the owners, the Lerner brothers, contacted the original architect, Morris and his associate, Robert E. Sixta, to design an addition, with a billiards room, locker room and an ice skating rink.

Morris said regarding the addition, "we tried to stay away from the commercial building look, and tried to find warmth and a casual feel for a fun-time place." As you can see from the rendering below the entry has been moved to the south of the building and ample parking has been added, it appears that the current parking lot is larger than the footprint of the building, a testament to the days before home video games...we all went to King Louie!
The distinctive folded plate roof was designed to "hide the mass of what was under it," Morris added. You can see this same approach in the architect's work on the Jewish Community Center, at 94th and Wornall, KCMO. By sinking the large ice skating rink below grade, the architect was further able to disguise the mass of the addition relative to the low original might recall, when it was built, the roof on the ice rink was covered with volcanic stone aggregate. The interior of the newer ice rink is highlighted by a dramatic free spanning wood strucure that frames the buildings folded roof. This structure prompted the rinks nickname "The Ice Chalet"...the skating rink floor, etc. was removed a few years ago.
This buiding is a rare remaining example of Googie architecture in Johnson County, Kansas. When asked about the style of the building the architect added, "there was definately a Frank Lloyd Wright influence in shapes, materials and the metal and stone spire at the entrance." The informed observer can see the influences of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West and the spire of Wright's Marin County Civic Center. The building in it's present form was completed in 1965. Let's hope it has a great future and survives the proposed "remaking" of the Metcalf corridor!

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.

THEN & NOW -- Drummond's First Houses & Surprise Find

While we were driving looking for Don's first built houses we came across this very interesting house near 53rd and Woodland, KC, MO. The moment we saw it was "holy cow!" It was a fine example of the Chicago Style of Prairie School of Architecture. At first glance, it resembled the brick massing of Frank Lloyd Wright's 1902 Dana Thomas house in Springfield, Ill. (pictured last -- different budget!). Click on the image to enlarge.
The fine styling was definitely from a studied hand. After doing some research, I found the architect was Earnest O. Brostrom. (He designed some notable buildings in KC in the Prairie idiom, we will revisit him later.) This house was built in 1915, it was 25 years old when the black and white photo was taken. (In 1940 Kansas City took photos of all built structures for tax purposes.) The exterior appears to be in good shape with fine brickwork. Note the Wrightian planters and flaired roof lines at the fascia. I guess when the trees grew large enough the awnings were no longer needed. Click on the image to be continued...