A few months ago I submitted an application to write for Apartment Therapy. As part of the application, I had to include a sample piece that is called a ‘house call.’ I decided to do it on my grandparents’ house. My grandfather is not long for this world, and so I thought I would post what I wrote about his unique house as a bit of a tribute to him.
When PawPaw and Grandma moved to Kansas City in the 1950s, they missed PawPaw’s native South Texas climate and didn’t like how most homes being constructed at the time looked alike. As a structural engineer (and owner of the highly respected engineering firm in KC, Bob D Campbell & Company), PawPaw set out to remedy these concerns, while creating a showpiece of his work. PawPaw designed a steel dome covered in wood-fiber panels and foam that contains a courtyard, pool, and a (relatively) standard three bedroom house.
The dome takes advantage of sun angles, allowing light in on the glazed southern side in the winter, while blocking the higher angled rays of the summer sun. Approximately 25 percent of the home’s heating comes from the sun. Panels along the side of the dome can also be removed, and a smaller dome on the top of the main dome can be opened, to allow for stack ventilation.
The wall separating the courtyard from the living room is counter-balanced and can slide into the basement through a slit in the floor.
Though an engineer, PawPaw studied some architectural design in college as part of his coursework, and says that he tried to incorporate some of the concepts of creating spaces, mass and void, and detailing work that he learned in his design classes. Though the furniture in the house has changed over time, the materials and finishes retain the mid-century modern aesthetic of the time in which it was built.
Thanks for being such an inspiration, PawPaw, both in your work and in your life!