Sixty-eight years ago…
A young newlywed by the name of Lucy Griffith wrote to Portland architect Pietro Belluschi asking if he would design a home for her and her husband, Arthur.
Belluschi responded, acknowledging that Lucy’s budget of $10,000 would present challenges, but promised that if the Griffiths were open to a design “not bound by periods of the past” he would be willing to work with them.
Completed in 1951, the humble 921 square foot Griffith House was the only Belluschi-designed building ever constructed in Lake Oswego. The Griffith family lived there happily for over fifty years.
After Lucy Griffith passed away, Arthur sold the property. In 2008, the home’s new owner made plans to tear it down. Although the tiny Griffith House was not widely-known, Tim Mather of MCM Construction recognized its pedigree and historic significance, and resolved to preserve it.
Mather began by dismantling the house, creating 2,000 numbered and measured pieces. He then placed this vast collection of parts in storage. Next, he reached out to contractors, architects and others interested in preserving local architecture and history.
Together with community volunteer Tia Ross, Mather created Friends of Belluschi. This group included several people with direct personal connections to the Griffith home: Sue Griffith, who grew up in the house; Keith Kinsman, son of the original builder; and Tony Belluschi, son of the architect. Together, Friends of Belluschi worked to find a new location for the home, as well as funds to rebuild it.
After Years of Searching and Fundraising
Friends of Belluschi found a permanent home for the Griffith House on the campus of Marylhurst University. A design charrette of 70 Marylhurst students and 10 faculty members was organized to explore best uses for the building. The home was then reassembled and opened in May 2015 as the Belluschi Pavilion. It now serves as a learning and presentation space for Marylhurst students and the community at large.
As Belluschi’s son Tony observed, “What was once a small humble home, originally designed for a young family just starting out, has now become a multipurpose student and faculty center, providing a great opportunity for students and the larger community to experience the significance of good architecture. This reuse is a fine example of the timelessness of Pietro’s designs.”
Although Small in Footprint
The pavilion boasts an open floor plan and serves as a lovely example of Belluschi’s Pacific Northwest midcentury modern style. It features exposed wood, glass walls, asymmetry and harmonious integration into the landscape. The house retains many of its original elements including exterior board and batten siding, some original Willamina fireplace brick, several kitchen appliances and cabinetry. It has been appropriately furnished with midcentury modern style pieces.
For recognizing the significance of this modest work by a Modern master, for rallying and engaging such a broad swath of the community in its preservation, and for reusing a small house in a very big and innovative way, and executing a pitch-perfect reconstruction, Restore Oregon was delighted to present the 2017 DeMuro Award to the Belluschi Pavilion.
Property Owner: Marylhurst University
Construction/Design: MCM Construction, Inc and Belluschi Consulting
Project Cost: $500,000