Greeted by glass walls which flank the front door combined with glass walls at the rear of the living and dining rooms, the visitor’s approach to the Hurtado House is dominated by uninterrupted views of Lake Oswego. Without stepping through the front door one can see the panorama for which the home was designed and understand the modernist sensibilities of its architect, William Fletcher.
Those sensibilities, which emphasized a minimalist design and the integration of nature while carefully constructing a space for the families which lived there, are integral to Fletcher’s residential designs. An assortment of the resulting houses including those of his contemporaries will be on display September 23rd when Restore Oregon hosts its 7th annual Mid-Century Modern Tour.
In Good Company
Born in 1925, Bill Fletcher graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture in 1950 and founded the firm now known as FFA Architecture and Interiors, Inc. in 1956. He established an office at SW 14th and Columbia in Portland, where he shared space – and sometimes collaborated – with Saul Zaik, Donald Blair, John Reese, Frank Blachly, Alex Pierce and George Schwarz. This cohort of architects and designers later became known as the 14th Street Gang.
Constructed primarily of wood native to the Pacific Northwest
Fletcher’s mid-century homes employ strong geometry and a deft use of proportion. Careful site placement ensured that these residences would capture the elusive light so common in the cloudy Pacific Northwest, while also blending effortlessly into the landscape. The Gray House, featured in September’s tour is a striking example of his careful integration of nature and design. While one might typically expect the street-facing elevation of the house to be closed for privacy, here the sloping site demands that the house be open to the street and the views with glass walls on two levels. In contrast, the front door at the rear of the house opens off an intimate courtyard – a common architectural theme in Fletcher’s residential work.
Bill’s work was often enhanced by art – both his own and that of collaborators.
He was a jazz drummer who supported Portland’s artistic avant garde and worked with the city’s creative class to enhance his own designs. His collaborations with sculptor Lee Kelly are well-documented, but Fletcher’s residential work often included purpose-built accommodations for art. The footprint of Gray House includes a glass-walled, roofless atrium which showcases the naturally artistic branches of Japanese maple – a quintessential embrace of art and nature.
Over time, Fletcher’s work grew more fluid. While he continued to explore regionalism and the use of indigenous materials, he also grew increasingly willing to help clients discover unique architectural vocabularies to match their individual preferences. Thus, Fletcher’s late-career work is as varied as his clients. Some of these variations will be on display in September.
His career, which ended with his death in 1998, was always known and respected in Portland’s architectural circles but has never been celebrated and featured in a substantial way. While his modernist contemporaries, including Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon, have been the subject of publications and exhibitions, Fletcher’s legacy has quietly awaited recognition of its own. Recognition that our event and accompanying lecture will begin to provide.
Bill Fletcher was an unapologetic modernist.
Yet his work indicates that he was not dogmatic in the application of a modernist aesthetic. Fletcher employed modernist theory throughout his career but allowed that theory to be informed by prevailing architectural trends of the time and the needs of his clients. In a career that spanned four decades, the result was a body of work that evolved and changed, renewed by its association with the current yet grounded in the constant of a modernist ideal. Restore Oregon’s September home tour will shed new light on the career and colleagues of this unheralded master of modernism.
Join Restore Oregon and fellow mid-century modern enthusiasts for the 2017 Mid-Century Modern Home Tour:
Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 10am – 4pm
$45 General Admission / $35 Restore Oregon Members
Advance ticket purchase required
Lecture: “The Work and Legacy of William Fletcher, Northwest Modernist”
After-tour Party: Celebrate Fletcher at Rejuvenation
Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 6pm – 7pm
Exclusive after-tour party open only to Mid-Century Modern ticket holders
Held at Rejuvenation’s Flagship Store in SE Portland
This event will sell out!
Purchase tickets at https://restoreoregon.org/event/mcm/. For more information, please call 503-243-1923.
Interested in volunteering for the Mid-Century Modern Tour?
Welcome tour guests and get an insiders’ view of the home tour while having fun and meeting new people. If you are interested in volunteering for our Mid-Century Modern Home Tour, please email Kirsten Sandberg, our volunteer MCM Home Tour Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com.