Winner's Circle - Page 4

Falling for houses in the round—offbeat living outside the 'box'
Winners Circle
The Leon Meyer-built home of current owners Kara and Jim Johnston, located on Bethel Island, in the Sacramento Delta.

Over the years Park won acclaim for his modern residential designs; it's not clear if he ever did another home in the round.

But, for a time, from his Bay Area base, architect Leon Meyer did make circular plans the centerpiece of his work. From the late '60s through the '80s, he produced "about 26" of the structures, says Jonathan Taylor, a designer who admires both the homes and the late architect, whom he got to know. Taylor says about a dozen remain in the Bay Area.

Down south, Meyer round houses can be found in Escondido (Meyer's own home) and Seal Beach.

"Meyer Round Structures is proud to leave behind the Dark Age of the rectilinear box," Meyer proclaimed in a company brochure, "and fulfill the present void in the building renaissance of revolutionary design concepts for living."

Winners Circle
Valerie Hayward's Meyer home in Seal Beach.

"We work in boxes," Meyer once told the Oakland Tribune, "so why should we live in them?"

Meyer, who studied architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, produced his first round house in 1951, according to material Meyer supplied to Jonathan Taylor. From 1966 to 1975, the round houses were produced as prefabricated 'Meyer Round Structures' by the firm Meyer & Taylor (no relation to Jonathan Taylor).

Dozens were erected in California, and some in Hawaii. Over the years, some people have referred to them as 'kit houses,' but Meyer objected to that term. "True, the pieces were prefabricated off site," Taylor has written, "but each house was custom, and created to suit the site."

"He was an architect who really thrived in conditions where there were engineering challenges," Taylor says. He says Meyer developed a structural system that "enabled him to build on slopes in the hills with less grading. The footprint of the foundation was smaller."

Winners Circle
Meyer and wife Patricia also enjoyed living in their own Oakland Hills round house.

Meyer apparently also enjoyed other odd shapes, including a hexagonal home in Oakland's hilly Montclair district, according to a 1975 ad that ran in the Oakland Tribune. Among the home's features was a "kidney-shaped pool [that] extends five feet into a V-shaped living room, with a white circular fireplace above it."

Taylor appreciates that, unlike most 'round' houses, Meyer's really are round, with curving walls and curving windows (of Plexiglas, not glass), as opposed to polygonal structures of multiple flat panels and windows.

"The sure way to authenticate a Meyer house from a 'round kit' house from the '70s is the smoked Plexi windows," Taylor wrote. "Only a Meyer house will have these. He created the machinery to bend the Plexi for the homes."

"This is a really round house," says Valerie Hayward of her Meyer home in Seal Beach. "Even the doors are curved. Everything is curved."

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Rendering from a vintage Meyer Round Structures' brochure shows this dream house of two adjoined circular structures.

"His were the best-executed round houses in California," Taylor says. "You never see curved houses with curved windows other than his."

"A careful patent search has revealed that the 'Meyer round' is the only completely circular design in existence due to the curved wall-door-window sill and header system," Meyer proclaimed in a brochure. "This house is not a polygon trying to look like a circle," noted the Los Angeles Times when it featured the house.

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