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  • DAVID PATRICK KELLY Outsider Architecture and Historic Preservation (Under the Direction of MARK EDWARD REINBERGER)

    Outsider architecture is a type of architecture that features unique designs made

    by builders with no formal training. Outsider architecture also functions as the

    physical/architectural manifestation of the ideology of its builder, which is more often

    than not eccentric by conventional standards. What constitutes outsider architecture is

    of issue in this thesis, as is the history of outsider architecture and the historic

    preservation movement that accompanies it. This thesis also suggests ways to improve

    the outsider architecture preservation situation, and to use outsider architecture as a tool

    in improving both social welfare and the built environment.

    INDEX WORDS: Outsider architecture, Historic preservation, Amateur building,

    Simon Rodia, Pasaquan, Bottle houses, Eccentrics

  • OUTSIDER ARCHITECTURE AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION

    by

    DAVID PATRICK KELLY

    B.A., The University of South Carolina, 1992

    M. AS., The University of Alabama, 1998

    A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of The University of Georgia in Partial

    Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

    MASTER OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION

    ATHENS, GEORGIA

    2001

  • 2001

    David Patrick Kelly

    All Rights Reserved

  • OUTSIDER ARCHITECTURE AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION

    by

    DAVID PATRICK KELLY

    Approved:

    Major Professor: Mark Reinberger

    Committee: Pratt Cassity Megan Bellue Henry Parker

    Electronic Version Approved:

    Gordhan L. Patel Dean of the Graduate School The University of Georgia December 2001

  • DEDICATION

    This thesis is dedicated to Erik Satie and Olivier Messiaen, whose music saw me

    through many unfulfilling hours at the computer keyboard.

    iv

  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    I would like to thank Mark Reinberger, Pratt Cassity, Megan Bellue, and Henry

    Parker, the good folk who make up my thesis committee, for indulging me in some off-

    the-wall subject matter. Special thanks go to Gwen Martin, caretaker of Pasaquan, who

    was kind enough to spend a day showing me around Pasaquan in the autumn of 1996.

    Some thanks are also due to Dr. Albert Hoffmann. Finally, I would like to thank my

    parents, Reginald and Susan Kelly, for never once flinching while their middle son went

    through many trying stages that were linked only by an appreciation for the bizarre.

    v

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Page

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................ v

    CHAPTER

    1 INTRODUCTION AND DEFINITIONS ..................................................... .1

    The name game ............................................................................................. 9

    Why outsider? ............................................................................................ 14

    Not quite outside ........................................................................................ 22

    Location of outsider sites; nationality of outsider architects...................... 24

    2 A SURVEY OF OUTSIDER ARCHITECTURE: FORMS AND SITES....... 27

    The castle.................................................................................................... 27

    The bottle house ......................................................................................... 36

    Outsider architecture environments ........................................................... 41

    Beyond architecture the outsider inside and at the drafting table ........... 53

    3 THE HISTORY OF OUTSIDER ARCHITECTURE PRESERVATION

    IN THE UNITED STATES ............................................................................ 61

    The first battle ........................................................................................... 64

    Documentation as an outsider architecture preservation tool ................... 71

    Tourism as an outsider architecture preservation tool .............................. 74

    Failures in outsider architecture preservation ........................................... 76

    vi

  • vii

    4 NEW STRATEGIES IN OUTSIDER ARCHITECTURE

    PRESERVATION........................................................................................... 79

    The four horsemen of the outsider apocryphal-ypse............................... 88

    Integrating outsider architecture.............................................................. 94

    The true outsider architects place .......................................................... 98

    BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................................................................................... 101

  • 1

    CHAPTER 1

    INTRODUCTIONS AND DEFINITIONS

    Look! Look! Look! Look!God Almighty, has anyone living or dead done anything like this?

    Would you believe that I done all this?1

    In 1968 Clarence Schmidt made the above exclamation about his "House of

    Mirrors," a complex of structures and gardens on Ohayo Mountain in upstate New York.

    Speaking proudly of his achievement, he was unaware that he also spoke for a small but

    significant group of architectural "renegades" dispersed throughout both the United States

    and the world. Schmidt was right in one sense, no one had created anything quite like his

    rambling, seven-story, solo-built conglomeration of wood, tar, glass, and aluminum that

    rose from the hillside like an organic growth of discarded construction materials. Still,

    there were others elsewhere who were kindred spirits, who worked in a similar manner to

    equally unique ends.

    Schmidt was but one of a group of non-architect builders creating fantastic works

    of architecture over long periods of time while foregoing the rules and precedents of

    standard architectural style and practice to forge a distinct "other" in the built

    environment. What is more, these builders worked alone or, on rare occasion, with only

    the peripheral help of amateur construction assistants. Along with Clarence Schmidt this

    group of amateur architect-builders includes noteworthy representatives Ferdinand

    Cheval of Hauterives, France; Tressa "Grandma" Prisbey of Simi Valley, California; St.

    1 Clarence Schmidt, quoted in Gregory Blasdel and William C. Lipke, Schmidt (Burlington, Vermont: Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, 1975): 46.

  • 2

    EOM (Eddie Owens Martin) of Buena Vista, Georgia; and Simon Rodia of Watts,

    California to name a handful.

    These "outsider architects" and their works of "outsider architecture" were only to

    be linked after the fact.2 There was no movement from which they arose, no manifestos

    announcing their agenda, and no school from which they graduated.3 They were unaware

    of one another's creations and, as evidenced by Schmidt's quote, believed themselves to

    be doing something unprecedented and isolated. When the claim is made for the

    existence of outsider architecture, it is made from a vantage point that allows essential

    common denominators to be identified within the various examples a rhyme and reason

    in what otherwise appears chaotic and, at best, coincidental.

    Works of outsider architecture conform to no specific shape or size nor are they

    governed by any other set of physical specifications. Simon Rodia's Watts Towers

    features spire-like towers ten stories tall whereas Tressa Prisbey's Bottle Village

    buildings are squat, one story constructions. Both of these sites occupy lots that are less

    than one acre while Nek Chand's Rock Garden in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh

    takes up over twenty-five acres. Outsider architecture appears as tower, castle, pagoda,

    roundhouse, shack, and everything in between. It is a shape-shifter and a chameleon. The

    presence of signature features (fanlights or symmetry, for example) as dictates of style

    has no bearing upon outsider architecture. Indeed the concept of style itself is

    problematic, as each work of outsider architecture develops its own style.

    2 The nature of these terms and the author's choice to use them will be discussed in an upcoming section. 3 It is frequently argued that outsider architects and outsider architecture do originate from a "movement" of sorts the folk art tradition. This claim is neither wholly true nor false and will be discussed in an upcoming section.

  • 3

    Figure 1.1 Clarence Schmidts House of Mirrors. From Maizels.

  • 4

    While the envelope and appearance of outsider architecture are quite fluid, there

    are characteristics and conditions that govern this architectural realm. First, outsider

    architecture relies on the outsider architect, its "one-man-band" who serves as architect,

    funder, and builder. Outsider architecture sites are the sole creation of their architects,

    from vision to realization. Although some outsider sites have involved the labor of

    others, their

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