Photo via Louis Cherry Architecture
Yesterday, closing arguments were presented in a case that will decide the fate of a home in Raleigh, North Carolina's historic Oakwood neighborhood, whose across-the-street neighbor has deemed it too modern to exist. Raleigh architect Louis Cherry was given the go-ahead to start building the cypress-clad two-story house last September, by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission, which approves designs for neighborhoods like Oakwood—where the architectural mix includes a lime-green shotgun house, a purple Victorian with gingerbread details, and vinyl-sided bungalows from the 1920s—based on a relatively loose set of design guidelines.
But the home's relatively modest look—referred to in a lot of local coverage as "modernist"—was too much for real estate agent Gail Wiesner, who appealed to the city's Board of Adjustment, which voted three to two that there had been "no rational basis" for approving the home, halting a construction process that was well underway. Beyond having troubling implications about what can happen to homes that have already been given the green light, as architecture critic Paul Goldberger put it, the decision essentially said that the dwelling "destroys the illusion that the neighborhood is a place in which time has stopped."
With its fate now in the hands of superior court judge Elaine Bushfan, the little contemporary that could is carrying on with a hobby that's pretty popular among those caught up in farcical court battles: tweeting about it.
"You're an oddball building", said my oddball neighbor who sues her neighbor.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 25, 2014
According to Goldberger, the tweets have been coming from "someone sympathetic to the plight of the house," known neither to Cherry nor his wife, Marsha Gordon. Tweeted about in an "if these walls could talk" style, the home has taken on a personality of its own. For example, it takes Lana Del Rey lyrics to heart.
Am I born to die? (Hint: Yes.)— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) May 13, 2014
Same goes for movie titles.
Which 007 film title will predict my fate? Live and Let Die, You Only Live Twice, Tomorrow Never Dies, A View to Kill or For Your Eyes Only— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 25, 2014
It's a home that is keenly aware of how awkward it is living across the street from someone who wants to destroy you.
"Not in my front yard" said the house across the street to me earlier this week. Still sad about that.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) March 12, 2014
The yellow house across the street from me is for sale. Looking for a fun, caring, and tolerant neighbor to share the street with me. xoxo— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) July 28, 2014
And well aware of the ironies at work here.
In the 1800s, all Victorian architecture was contemporary.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) April 30, 2014
Rendering via Louis Cherry Architecture
Sometimes Oakwood Modern gets depressed.
You guys have fun on your Memorial Day beach trips. I'm going to create my own sandy beach in my yard with my tears.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) May 23, 2014
In case anyone's wondering, I've had a terrible summer.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 22, 2014
Other times a bit existential.
If someone could let me know if I get to live or die, that would be greatly appreciated.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 25, 2014
Wonder if I'll ever be an answer on Jeopardy?— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) May 14, 2014
But mostly it snarks.
I would use this courtroom recess to take a bathroom break, but indoor plumbing is a modern infrastructure yet to be approved in Oakwood.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 26, 2014
It's fun to watch my neighbors self-destruct over me on the Internet. I'm a house.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 24, 2014
My neighbors think Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhaas are sitting at the edge of Oakwood, waiting to build crazy houses. LOL— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 22, 2014
What a weekend. Biggest rush I've had since all that water soaked in through my unfinished doors— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) July 14, 2014
Oakwood Modern has been known to get pretty fired up on occasion.
Just FYI, I was not invited to speak on my own behalf at this #RaleighTalks panel discussion ABOUT ME. Not asked at all.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) June 18, 2014
I'm going to court Monday, because, for fuck's sake, this country doesn't have bigger problems than how a lil' house looks.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 22, 2014
And have flashes of "I woke up like this"-level confidence.
If anyone needs me, I'll just be sitting here, looking fly as forever.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 26, 2014
Still, there are times when it yearns for acceptance.
Maybe if I add some gargoyles to my roof I'll be accepted by my neighbors.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) May 1, 2014
If anyone wants to come hold me...— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 25, 2014
Despite being a house, Oakwood Modern has the same concerns a lot of us do.
Should I start a blog?— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) June 30, 2014
And even though its fate is still up in the air, the house is trying to live a little, which is healthy.
One last lunch. Probably have Bojangles.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 25, 2014
At a time of great uncertainty, Oakwood Modern is still making plans for the future. Snarky plans, of course.
"No Basis for Appeal" is the phrase going on my welcome mat.— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) August 25, 2014