Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Goose-Egg Architect

Architect Henry Evert Wichers was born in Dispatch (Smith County), Kansas in March 1898. After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from Kansas State College,* Wichers joined the faculty as a rural architecture specialist. Within a few years, property owners sought his advice regarding utilities, remodeling and building typologies. His suggestions frequently included analyses of prevailing winds and geographic position.

The State College of Washington (now Washington State) enticed Wichers to depart his full professorship in 1947. Assigned to the college's extension services, Wichers collaborated with Helen Noyes on a guide to making one's farmhouse functional. The publication presented a recontextualized and pared down version of Wichers' earlier "Better Homes for Kansas Farms" (1942).

Over his decades-long career, Wichers contributed many DIY farm and home publications:

Planning a Home in the Country (1961)
Planning Corrals (1956)
Planning Your Dairy Buildings, with Don Lockridge (1953)
Planning Your Farmstead (1952)
Planning Your Poultry Houses (1952)
An Easy Way of Planning a Farm House (1951)
Homes for Washington Farms (1951)--a series with various plans
Minimum Standards for Good Farm Houses Located in the State of Washington (1950)
Choose a Farm House to Fit Your Farm (1949)
Farmhouse Planning Is Easy (1948)
Floors and Pavements for House and Garden (1948)
Successful Farming Building Book (1947)
Your Farmhouse: Make It Work, with Helen Noyes (1947)
House Framing (1946)
Better Homes for Kansas Farms (1942)
Low Cost Homes (1939)
"The Farm House" in Rural Life 16 (March 1938)
How to Modernize Your Farm House, with Ellen L. Pennell (1935)
Modernizing the Kansas Home (1934)
"The Building Site Dictates the Architectural Style" and "Considerations in Farmhouse Planning," chapters in The Better Homes Manual, ed. by Blanche Halbert (1931)
"Designs for Kansas Farm Houses," M.A. Thesis, 1930
Designs for Kansas Farm Houses (1929)
"Fitting A House to Its Site." American Architect 5 May 1928: pp. 573-580.
The Design of the Kansas Home (1927)

During the Cold War period, he advised regarding inappropriate shelters:


     "A rural architecture specialist advises that when a bomb comes your way, 'stay out of the basement.' Too often, H.E. Wichers said, one hears advice from 'so-called experts' that [it] is the place to hide from bombs. 'It is just not so,' he contended. 'Even in small houses with concrete block basement walls, an A-bomb explosion will prove about as comfortable as the wrong end of a bowling alley.'"

The Times Record (Troy, New York) 15 March 1951

Wichers became known as the "Goose-Egg Architect" because of his use of quickly articulated ovoids to help property owners determine their architectural needs. He stressed that the automatic drawing technique was an effective means to sort out patterns prior to hiring a professional architect.

Image above: H.E. Wichers, O.S. Ekdahl, & N.F. Resch. "Plan 6519, For the Southwest." In Wallace Ashby. Farmhouse Plans, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer's Bulletin No. 1738. Washington, D.C., 1934.


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