Comment of the Day: What Life Forms Homes Got Right

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT LIFE FORMS HOMES GOT RIGHT Drawing of Life Forms Home“I’m also a big Life Forms fan, I own and live in one in the Woodlands. So happens I’m an architect, too. Life Forms is the only company I know that has built suburban tract homes which are innovative, spatially unique, extremely livable, and which complement the landscape. Truly American, as I would like to say it. Many of Life Forms homes were also created for a price point that allowed normal folks like us to experience unique and honest architecture. I do that every day now. Scott Mitchell deserves unique credit as an exceptional architect, a brilliant home builder, and a true innovator. Most American architecture amounts to mindlessly recompiled ‘tradition,’ endlessly mundane and pretentious. No where is this more evident than in American tract homes. Bad copies of architectural forms and inspiration: selectively applied pastiche . . . that is the norm. As the ‘home of the free and the brave,’ as social and technological pioneers, we Americans ought to pride ourselves on our residential buildings, too. Life Forms challenged the organization, layout, forms, spaces, use of light . . . just about everything that’s bad about the typical american home. Sure some of the details may look dated to us now, and not all the experiments they did were successful. But many of them were. . . .” [Paul Schuyler, commenting on A Look at George Mitchell’s Decked-Out Home in The Woodlands, All Cleaned Up and Cleared Out for Sale] Illustration: Lulu

9 Comment

  • Why is this advertisement for these houses of dubious quality and style C of the D. It really strains the credibility of the site when obvious shilling is posed as “Comment” then Swamplot makes it C of the D. Who cares what this “architect” has to say about another architect he obviously knows and has some sort of vested interest in. Geez, Swamplot, try not to be soo obvious.

  • It’s always something with you and these Comments of the Day………. Make a New Year’s Resolution never to read them again and save some wear and tear on your arteries darlin’.

  • I agree with Paul here. Not just Life Forms. There were a lot of architects designing really interesting single family houses in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of then were reasonably affordable for normal people. I grew up in one, in fact: a passive solar envelope house in Maine, built in 1983.
    I think I’ve said it before, I am convinced that 1970s and 1980s Contemporaries will soon have the same cache as 1950s and ’60s Mid Century Mods. They’re often spatially more interesting.

  • Why must Shannon feel compelled to write a hyper-critical post for any little thing he doesn’t like? Why do you think Life Forms houses are of dubious quality? I know several people who own one, and they all love them.

    I don’t see how this is “shilling”. Life Forms is no longer in business, as far as I know, and the used homes that go on the market sell quickly, so there are people who want them.

  • For the first time ever, I agree with Shannon. I looked at the LF homes currently listed online and they all look like any other suburban tract home one would expect to see in the Woodlands, Sugar Land, Katy, etc.

  • I’d be curious to see one, though. I’m really turned off by typical suburban homes these days. I recently was in a gigantic home in Montgomery County (must have been 4000 sq ft) and it was hideous looking and of poor quality fit and finish. There were even “hills and valleys” along the upstairs flooring.

  • @Paul, I could not agree more with your analysis, bravo!

    @Brian, the post-1990 Life Forms, while still very well designed, are notably more traditional than the ones from 1974-1990. Check out Life Forms’ first neighborhood, Slash Pine, which is off of South Millbend, and you can see just how much their designs changed over the years. Originally their homes were exclusively custom, until they opened Trace Creek in Indian Springs the late 1980s, and transitioned to a more custom-production type product sold out of a model home. One interesting fact is that Life Forms pioneered the split-level “treehouse” design, which was perfect for forested environment in The Woodlads, and continued building variations of it up until the early 2000s, long after the style had become passé elsewhere. Life Forms’ final neighborhood was Sterling Pointe, circa 2005.

  • Right on, Paul Schuyler! And yes – you have to look at the pre-1990 Life Forms homes to see the original, unique style. Indian Springs is full of them – The Trace Creek section, Breezy Point Pl, Rushwing, Shallow Pond, Otter Pond, Gannett Hollow. They also built some great townhomes in two Grogan’s Mill locations in the early 80s – Sawmill Grove Ln and Cokeberry Ct.

  • Here’s a response to the likes of Shannon. My quoted comment above was in response to a posting about George Mitchell’s home, which was designed by his son Scott Mitchell. George Mitchell’s original home in the Woodlands had a very similar emphasis as the early Life Forms homes, houses amidst the landscape which reflect upon and revere it. Shannon was amazed that such a rich man as George Mitchell would not have a ‘gorgeous spread’, you know…a blown up, half-baked, usually symmetrical remake of something European. Instead he who had astonishing wealth and vision chose to build a home that was ‘big enough’, and that blended in with the landscape.

    Imagine this: “WOOD” + “LANDS” = WOODLANDS. Get it Shannon? Maybe read it twice, or three times.

    I try to imagine those original meetings prior to the creation of the Woodlands, where consultants must have been there with George Mitchell when he made those so-called ‘crazy’ decisions…you know, place a landscape buffer between the street and the bike paths? Add another big buffer of trees between the bike paths and the neighborhoods? And ye gads all those extra parks…. The shopping centers disappear behind curtains of green. And the major streets always curve, to eliminate those direct sight-lines… Imagine how many real estate “experts” would have tried to convince George Mitchell to double the layout density and eliminate all those ‘unnecessary’ green features? And yet today these things are still being copied (and yet not surprisingly, are not equaled).

    Too see George Mitchell’s original house, and subsequently those EARLY Life Forms buildings after them…is to see the inspiration for the Woodlands itself, houses and neighborhoods that appreciate and nestle into the landscape. That was the idea. WOOD-LANDS.

    Sadly but not surprisingly, the New Woodlands has built everything up excessively. Something was lost on those who have taken over the Township. Some new neighborhoods “take a bite” out of the original nature preserves. Big commercial centers are everywhere and not surprisingly the designs of those buildings are quite mediocre, and hastily built with little green visible anywhere. And we have illustrious East Shore and Carlton Woods, the buildings of which could be easily transported to another city and sold with the same exact marketing materials. What do those neighborhoods provide? Overpriced, purchased, ‘elegance’ and ‘taste’. A palette of borrowed prestige and importance. Criticize Life Forms all you want…but just realize that when you are doing so you are really trashing the idea of the Woodlands itself. Oh man, the irony is thick.