A 2,300-square-foot guesthouse designed by Frank Gehry, FAIA, is being moved from its original home near Lake Minnetonka in Wayzata, Minn., to a conference center operated by the University of St. Thomas. Named for the couple who commissioned it in 1987, the Winton guesthouse was built to complement an existing Philip Johnson-designed main residence.
The Winton guesthouse was most recently owned by Minnesota real estate developer Kirt Woodhouse, who donated it to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. It will be moved nearly 75 miles from Wayzata to the university's Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, Minn., which is itself a historic property. According to the university, Woodhouse is underwriting all expenses associated with the move, installation, and refurbishing of the guesthouse.
The University of St. Thomas plans to operate the house as a museum, rather than as additional conference center space. "We want to be able to raise awareness of the architect by showcasing this guesthouse, which was unique in a pivotal point in his career," notes Marlene Levine, director of the Gainey Center. "It was a time when he was experimenting with asymmetry. Prior to 1980, Gehry was doing very traditional styles, but this house uses curves and different materials, and his own personal postmodern style."
Comprising six segments shaped as rectangles, wedges, and cones, the guesthouse is distinctly fanciful and sculptural in form. Within each of five segments is a different room; the largest rectangular segment houses both the kitchen and garage. All radiate around the central living room section.
To relocate the guesthouse, Stubbs Building and House Movers will split the structure into eight sections and transport each individually. They will be reassembled on the former site of a farmhouse on the Gainey Center property. Even the bluestone patio pavers will be relocated and reassembled. Some rebuilding and refinishing once the house is fully reassembled will be necessary, according to Levine. The contractor will rebuild the garage using the same materials Gehry originally employed, and the central living room will need new drywall.
The university had intended for the installation of the house to be completed sometime this fall, says Levine, but unless foundations can be poured before November, when the ground freezes in the northern state, it's unlikely to be completed before spring 2009. "We're in the process now of disassembling the house, and that's going pretty well," she says. "It's a careful process, and the builders are taking their time to make sure they preserve every aspect. We expect the first section any day now."
In coming months, ra will follow the disassembly, transport, reassembly, and completion of the Winton guesthouse in photos, with updates as they become available.