Butterfly Revival in Modern Housing Design

The Butterfly Roof being built by TerraWise Homes in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Butterfly Revival

During the past year, TerraWise Homes of Jacksonville, Florida added a butterfly roof design as an option to its model home offerings.  New home shoppers Eric and Heather Stevens were enamored with the exterior appearance and the interior room sloping heights of the new model. They became purchasers and their new home is now complete (see picture) and causing excitement among both new residents and visitors to its location in the northern Jacksonville suburban community of Cedarbrook.

As explained by TerraWise designer/builder, David Shacter, the butterfly roof is not unique, but has existed in this country for several decades. He and his Terrawise partner, Melody Shacter, thought it would be distinctive to offer it as an option on their new series of energy efficient small homes. The homes also are offered in more conventional “Craftsman” and “Prairie” designs. But, the butterfly design is attracting all the attention in their Cedarbrook community.

A “butterfly roof”, as shown in the accompanying pictures, is essentially a roof formed from an inversion of a standard sloped roof. The two roof surfaces slope down from opposing edges to a valley in the center. It resembles the raised wings of a butterfly and therefore is usually referred to as a butterfly roof, although alternate names have included  ”V roof” and  “London Roof” according to Wikipedia.  This form has no gutter as rain water can run off the roof in no more than two locations at either end of the central valley into downspouts. The valley itself may be flat with a central “roof cricket” diverting water toward the valley, or sloping if the entire roof form is tilted toward one end of the valley.

Many observers of housing design in this country credit the butterfly roof to be the creation of William Krisel and Dan Palmer in Palm Springs, California during the late 1950s. Beginning in 1957, these two partners created nearly 2,000 such houses in a series of developments known as the Alexander Tract. Historian Alan Hess describes their work as “the largest Modernist housing subdivision in the United States”. But Krisel is quick to point out that he was not the originator of this form.

Indeed, online research shows that Butterfly Roofs have historic beginnings, at least dating back to the great French architect, Le Corbusier, who first used this structure in his design of a vacation home in Chile called Maison Errazuriz, in 1930.  Shortly after, in 1933, a Czech-born architect used this same form on a house in Japan featured in Architectural Record magazine in 1934. The celebrated German-born architect, Marcel Breuer, used this same form on his Geller House in Long Island, New York in 1945.

So, the Butterfly roof is not new, but it is certainly creating a lot of new excitement in one Jacksonville community.

by Dr. David Forster Parker
January 1, 2017
For more information, contact Dr. David F. Parker
or go to our web site at www.parkerassociates.com

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