NORMAN, OKLAHOMA — People who drove by or toured this house always seemed to have their own opinions as to what it looked like on the outside.
LIFE Magazine referred to it as The Prairie Chicken House.
Some passersby saw a buffalo leaning against the wind.
A guy on a tour once famously asked if it had been hit by a tornado.
But Herb Green is one of the only people to see it as home.
“It didn’t take that much to build it in those days,” he says.
He was a student of another architect Bruce Goff at the University of Oklahoma.
In 1961 he bought a couple of acres on a plot of land where he couldn’t see any other houses.
Greene wanted his house to look as thought it were struggling to climb from the flat landscape.
“Like it’s coming into the ground and in some views trying to free itself from the ground,” he explains.
Inside was a true revelation with vaulting staircases and walls covered with rough, cedar shingles.
Even empty, the Prairie House, as he calls it, warms with soft light and rounded angles.
Greene recalls, “Some of my students, particularly in the interior, did their own shingling.”
He lived here with his family less than two years.
Herb moved away to take a teaching job in Kentucky and didn’t look back.
His old house retained its fame as a great example of Organic Modernism even as its condition faded.
New owners and a new family of OU architects like Hans and Torrey Butzer are hoping to bring the house back and improve upon the functional problems that always plagued it.
Greene says, “In the winter time when in the driving wind you couldn’t get the house above 58 degrees.”
Torrey Butzer of Butzer Architects and Urbanism further explains Greene, “Is open to it being revised so it’s a better structure today.”
A house like this still leaves a lasting impression just as Herb Greene hoped it would.
Circling back after so many years feels pretty good too.
“I felt quite a bit of power,” says Greene on seeing the Prairie House after so many years. “I thought, geez. Did I do that?”
Renovations efforts will begin this spring and summer.