My house is a parallelogram...on purpose!

shnnnMarch 18, 2013

I have just starting rehabbing a shotgun single in the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. Like many houses in this area, mine was heavily damaged by the levee failure and years of subsequent neglect, so it is tilted and leaning. However, it is clear that the house as designed was a paralleogram instead of a rectangle: the corners are not and never were 90 degree angles. My protractor is a little rusty, but it seems that the opposite angles add up to 90, so it seems certain that this was done on purpose. My neighbor's house is the same way.
Has anyone ever heard of this house form? What would be the benefit that would cause a builder to add this complexity to their job?

P.S. Also like other houses here, the walls are not stud-framed but consist of exterior horizontal weatherboard and interior horizontal T&G panels that encase vertical barge boards about 2" x 12", which rest on 6x6 cypress sills. It is a testament to the power of the old wood that the house still stands even though in several places the sill is completely eaten away by rot and termites.

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Noted St. Louis architect William Bernoudy designed a parallelogram house, as have other architects from time to time. Practicality has nothing to do with it; just fascination with turning abstract geometrical shapes into reality. Near where I live there's a set of homes with some walls angled maybe 10 degrees off vertical and the rest composed of what architects like to call "playful" shapes.

This post was edited by worthy on Mon, Mar 18, 13 at 11:15

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 11:06AM
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I have seen quite a few houses like that in NY where I live. All of the ones I've seen are on tiny lots of land that are directly adjacent to a diagonally situated railroad track or road. Say you have a tiny plot of land that is landlocked on some or all sides by diagonally running property lines, roads or railroad tracks. If you wanted to build the largest sized house possible, then you'd have to build a parallelogram that fits into the space created by those diagonal borders.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 11:31AM
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" My protractor is a little rusty, but it seems that the opposite angles add up to 90, so it seems certain that this was done on purpose."

Nope ... the total of the angles of a 4-sided figure ALWAYS add up to 360 degrees. That holds true if you build a rectangle and something forces it to skew, or if you build a trapezoidal one by accident.

It's quite possible that the guise lines for the foundation were a couple of degrees off and if they were doing "cut to fit" building, they just compensated.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 4:39PM
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