Designed by John C. Morley, a KU architecture professor, this compact tri-level west of campus is a model of elegant and sophisticated modern architecture. Occupying a mere 1,152 square feet, the house belies its size with a dynamic, asymmetrical exterior design and tight integration of living spaces. The relationship between the garage, breezeway and house is particularly notable for its pleasing asymmetry and dynamic quality—a calculatedness that draws the eye yet avoids fussiness.
The strong architectural character of the exterior extends into the interior spaces, which are equally complex and compelling and benefit further from exquisite natural materials, intoxicating wood tones, and magnificent quality of light. In the raised living room, an array of large south-facing windows permits copious sunlight to reflect off the room’s splendid Philippine mahogany paneling, which is illuminated by cross-lighting from clerestory windows on the north side. On sunlit days, the room is flooded in golden light. The effect is invigorating. More than any other house surveyed, the Graber house brings to mind Le Corbusier’s definition of architecture as the “masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light.”
Ralph Graber, a junior high principal in the Lawrence school district, commissioned the house in 1954 and construction was completed in 1955. Architecturally, the house stands as Jack Morley’s finest residential effort in Lawrence. It shares many of the same virtues as the Beal House, including exceptional detailing and design motifs, and is believed to also have been designed using George Beal’s heliodon, a device used to orient houses for maximum solar heating and cooling. It is also skillfully adapted into the landscape, exploiting the natural contours of the site for aesthetic effect. A fully realized work of art, the Graber House inspires the admiration and appreciation of architectural historians and students alike.