Cook House

Cook House in Oxford, Mississippi by Mockbee Coker, 1991

The Cook House is indicative of the Mississippi firm Mockbee Coker's integration of local vernacular building forms with a personal vision of architecture. The house, actually three structures connected by bridges, relates to the trailer houses, prevalent in the rural South, and their additions. In response to the isolated nature of the rural environment, these trailers change over time as pieces (porches, decks, awnings) are added to the original trailer. Over the course of their lives the trailers become a unique personal expression of the owner's lives. Similarly the Cook House is an expression of the families lives and beliefs.

Situated on a ridge on the Cook's 340-acre farm, the house is a concrete-block volume with wood-frame interior and an open-ended metal roof that gives the house its character. Oriented east-west the house's north face has extensive glazing, allowing northern light to penetrate the house, while the southern exposure is solid, with a few strategic openings. The south face also has a "lean to" extension, made of chain-link fencing, to contain the animals that are considered part of the family.
[Authenticity is] a means by which culture can absorb its own tradition and become mindful of the past...providing an accepting of responsibility for that tradition, while developing a real perceptual experience of the present.   -Coleman Coker
The three structures (main house, garage, and lookout) are composed around a lily pond that becomes the exterior focus of the design. Each element is arranged to direct views out towards the hills concentrating one on the landscape. Overloooking the pond, the double-height living room acts as the center of both the family's activities and the composition of the house's interior, reminiscent of the Eames' house, with its linear organization and mixture of single- and double-height and loft spaces. Living and dining areas, the kitchen, and master bedroom are located on the ground floor, with a bedroom and loft area upstairs. Approached from the loft area, the open area of the wood trusses is a place for the family to go to listen to the falling rain.

It is the inclusion of these "unnecessary" spaces that the Cook house becomes more than a physical container for daily events, but a a place, best summed up by Lori Ryker in a monograph of the firm, for "registering the changing phenomena of day and night upon varied surfaces and rooms." The sensitivity to place and landscape and Mockbee Coker's unique and personal design vision combined to create an expression of the family's lives and, more importantly, what they find meaningful.