In the 1950s, Art Troutner, the architect of “The Phillips House” and Idaho’s own celebrity artisan and inventor, was called upon to make longer and longer wooden roofs that would tend to slope inwards at new angles that were odd yet appealing to the eye. Troutner was often hailed as Idaho’s very own Frank Lloyd Wright and challenged the architectural norms of society by making wide use of his own inventions that were effective, as well as environmentally friendly. While designing these unique styles, Troutner found that large beams and trusses were a waste of space and wood, and therefore invented a new system called Trus-Dek. This system, which would be the namesake of the later Trus-Dek Corp, was composed of four 1×6 boards held together by steel rods. These rods served as anchor points for four webs of thin wall steel tubing. Though this system was very effective (used on the Kibbie Dome which broke the world-wide longest wood roof span record at 400’ long, being an exemplifying feat), there were many skeptics abound and many were too stubborn and accustomed to old techniques to take the Trus-dek into consideration. Plus there was (and still is) a common idea that something has to be big and thick to be strong and structurally sound, and on examining the Trus-dek, many had their doubts. To raise interest and support for his invention, Troutner built several buildings using Trus-dek. The most prominent, and one of the first uses of the Trus-dek system, was the Phillips house.
Completed in 1958, The Phillips house is a unique style home that belongs in no category except perhaps “Troutner Style”. The house was built for Dr. John Phillips, who was a professor and head of the psychology department at Boise Junior college, now Boise State University. Phillips is still the resident of this house today, and the house remains with all original parts except for an added guest house attached to one side. Phillips had himself collaborated with Troutner on the design of his house, and also had the original blueprints of the house drawn up and signed by Art Troutner himself. In addition, Phillips was more than simply associates with Troutner, as he had met Troutner many times and even was a guest of honor at one of Troutner’s conventions. When asked to highlight what Phillips thought of when the name Troutner mentioned, Phillips responded by emphasizing Troutner’s genius, creativity, and brilliance. He was all the more amazed when he often found the ambidextrous Troutner drawing plans with both hands simultaneously.
A contrast to Troutner’s own circular themed house (which can be found on this site) and his other folded roof houses, the Phillips House is triangularly themed. Like the other Troutner homes scattered throughout Boise, whose slanted roofs are the center of interest, this house’s roof shape captures all the attention. However, instead of the signature design of two panning roofs that would inwardly tilt towards each other at a slight angle, the roof of the Phillips House is one of a kind. Still incorporating the inward tilt of two roofs, Troutner used the theme into using six panels of roofs, two for each “tip” of the triangularly based house. It is essentially composed of three folded triangles, whose bases meet at the top around a chimney and whose tips descend all the way to the ground. These tips added a dramatic effect to the house, as it wasn’t very common for the house to be triangular or for the roof to touch base with the ground. The result of this design of roof was a three front gabled house, identical on every side.
Also due to its triangular structure, the interior feels like an enormous, extravagant tent, though neither this description nor the pictures do the house proper justice. Interestingly enough, Troutner even kept the triangular theme for the interior of the house. The door is under one of the tips of the roof and upon entering you can either go left or right, with the center of the house, composed of the chimney, a spare room and the staircase, being a triangle. The second floor is even more triangular as here, the rooms are split into three further triangles. The great windows that panel every wall are triangular as well, which only helps accent the nature of the house as well as bring in lots of natural light.
The house was so peculiar that there was great difficulty in finding a bank willing to invest in Troutner’s designs. Even when they did find such a bank, there were other financial troubles. Being a Professor at a small college, Phillips could not afford everything that Troutner wanted to include in the house, including the Oakley stone foundation of the house which had to be replaced with simple concrete stained to imitate stone. Even with these limits, Troutner’s enthusiasm for his new project and new Trus-dek system escalated the house’s construction costs well over the $25,000 threshold.
Such was the curious construction of the house that according to John Phillips’ son during the construction of the house, when only the roof and chimney were constructed, there were rumors abound at the nearby South Junior High School that the house was actually a missile silo of sorts. Nevertheless, we can only be very grateful of The Phillips House for its captivating design and architectural structure, for its evidence of Troutner’s talents, and for its simple beauty.
Source: The Phillips family