I first visited Unicorn Farm, located in northern Idaho, in the summer of 2016. I was actually on vacation, but Seth Ogilvie, a producer at Idaho Public Television at the time, sent me a photo of a unique house in the area and said he’d like to interview the architect, who also lived there. After one look at the photo, who could have said no?
The architect, Joseph Henry Wythe, was a sweet man in his mid 90s who had spent his life in the world of what is known as “Organic Architecture.” This is a type of site-specific architecture that is integrated with its surroundings. It also creates a special feeling inside the building. Wythe refers to it as a “living” architecture.
“This house is alive, you know,” he said. “It’s speaking to you and you’re reacting to it.”
While he was a bit frail as he showed us around the property, Wythe was delighted we were interested in his story, and he was eager to tell it. “It has a kind of a magical quality about it,” he said of Unicorn Farm.
I can attest to that; it’s a very quiet and tranquil place. I couldn’t help but be impressed and felt fortunate to have visited it.
Mr. Wythe also told us an amusing story about how his property came to get the name “Unicorn Farm,” a story that’s in our video. And we learned about its architecture, which is truly unique.
When IdahoPTV started createid in 2022 and we were discussing story ideas, I immediately thought of Unicorn Farm and how it would make a great piece for the series, since its design is so creative. But all we had was an interview with Mr. Wythe and a few shots of his house. We needed more video. With new cameras in our arsenal, including a drone that could get footage from above, I was eager to get back to Unicorn Farm.
Mr. Wythe had since passed away and his family had sold the property, so it took some time to get in touch with the new owner. It took even more time to make the trip. The new owners were busy with much-needed repairs to the home and property, and it made more sense to wait until the tractors were gone and the digging had stopped. As it turned out, the repairs became part of our story.
Then the weather soon changed, and winter put another hold on the shoot. I ended up waiting for over a year to revisit Unicorn Farm, but during that time, I connected with D. Nels Reese, emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Idaho’s School of Architecture. He added some interesting perspectives about the place. Couple that with the new owner’s interest and enthusiasm for preserving the home, and the story turned out better than originally planned. It was worth the wait.
You can watch our story below, on our Facebook and Instagram pages, on our YouTube page and on our website. That’s also where you’ll find more createid pieces. Please follow us online, and feel free to suggest ideas by writing to us at email@example.com!
Photo credits: Troy Shreve