Number of Usonians

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Unbrook
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Number of Usonians

Post by Unbrook »

Is there a definitive count for the number of Usonian houses actually built?

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

There isn't even a definitive definition of "Usonian."

SDR
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Post by SDR »


outside in
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Post by outside in »

I think the most basic and accurate method would be cost and size. Jacobs 1 was $5500, by the time Weltzheimer came around it was $40k. If the idea was to build for middle america, I find it hard to accept any construction number exceeding $50k a Usonian House. Similarly, a house exceeding 2000 s.f. in area does not fit the description either.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

But must it also be B&B + brick on a concrete slab? Would Jacobs II qualify?

peterm
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Post by peterm »

The other thing that complicates matters is that even for Wright, Usonian houses were not confined to houses designed by only him, rather those that fell within the loose parameters which he endorsed. Otherwise how could we have the community of of Usonia in New York, where many houses were designed by architects other than Wright?

Wright designed three homes himself and approved the architectural plans of the other 44, which were designed by architects including Paul Schweikher, Theodore Dixon Bower, Ulrich Franzen, Kaneji Domoto, Aaron Resnick and David Henken – an engineer and Wright apprentice.
Last edited by peterm on Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

A limit on square footage seems reasonable. But isn't any particular number going to be seen as arbitrarily chosen ? I don't have an alternative to John's suggestion in mind, but . . .

As for cost, there would have to be a sliding scale, it seems, assuming a continually rising cost of land, construction, and bank loans over the period 1935-1959. To be fair and consistent, would it not be necessary to compare the cost of each house against the average cost of construction of a house of equal size, built in the same locale, in the same year ?

To Peter's point, Usonia II is the only instance of Mr Wright being asked to consider the merits of other architects' work, is it not ? While we are happy to include similar work by others in the collection of homes we call "Usonian," as Wrightians don't we typically reserve the term, its definition(s) and numbers, to Wright's own work ? Don't we assume that the OP's question was directed at his work, rather than to all houses which might be called Usonian ?

SDR
Last edited by SDR on Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Jacobs 1 would be $85,000.00 at today's prices, though no other Usonian came in close to that original $5,000.00 cost.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I went looking for a list or a number of built Usonians, and first tried John Sergeant's book on the type. On page 172, in the end notes to Chapter 1, note 32 reads, "See chronological list of Usonian houses, page 8." There is no such list on page eight, not anywhere else in the book as far as I can tell. So that was a wash-out -- perhaps symbolic of the futility of seeking either a list or a definition ?

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Sergeant focuses on Lamberson and Alsop, but in the chapter entitled "Popularizing Organic Architecture". His own definition and parameters seem to become fuzzier as he moves into the late forties and fifties. The chapter also discusses DIY, Usonian Automatics, and his prefabricated houses. Are the Erdmans Usonian, too?

Later in the chapter:
" The Usonian home became more akin to a consumer durable. One client admitted "I wanted one of the old boy's masterpieces before he died. I figured it couldn't help go up in value after his death-- like an artwork. "

The chapter concludes with the "32 simple and basic design ideas" from House and Home magazine, 1956, as exemplified in photos and captions of the Zimmerman house.

Usonian or Organic? Or both?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Ha. He doesn't name that client, I take it ? I don't blame Sergeant for becoming fuzzier on what constitutes a Usonian; welcome to the club !

Perhaps it should work like this: the questioner gets to name his or her own definition, and apply the numerical answer to that definition of the term. Thus, on this thread at least, Unbrook will decide what makes a Usonian, whereupon the do-bees will get to the books and come up with an answer. How's that ?

Unbrook ?

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

There is no mention of that client's name...

On page 183, Appendix A, "A Spatial Analysis of Usonian Homes", Sergeant writes:

"Any experience of Wright's domestic designs of the 1937-1950 period shows a remarkable sense of naturalness and ease, yet conceptual rigor..."

He seems to draw a line at the year 1950, whether arbitrary or not.

PrairieMod
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Post by PrairieMod »

Not that Wikipedia is the gold standard of iron-clad information, but here's what it states on the topic:

"'Usonian' is a term usually referring to a group of approximately sixty middle-income family homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright beginning in 1936 with the Jacobs House."

I think the "middle-income" term is an interesting qualifier to the discussion.

It goes on to state:

"The 'Usonian Homes' are typically small, single-story dwellings without a garage or much storage. They are often L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace on unusual and inexpensive sites. They are characterized by native materials; flat roofs and large cantilevered overhangs for passive solar heating and natural cooling; natural lighting with clerestory windows; and radiant-floor heating. A strong visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is an important characteristic of all Usonian homes. The word carport was coined by Wright to describe an overhang for sheltering a parked vehicle."

Again..Wikipedia is an imperfect resource, but I thought this was of interest to the discussion and may provide some options for clarification.
Last edited by PrairieMod on Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Curiouser and curiouser. Nevertheless, the combination of aesthetic rigor and a pleasant informality suits the work -- and its occupants -- admirably ?

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Hmmm...The flat roof... that would exclude early Usonians like Stevens (Auldbrass), Hanna and Bazett.

Let's face it, Wright can not be pinned down so easily, can he?

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