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By Bob Ivry
Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Frank Lloyd Wright, who called himself the greatest living American architect, can still kick up controversy 47 years after his death.
A squabble over his legacy pits Wright purists, a prickly bunch, against a retired sheet-metal contractor named Joe Massaro, who is building a home in Putnam County, New York, based on designs Wright sketched in 1950. The purists argue that any deviation from what the master architect intended means Massaro can't call his home a true Frank Lloyd Wright creation. And since Massaro is working from sketches, not blueprints, his project can't be legitimate.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid= ... t_82IA24v4
This project may be somewhat different than others, in that so much was a challenge and the site specific nature goes a long way addressing its "validity" as being a Wright design. Still, some of the solutions being defended are problematic as far as it being a "real" Wright house. I am still in the camp that if Frank was not alive when it was built, it is not a Wright, and can not be catalogued as such. RJH, your comments about interior details (and changes they made not noted in the article) infers the same?
Get as inspired as you want, and one can only hope to get as close as Massaro did; go for it! Not many alternatives can compete, and Massaro will surely enjoy every minute it as we nay say away. I would have a tough time not wanting to build an exact reproduction of Taliesin 1. Why? I simply would like to have walked through it, and if I could afford to do so, I just might.
Realistically, I would like to think that I would put such effort ($$$) into any number of threatened structures Frank has left us, with enough left over to design my own masterpiece!
1. Nobody claims that these posthumous, archival buildings are authentic Wright, so not much interest attaches to pointing out that they aren't.
2. If the clients rejected the design immedately, Wright presumably never produced working drawings, and Massaro couldn't build from them if he wanted to.
3. If perfect fidelity to the drawings were a requirement for calling a building Wright's, probably nothing, not even his own homes, would qualify.
4. Storrer counts numerous unsupervised bootlegs, prefabs and the like (including that Corwin house in Racine) as authentic. Even if he's right about Massaro, he isn't consistent with himself.
Massoro should just stick to "inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright". That seems accurate enough.Bob Ivry wrote:....The purists argue that any deviation from what the master architect intended means Massaro can't call his home a true Frank Lloyd Wright creation. And since Massaro is working from sketches, not blueprints, his project can't be legitimate. ....
I do not necessarily always agree with Bill Storer, however this time I do agree. Even if the building were "inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright", it is still a mediocre work of architecture. Being "inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright" does not make a mediocre work of architecture anything more than mediocre. Compare the scale, composition, detail, processional experience, and overall aesthetic of Massoro to the Yodoko Guest House. The Yodoko Guest House wins hands down as being a far better work of architecture.
The problem with having a dead architect, even a great one, is that they do not have a very high energy level.outside in wrote:... I only wish that the owner had retained a good LIVING architect to construct a home more fitting for our time. ...
I could not not agree more with the above quote. The results could have been so much better.
I especially like outside in's take on the subject. And what could be entirely bad about a combination of self-indulgence, nostalgia, and tribute ?
It IS too bad that the result couldn't have been better -- but I sometimes think it's a miracle that any truly good building is ever accomplished. . .
While no new structure can be built with Wright's ongoing input, there is still much credibility to those who build structures posthumously that he designed. After all, Wright did conceive of and design these houses. Thus, they are deserving of some pedigree. If care is taken to sight the house in a manner consistent with Wright's intention, their argument of authentcity is that much stronger. Massaro and the Blue Sky Masoleum are good examples. The "purist" argument would be much more credible had Wright not recycled many of his designs for later use.
Let us not forget that the Lykes House, considered authentic by Storrer and others, was derived from sketches Wright made mere weeks before he died. It was built nine years later with John Rattenbury acting as the architect. It thus had the blessing of Taliesin, but other than that, what is the difference between that and the Massaro House? Wright would have had to deal with the modern building codes and he would have taken advantage of modern technologies in his houses. (My personal theory is that he would have made great use of granite and sliding glass door walls).
If we are on the subject of declaring what is and what isn't authenitc, using Wright's supervisory availabilty as a chief criteria, are we to then eliminate works that have been modifed by their owners to the point that they are mere shells of the original? Why not? They are not now as Wright had designed them. The Michigan cottages and Pieper houses come to mind in that regard. Also note the Ennis House, which was not finished to Wright's satisfaction. Even the two Taliesins bear many modifications that Wright did not supervise. I myself have seen some Wright homes that, due to unsympathetic remodeling, have had at least some of the genius sucked out of them.
There are simply too many variables to give a plain "yes" or "no" as to whether something is authentic or not. There are several shades of "yes" or "no" for these structures. I would therefore propose a scale of authenticity. For instance, a Level One would be building designed and constructed under the direct supervision of Wright (Johnson Wax, Jacobs I), Level Two would be step down from that, and so on. The academic yahoos can figure out the details.
Can it be salvaged from the destructive detailing that has been done? I believe that it can, giving Massaro a home that he can truely be proud of, and we can look at without squinting, trying to find the beautiful form that it has hidden.
Doug Kottom, Battle Lake
In particular the last two photos taken from a substantial distance in the lake. From the perspective of these photos, the masonry and fascia details cannot be seen and the house can be viewed as a form in the greater landscape. Our tendency as architects and fans of Wright's work is often focused on the details that make up a work of architecture as much as the work itself in a larger context.
The Massaro house masonry pattern/texture/rock protrusion and fascia relief depth have dominated the discussion thus far, but what about the basic form and it's relation to the island, the lake, and the shore beyond? The house as built follows Wright's plan, sections, and elevations closely enough, that at a distance of 600 yards the house, as it exists, is in effect what one would see if construction was being completed in the 1950's. Most of us will never see the house in person, and if we do, it would likely be from a great distance as the house is private.
What are our thoughts of the form and its place in the setting? Layman newspaper reporters are quick to latch on to the superficial similarities to Fallingwater, but is it really comparable? Was it potentially one of Wright's best?
IMHO, I think it compares to Fallingwater only in that it is a reinforced concrete structure cantilevered over a body of water. From the Monographs, I found this house to be interesting and even artful in plan but, far less so in elevation. Its built presence only confirms that for me. It has a static quality not unlike the Lowell Walter boathouse and lacks the dynamic thrust and flight of Fallingwater, Sturges and even Pew. The great expanse of water of the lake is hard to challenge even with a house of this size; Fallingwater at once dominated and blended with its setting due to the scale of the house with respect to the size of the falls and the glen. The Massaro house's gesture toward the lake seems anemic when viewed at a distance like a dock at low tide (excuse me while I cross myself), and I wonder why an anchored but open salon concept employed at the Mrs. Clinton Walker house in Carmel was not proposed at this rocky point on a body of water.
It may be better to appreciate this, or any other FLLW design, on its own merits. It should not be compared to Fallingwater at all. It is a new site and a clean sheet of paper for FLLW. I agree with DRN that the elevations in the Monographs, as well as the limited exterior photos, do not have a dynamic quality. But the perspectives are another story. If this house had been detailed properly, we may see that quality in person or in photography that is better than these snapshots.
The Walker house in Carmel is a great FLLW design, perfect in every way. (Interesting that it was also designed originally in desert masonry.) The concept may also work on the Massaro site. But what if this concept was enlarged to meet the Chahroudi program. Wouldn't it overwhelm the features of the site? And could the stone features of the site be incorporated into the structure to become a part of the spatial experience? This was an opportunity for Wright to extend the living spaces out over the water, from deep in the stones out into the air. Another unique Wrightian response to a ruggedly beautiful site.
Doug Kottom, Battle Lake
In order to follow building codes, Massaro said, he had to add 4 inches of Styrofoam insulation inside the support posts, making it impossible to embed the odd-shaped granite stones he harvested from the island and still keep the house from collapsing.
``Frank would have changed this,'' Massaro said. ``He would have had to.''
Masarro may in fact be right, that a change was required here, and that the architect of record would assuredly have made such a change. What, I think, is bothering many of us is the sense that if Wright would have found it necessary to make a change, he sure the heck wouldn't have chosen to have the rocks protrude from the surface. Maybe he would have abandoned the rubble stone entirely for another solution (in that way, devotion to the master's plan might be exactly the wrong thing).
The trouble is, we have no way of knowing. It seems easier to make the case that Wright would have been required to make a change on this point or that point--but then what? What would the change have been? And given Wright's fondness for trying new things, would the change Wright would have proposed on Monday been the same change that Wright would have proposed on Wednesday? It's all speculation and educated guesswork. It's like a student essay on electricity that begins with the observation that Benjamin Franklin would have been shocked to see what became of his invention. Well, duh. Of course he would have--but what would his next reaction have been?
I'm glad the house is being built. It seems to me that given the foundation of the on-site rock, and the unique properties of the site, that this is definitely a Wright project that deserved the attempt. However, I think the decision regarding the appearance of the rubblestone is a mistake bordering on catastrophe--one that gives the whole thing the appearance of grand folly. And that's probably unfair to the intentions behind the project.
A Wright building? Of course not. Inspired by Wright? Yes, of course. A 1995 movie directed by Roland Joffe was "based on" a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne called "The Scarlet Letter." That didn't make the movie any less a dog's dinner.
St. Louis, MO