Did Wright "Rebuff" Eichler?

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Did Wright "Rebuff" Eichler?

Post by jay »

Watched this little film last night:

Starting at the 26:00 mark, the discussion turns to Eichler's time spent at the Bazett house. A couple minutes later, Daniel Liebermann claims that Eichler originally went to Wright to design the homes. He says that Wright rebuffed Eichler. Wondering if anyone has more information about that claim?

If true, that's one monumental "what if" to consider....But I find it hard believe Wright would've just flatly turned him away.

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Post by peterm »

Wright wanted to do it on his terms (Usonia), large lots, with site specific plans, but Joe Eichler wanted to do it more as repeatable tract housing.

He probably made the best decision. It might have ended up that only a handful would have been built.

The Eichler house that my parents rented for a couple of years when I was in high school, designed by A. Quincy Jones:
15 Ayala Ct, San Rafael, CA 94903

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Post by jay »

Surely Wright's preference was for Usonia/Broadacre vision, but wasn't he also making attempts at mass-scale housing in the post-war boom? Erdman prefabs and to some extent Usonian Automatics....?

In a totally hypothetical thought exercise, I wonder if the constraints of the tract-housing model would've produced an altogether new concept from Wright. In my view, his best work came when he was under constraint (probably an unpopular opinion), which was what the Usonian was initially born from.

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Post by SDR »

I think Peter has it right. Wright preferred at least the idea of designing for a specific client, and even if he occasionally turned to a rejected design and
presented it to a new "customer" -- more than once, in a few cases -- the resulting project was a one-off, unique to the (new) client and his site.

For whatever reason, Wright's few forays into community design, with multiple dwellings, did not result in streets of Wright-designed clones.
Usonia 2 in Lansing, Michigan, which produced the Goetsch-Winckler opus, was to have been a collection of eight houses, all of them different. The
several versions of the Suntop type, a pinwheel four-plex, produced only one example, not the four units originally projected, while the Cooperative
Farmsteads for Detroit was not built, eventually appearing as a single residence, elsewhere, for the Keys family.

Usonia in Pleasantville, New York, and the Galesburg and Parkwyn Village communities in Michigan, likewise produced several houses at each location,
again each of them a unique design.

In an earlier period, Wright made a series of related designs for Arthur L Richards, the American System-Built Homes project. It was a possibility that
multiple identical units might be built in a single location, but with the exception of four neighboring duplexes and two single-story houses constructed on
a single block in Milwaukee, this never happened.

I opine that Mr Wright had little enthusiasm for the mass market -- which isn't the same thing as wishing for all Americans to live in a finer home, one
designed by a finer architect -- himself. But when the opportunity to design a series of furniture pieces to be manufactured by the Henredon company
arose in his last decade, the architect delegated the task to his apprentices, a sure sign to me that he thought little enough of the thing.

The Erdman pre-fab designs, also in Wright's final decade, were perhaps the one example of something akin to the Eichler phenomenon. I leave it to you
to compare and contrast these two examples, for what that may suggest as to why Wright turned Eichler down -- assuming the estimable Liebermann is
to be believed.


Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Another possibility is that after the war, FLW was swamped with work. He could pick and choose whatever he liked.

The Usonian Communities are not comparable to Eichler, nor are the Cloverleaf efforts. The Detroit Project was a dramatic departure from the usual type of development, more in the nature of the suburban/rural Broadacre. Erdman was nearby Taliesin, while Eichler was half way across the country in a state which may not have had quite the allure it once had.

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Post by jay »

I didn't find anything else written about this claim, except for a blog post from Dave Weinstein (he was also interviewed in the film). He doubts that Eichler offered Wright the job, due to finances:
http://www.eichlernetwork.com/blog/dave ... -goes-live

I think we can all agree that developers deserve disdain, generally, but Eichler surely provided an example of how well-designed homes could be built on a mass-scale. They might not be purely customized and individualistic like Wright's Usonians, but it's worth noting that Eichler built 11,000 homes while Wright built 500 buildings over his career.

I guess there's no reason to play the "what if" game, as both men made excellent contributions to the (often bleak) world of residential design. But I do wonder if Wright and Eichler had worked together (even on a compromised Wrightian vision ala Erdman) would "modern" architecture have absorbed a more "organic" approach?

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Post by Matt »

I should read more about Eichler and how he worked with architects and builders. Some important lessons there.

He worked with A. Q. Jones (a UW Grad). What others were his go-to architects who could design for the mass market?

Wright was so into modules that I'm surprised he never developed a modular building system.

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Matt wrote:What others were his go-to architects who could design for the mass market?
Wikipedia: Joseph Eichler used well-known architects to design both the site plans and the homes themselves. He hired the respected architect and Wright disciple of sorts[7] Robert Anshen of Anshen & Allen to design the initial Eichlers, and the first prototypes were built in 1949.[8] In later years, Eichler built homes that were designed by other architects including by the San Francisco firm Claude Oakland & Associates and the Los Angeles firms of Jones & Emmons, A. Quincy Jones, and Raphael Soriano.
Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond

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