Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

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juankbedoya
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Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by juankbedoya »

I hadn't realised that there is a recently instagram account of the Oscar Balch house. I see some work there with pipes and a sauna, etc, but the description says: "Sharing the transformation of the Oscar B. Balch house by Frank Lloyd Wright to a zero energy home". So do you know the current status of this amazing prairie house. Is it in a restoration or transformation? I just hope it is in good hands.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4qb2OjF11o/

Reidy
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by Reidy »

Balch had a major restoration (including retrofitting a steel beam running the length of the house) a few years ago. It's on next year's Wright Plus.

Tom
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by Tom »

Interesting, did not know of this house.
Wonder what's going on - on top of the roof?

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

The Instagram photos show alternative interior "storm window" treatments. It would be interesting to have our restoration architects' views on the matter.

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

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© 1987 A.D.A. EDITA Tokyo Co., Ltd.
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Text and photo (before c. 1978) © 1993 by William Allin Storrer

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Photo © 1987 by Yukio Futagawa

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Photo c. 2008 by Paul Ringstrom

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Photo 2008 © by Peter Gössel

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Drawings © The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Roderick Grant
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by Roderick Grant »

I wouldn't consider this house any more formal than the several other houses of the same type: Hickox, Henderson, Cheney, DD Martin, Stewart, etc. They are all variations on the LHJ "House for a Prairie Town."

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

Storrer's copy of the Wright plans takes care to show elements like the art glass ceiling fixtures; the moldings radiating from them, and running down the walls, evoke everything from orthogonal Art Nouveau to 21st-century circuit boards. They certainly could have functioned as---or hidden---wiring to the lights, though I suppose they do not.

The upper and lower floor plans echo each other more directly than is usual: the corridors are identically located, and the living room annex, reminiscent of those in several other Prairie houses, is here indispensable to the living room space, and is echoed in the bedroom above, part of the extraordinary arrangement of that floor.

Image

Plans © 1993 by W A Storrer

JimM
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by JimM »

The new color palette is attractive and reminiscent of Willits. Humor me regarding an observation regarding the piers flanking the living room and "Own (?) Room" above it, and plan, as pointed out by SDR... and an arguably mis-applied trim feature.
Whenever seeing a Wright "disappearing corner" I'm reminded of a lecture by H.Allen Brooks at Unity Temple, calling it the most important component of the interior. At Balch this feature is attempted on the exterior, and to my eye, the vertical trim pieces look proportionally too close at the corner-unless to only accentuate height was the intent, which Wright must have decided, if at the sake of a more pleasing disappearing corner.

Per the original elevation drawing, the short horizontal trim pieces extending from the second floor window sills and intersecting with each vertical trim were not installed. They would have pulled your eye away from the corner and towards the window groupings. The horizontal trim would have lessened the visual height which would have emphasized the disappearing corner more proportionately; a different way of achieving the effect at UT, yet visually more pleasing than what was done, IMO.

Although the "corner" is two stories in both cases, note that at UT the upper and lower horizontal trim meet at the corner with the vertical trim farther inward-again, accentuating the corner that "isn't there". At Balch, the opposite occurs. The original treatment shown on the elevation would have been different, yet again, just as successful as that at UT... indeed, as would have been the same treatment used at UT.

Regardless, at the risk of nitpicking and critiquing Wright, this detail is an important exterior element, and at issue may be the tiny tubes the piers become at the second floor level. The voids created where the doors access the balcony's seem to interrupt the exterior massing in turn making the exterior trim detailing problematic. This might have been at the root of Wright going back and forth about how to address this particular disappearing corner-that doesn't. Doubtful the original treatment was simply forgotten, yet can't help feel it was the wrong choice.... other than that, the house looks great!

juankbedoya
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by juankbedoya »

SDR wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:43 am
The Instagram photos show alternative interior "storm window" treatments. It would be interesting to have our restoration architects' views on the matter.
I see they are planning to install solar energy panels also... If they go on the roof, I don't know how it affects Balch house...

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

There's a potential problem: the street facade faces east; south, to which the panels would want to be at least somewhat inclined (wouldn't they ?), is obstructed on this flat roof, at its rear half, with an unusual rooftop stairhouse to the south.

A relatively restricted field of panels would fit behind the chimney where it would not be visible from the sidewalk, even if elevated on a frame to avoid shading from the stairhouse.

The stairhouse implies roof access. Why ? Was there a terrace, maybe behind the chimney ? Could the carbuncle, even though designed by Mr Wright, be dispensed with in favor of more solar panels ? The unfortunate necessity, perhaps specified by the client, is the only serious damage to the symmetry of the whole; could Wright possibly have wanted such a distraction ?

S

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

Storrer's comment about the hidden entrance is odd, considering that Robie, pre-Europe, has a very similar entrance route, as does Cheney and others---Gale, Brown, etc etc. Even the "Fireproof House for $5000" has its entry adjacent to the "back door."

And the line continues after Balch. Bach is an example . . .

S

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

Just realized I didn't post the interior photos from the Monograph. You can see the wandering paired wall and ceiling moldings, the large ceiling light fixtures in the dining room and library, and a prototypical Wright fireplace---the one design, if any, that we might find repeated in Wright's early work. Even here it is unique, surmounted by a mantel shelf like no other I can recall.

Image

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Roderick Grant
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by Roderick Grant »

As Google Maps reveals (rather roughly) there is indeed a terrace on the roof, behind and in front of the chimney. The "carbuncle," as FLW designed it, does not have windows on the east façade, however. Also of interest is the trellis-like extension on the rail of the east side of the roof terrace, which appears on the drawings, but was apparently either not built, or at some time in the past removed. Its addition is an improvement.

As to the formality of the house, it is indeed formal, but as I put it, "no more formal" than others of its ilk. Cheney, for instance, has two entrances that are identical, making its street façade completely symmetrical, which Balch is not.

Also noteworthy is the longitudinal section shown above: There is no mantle in the drawing. I suspect it was added by Balch, who was, after all, an inferior desecrater.

SDR
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Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by SDR »

I had forgotten the addition to the rear of the house, by Eifler & Associates. Interior photos seen here:

https://makingitlovely.com/2016/03/28/t ... -for-sale/

Those ceiling moldings, tying in to various verticals in the front rooms, are delightful. The pair of freestanding columns bracketing the living room alcove are noted as brick on the plans. The interior elevations reveal partial shelves or moldings---and wrap-around panels of some sort ?---to the fireplace.

Futagawa's black-and-white photos show the interiors as I imagine them, the dark moldings contrasting nicely with light-colored plaster. His exterior photo captures a rarity: Wright roofs "sagging upwards" for a change, smiling quietly like a Euro-Japanese Mona Lisa . . .

S

juankbedoya
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Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:30 am

Re: Oscar Balch house (status 2020)

Post by juankbedoya »

SDR wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:34 pm
Storrer's copy of the Wright plans takes care to show elements like the art glass ceiling fixtures; the moldings radiating from them, and running down the walls, evoke everything from orthogonal Art Nouveau to 21st-century circuit boards. They certainly could have functioned as---or hidden---wiring to the lights, though I suppose they do not.

The upper and lower floor plans echo each other more directly than is usual: the corridors are identically located, and the living room annex, reminiscent of those in several other Prairie houses, is here indispensable to the living room space, and is echoed in the bedroom above, part of the extraordinary arrangement of that floor.


Plans © 1993 by W A Storrer
wow... thanks again... that's amazing... I love to see the rigor that Wright had in the prairie period... I "discover" this house few months ago along with Mary Adams, Harry Adams, A P Johnson, Baldwin and William Martin houses. I love usonian houses but sometimes I fall in love with his prairie houses much more. I hope to see Balch house in his glory again.

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