Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

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usonia
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:23 pm

Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by usonia »

I think one of the reasons is that in his day FLW scratch designed most of his components (roof, floor, wall systems, railings, etc.). They came from a single highly creative mind. Today most architects dream up their vision and then cherry pick the components from a catalog. This catalog of components often gives the original vision a generic look. For some architects this effect is very subtle, but for the majority it creates a sameness, a sort of “Frankenstein” look. The CAD systems these architects use have a multitude of menus that make it faster and easier for architects to design a building. These menus, of course, have all been culled and selected by someone else. And they will be used by thousands of other architects.
Last edited by usonia on Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

DRN
Posts: 3978
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by DRN »

Economics play into the situation as well. The cost of scratch building each and every component in a house is much higher now than it was pre-1960. Having had three pairs of operable and two pairs of stationery French doors made from scratch to replace the rotted originals, I can attest to why some people might be tempted to fudge it with factory made replacements.

I recall reading or hearing in an oral history Wright’s Senior Apprentice John Howe note that he switched to commercially available windows as time went on in the 1960’s and ‘70’s to keep construction costs at a point that clients could afford. It should be noted he often detailed his houses to accept readymade windows in continuous runs of individual units mounted between load bearing mullions, often alternating operable and fixed units.

EFayJones had many fine wood and metal details scratch made for his work. Lower labor costs in rural Arkansas in the late 20th century helped.

Currently, Steven Holl’s smaller scale projects feature exquisite cast, welded, or brazed metal details such as door hardware, plumbing, and light fixtures, as well as extensive millwork and tinted Venetian plaster. Bespoke design costs, but if it can be afforded, it is very often worth the price for the visual and experiential richness it provides.

usonia
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:23 pm

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by usonia »

You’re right, DRN, it is economically unfeasible to work today the way FLW did in his. It has become much more of a “business” and less an “art.” I have a theory that if FLW were starting out today he just might find his imagination, artistic genius, and intellect more exercised and satisfied as theatrical or motion picture production designer than as an architect.

SDR
Posts: 19608
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by SDR »

An interesting suggestion. But Wright said that an architect is someone who can not be anything else---implying (to me) that his calling is a motive not to be denied. He was no doubt speaking of himself, in the first instance. And even in his day, his work was out of the ordinary; it drew extraordinary clients who found a way in every case to see his design for their house realized---even at the expense of their own labor, expended if necessary over a period of years.

And even today, Wright's clients would be, like Mr Holl's, persons or entities who could afford the cost. Such clients are to be found in every age, surely ?

I don't believe this architect would have been satisfied with any other line of work, no matter how creative !

S

usonia
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:23 pm

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by usonia »

Hey SDR...

Yeah, you're probably right. FLW was nothing if not adapatable. Thanks to his mom, he was destined to be an architect practically from birth.

And frankly, with his skills, there's a lot of career paths he could have successfully taken.

SDR
Posts: 19608
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by SDR »

Yup. With his penchant for geometric shapes and right angles, he'd be perfect as a designer of IKEA flat-pack furniture or Lego "architectural" models. Maybe he would have a line of table-top goods and home accessories, decorated with pseudo stained-glass or jig-sawed design motifs . . .

S

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by Roderick Grant »

Keep in mind, that FLW used Anderson Windows in the Erdman houses. Given the talent, mass-produced items can be used adroitly.

SDR
Posts: 19608
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: Why no one designs houses like Frank Lloyd Wright today

Post by SDR »

The unequal lites in these Anderson sash at the LaFond residence (St Joseph, MI, 1960) bugged me from the moment I first saw them, in these photos. After puzzling over them for some years, I reluctantly concluded that they were the result of a dropped stitch somewhere in the design and detailing phase. A look at the elevation drawing shows that the intention was for equal-sized openings in the sash; the problem arose because of the choice, uncommon in a Wright design, to have the eave soffit rise with the pitch of the roof rather than being horizontal. The equally Wrightian preference for glass to rise to as close to the ceiling plane as possible, in conjunction with a lack of an elevation drawing showing the window wall unoccluded by the the eave, left the detailer with a difficult choice.

As the horizontal division of the chosen Anderson sash does not fall on a vertical unit line, it would seem to have been no sin to select a different sash, one that would rise to the ceiling with equal lites; the alternative, a (custom ?) sash with unequal lites, was selected, to accord with what appears on the (incomplete) elevation drawings. Compare the idealized south and circled end elevations with the photos:

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Image

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photos © Alan Weintraub

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