A usonian house in Alsace, France

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Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2005 2:10 pm

A usonian house in Alsace, France

Post by axelito »

My wife is from Obernai, a little town close to Strasbourg (France).

I am a serious FLW enthousiast.

A couple weeks back, we were strolling in her parent's neighbourhood when we came upon this house. For a second I thought : "Oh my, FLW was here" :-)


After getting my pulse back down, I took my courage by both hands (as the saying goes in France) and I went to ring at the door bell.

A middle aged man came to the door. I ask him if he knew that his house was "very usonian". He vaguely did and in front of my general excitment, offered to give my wife and I a tour.

In talking, we realized that my wife and his wife were lon lost high school friends...

Anyway, this man is the 3rd owner of the house. The first owner had the house built by a Finish architect in the late 60s.

Not knowing much more, I proposed to look into it.

And actually, it brings up a larger question about FLW's influence in Europe. I know there is another usonian inspired house in Paris...

Does anyone know who the architecte of this house might be ?

If you have any information, please let me know and I will pass it on to my new friends.

Does anyone know of other "unmistakable" usonians in Europe ?

Thank you.


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

Post by SDR »

Thanks for this interesting example.

The picture does not by itself demonstrate an "unmistakable Usonian" as I see it. I see evidence of an exposed roof beam (?) above glass on the left; this would be alien to a Wright design, wouldn't it ?

There are certainly a great many flat-roofed twentieth-century residences throughout the developed world. To be classed as Usonian-inspired I would expect such a house to have a majority of these features: construction of masonry and wood on a module-scored concrete slab with integral heating; a flat roof of more than one plane, with some broad overhangs typically on the southern exposure and a finished underside at all points; a central chimney mass and some built-in seating in the main space; Wright's characteristic wood sash and door detail, with a flat rectangular glass stop projecting from the plane of the frame. . .

Is this what you encountered ? While Wright seems to have claimed (with at least some justification) to have influenced from the beginning all subsequent new architectural design, others arrived at their own reductive architecture independent of his example, and in the case of his mid-thirties "minimalist" (Usonian) houses, some others were doing superficially-similar work at or before the same time. Most of these examples would have failed to interest him, as insufficiently "organic" and/or "poetic."

Sverre Fehn is just one of many Scandinavian practitioners whose best work has a Wrightian cast (clean and fresh combinations of wood, brick and glass) but most of these constructions exhibit exposed structural elements, which Wright seems to prefer to be absorbed (his word) into the fabric of the whole, along with services and furnishings; a sort of streamlined mechanical utopia, clothed in ancient, tactile, naturally-colored material. This, I think, was his unique contribution to modernism.


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