Long and low

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SDR
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Long and low

Post by SDR »

In "The Natural House" Wright speaks of the prevailing residential architecture -- Victorian, Edwardian, Queen Anne -- at the time he was starting to look around him. Then comes this paragraph:

"When I was 11 years old I was sent to a Wisconsin farm to learn how to really work. So all this I saw around me seemed affectation, nonsense, or profane. The first feeling was hunger for reality, for sincerity. A desire for simplicity that would yield a broader, deeper comfort was natural, too, to this first feeling. A growing idea of simplicity as organic, as I had been born into it and trained in it, was new as a quality of thought, able to strengthen and refresh the spirit in any circumstances. Organic simplicity might everywhere be seen producing significant character in the ruthless but harmonious order I was taught to call nature. I was more than familiar with it on the farm. All around me, I, or anyone for that matter, might see beauty in growing things and, by a little painstaking, learn how they grew to be "beautiful." None was ever insignificant. I loved the prairie by instinct as itself a great simplicity; the trees, flowers, and sky were thrilling by contrast. And I saw that a little of height on the prairie was enough to look like much more. Notice how every detail as to height becomes intensely significant and how breadths all fall short. Here was a tremendous spaciousness needlessly sacrificed, all cut up crosswise or lengthwise into 50-foot lots, or would you have 25 feet? Reduced to a money-matter, salesmanship kept on parceling out the ground, selling it with no restrictions. Everywhere, in a great new, free country, I could see only this mean tendency to tip cverything in the way of human occupation or habitation up edgewise instead of letting it lie comfortably flatwise with the ground where spaciousness was a virtue. Nor has this changed much since automobilization has made it no genuine economic issue at all but has made it a social crime to crowd in upon one another."

Did Wright speak earlier about the desire, so clearly seen in his work beginning with the Prairie houses, for the "long and low" ? The above words are the only ones I know from his hand, about this vital and intrinsic aspect of the work.



In today's newspaper appeared these manufacturers' photos of current automobiles.
The wish for the cars to appear long and low is revealed in the intentional distortion of
the photographs, evident and obvious in the wheels, which are measurably elliptical
rather than round.

Image
Image
Image

This trick dates to the nineteen-fifties (when car customizers were actively pursuing in
the flesh what the advertisers were imagining on the page) and seems to have been
revived recently.

My question is: What is the attraction of objects like houses and cars in which the height
is suppressed and the length exaggerated ? Is this a twentieth-century phenomenon,
and if so was Frank Lloyd Wright a pioneer of this vision ?

SDR

jlesshafft
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Post by jlesshafft »

long and low = sleek and sensuous

it's a s*e*x thing...

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Image

Image

You mean, like a person lying down ? I don't mean to sound naive -- because I agree with you -- but what does low and sleek have to do with erotic, exactly ?

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

It is repose (FLW uses the word), the comfort of body spread over the bed, the assurance of no distance to fall...the joy of the reclining gesture, body at rest.

Like the bodies in the (new age foam) mattress commercials, the lay of the mattress and body are one. When the structure grows organically over the ground contours it burrows in becomes one with the ground mass.

Sensual without being confined to the curvaceous "stereotype *" body (be it car, toaster or woman). It is the universal sensuality of human flesh at repose, muscles relaxed.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Image
Labelled "Wood and plaster house, Highland Park, 1904"

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

So where did you find the "Wood and Plaster House, 1904" Taliesin Monographs? the Archives or is it someone else? Is some of the drawing quality lost in the internet reproduction? An extenuated cottage with unadorned retaining walls.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

This drawing appears in an Italian publication of 1981 which is the catalog of an exhibition (at the Palazzo Reale, Naples ?) of Wright drawings. The title is "Frank Lloyd Wright: Three quarters of a century of drawings." The exhibit was organized by the Institute of Architectural Analysis of the University of Naples; the publisher is Centro Di. There is an opening message (by cable) from Olgivanna and a forward by B B Pfeiffer.

My presentation is quite faithful to the reproduction in the book; it is enlarged here by perhaps 8% (the book measures 8 1/2" w x 9"h). The only identification given is as quoted.

H-R Hitchcock, "In the Nature of Materials," lists the following (p 114): 1904 Project: house, name unknown, HIghland Park, Ill.

SDR

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

Another project on Hitchcock's Chronological list is the John A. Mosher House, and the drawing is in the Monographs. Many of the items from that list came from the Chicago Architectural Club's exhibition of 1902. Anyway, you know all this. I am intrigued for two reasons. ONE: (I wonder is if this was an exhibited drawing, maybe same annual show 1907? The artist's choice to show unrealized projects in an exhibition is significant because an artist is a sharp self-critic and this drawing is not particularly exquisite.) But the IDEA is important. Client expectations and limitations often explain why a design remains unrealized. An exhibition offers the artist a venue for designs incomprehensible to clients but important to "the dialogue circle of artists". Without that venue, it is an artifact for conversation with a client, who must "buy" the idea or coffee break conversation with drafting table mates. The spread of this structure is the idea here– with many precursors to the Usonians: the roof of the portecochere supported with a small room.

The Mosher House is an example from an exhibition because a "version" of the design was built, unsupervised, in Wellington, Ohio. My reading of the FLW plan and the built structure: The building is an edited plan, essentially discarding the most of the distinctive features that Chicago clients (discerning ones, at least) could understand but not Wellington citizens. TWO:

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

Sorry- got pulled away.

The second reason for my interest is that Usonian thread...this 1904 house lies on the land in that confidant way Usonians use...the comfortable sprawl of barnyards.

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

Post by SDR »

Right -- despite the apparently far-from-flat site.

Interesting observations, certainly. I've pondered the same issues. Who knows why Pfeiffer selected this drawing. Maybe Olgivanna liked it ? (She is given credit as "supervising" BBP's editing of the extensive Wright chronology at the back of the book.)

I can imagine it, matted, in that early exhibition. The drawing might look better in reality; it's listed as "Pencil and brown ink on opaque paper." The size (despite the appearance of a full sheet here, with pencil note at the very bottom) is given as 12 1/2" x 17 1/8". There appear to be pin-holes in the upper corners; the file number has been placed above the notes on the left. Perhaps the sheet extends downward from the image as shown.

What is the date of Mosher ? (I have only Monographs 5 and 6.)

SDR

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

Mosher House, 1902
I don't know how to send images on wrightchat. Otherwise I'd give you the image. [/img]

SDR
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Post by SDR »

In the same section of "The Natural House" quoted above, Wright speaks of wanting to see the house sitting ON the (flat Prairie) ground, and mentions getting rid of the cellar and employing the water table and other architectural means to express this desired appearance. Perhaps it was only later that he saw the need to merge the house with the site ("out of the ground, into the light") as seen in the San Marcos and other western projects, and in certain Usonians where the brick-trimmed concrete mat steps up out of the grass and into the house. . .?

SDR

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

I suspect that the long horizontal line came from quite different sources. Wright himself said he got it from the midwestern landscape. Cars and other pieces of industrial design presumably got it from engineering considerations. By the 1930s, cars, trains and planes were going fast enough to make wind resistance an issue in speed and fuel efficiency, so designers started taking account of it. That's what "streamlined" originally meant. From there it worked its way down to toasters, staplers, flatware and Miami hotels.

One problem with the you-know-what [lest the Conservancy's software bowlderize me] explanation is that it doesn't account for why the look didn't come along until well into the 20th century.

I agree with SDR that the drawing is not an especially masterful siting job. It's a flat-lot house imposed on a slope with intrusive retaining walls. In an actual building, with stucco color against vegetation, this would be even more conspicuous. It's preferable to bulldozing the top of the slope off as many builders would do, but it doesn't show the mastery that came later, e.g. with Taliesin or La Miniatura.

jim
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Post by jim »

Regarding the rendering of "Wood and plaster house, Highland Park, 1904":

This illustration was also published as Plate 15 in "The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright", Arthur Drexler, Published by the New York Museum of Modern Art by Horizon Press, New York, copyright Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, 1962. Library of Congress Card Catalogue number 62-11236. (identifyng information says it is 12 1/2 " x 17 1/8 " pencil and brown ink on opaque paper. Taliesin catalogue number F 0501.01.)

This book was the catalogue for an exhibition, The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright, at MOMA from March 14, 1962 - May 6, 1962. The Introduction states that illustrations were selected by Arthur Drexler, Director of the Department of Architecture and Design at MOMA and Wilder Green, Assistant Director. They thank Mrs. FLlW for access to the Taliesin archives but there is no intimation she had any role in selection of images. It credits Wilder Green with final selection.

The Mosher House is also listed in "Complete List of Works by Frank Lloyd Wright" by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, an unillustrated list published in "Frank Lloyd Wright Architect", Robert McCanter, Phaidon Press, London, 1977. ISBN 07148 38543. It is identified as "Mosher. PR (project) # 0210. Residence.
Jim

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