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SWSinDC
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Location: St. Joseph, MI

Topic for Discussion

Post by SWSinDC »

Let's say that you have finally cracked from seeing one too many cul-de-sacs of tightly-bunched McMansion-esque houses, you have a goodly sum of money to throw around, and you want to challenge the status quo with a competitive development of homes based on the Usonian ideal (put aside for now whether "Usonian" and "development" are contradictory).

Taking into account such factors as the cost of development, the affordability of finished homes, how complex the plans could be without scaring away competent builders, and how Usonian the homes could be without scaring away the average buyer (and any other factors that concern you), which ONE of Wright's built designs would be your basic model, and what would you expect to list it for?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Good topic. Before going further, would it be useful to consider the Prairie model in addition to the Usonian type. . .? Assuming that the average home-buyer is attracted to *something* about the Tuscan Villa McMansion, would it be easier to seduce him and her with examples of Wright's earlier work ?

How about a neighborhood with a mix of single and two-story designs, either all hip-roofed or flat-roofed or even (as a nod to some typical suburban neighborhoods, c 2008) a mix of Prairie hipped and Usonian flat-roofed types ?

But this may not accord with your vision. Please continue.

SDR

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

The first consideration would have to be to base decisions upon comparable surrounding developments: i.e. - lot sizes and prices, home sizes and prices, etc. These would be the initial determining parameters on what costs could go into the Usonian design(s) in hopes of getting a reasonable return on investment.

So, to begin to answer your question about which design to choose and what would it list for - more would need to be known up front about comparable surrounding land and home values, which are the biggest determinants in what buyers would be willing to pay.


Perhaps if you started with an average figure - say $1,000,000 - you could better try and 'reverse economically engineer' a Usonian that could be built for that amount. But my guess is that square-footage-wise it wouldn't come close to what the McMansion's would have, thereby making the Usonians less desirable to market and sell in comparison. Sad, but true.


David
Last edited by DavidC on Sun Jan 20, 2008 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

Most residential contractors are slowing down. In the right location now would be a great time to do a well designed and well detailed architect designed house that is tailored to your lifestyle.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Good point, Paul.

There's no doubt that Dryvit over Styrofoam, and Sheetrock, cost less than brick and cypress. The price of a Usonian comes down if material substitutions are made; I'd be curious to know by how much. . .

My earlier suggestion was based in part on the impression I have that a Prairie design could be approximated for somewhat less per foot than a Usonian, given the difference in material usage.

SDR

Deke
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Post by Deke »

FLW's preference for large lots in the country might make a Prairie or Usonian plans difficult to adapt to a traditional suburban block. Perhaps a better source would be a two or three System-Built designs - pre-fabricate - and repeated around a central common-park area (akin to the Lexington Square Apartment scheme.)

Deke

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I'm not sure that Mr Wright's preference for the ideal site need necessarily restrict the present-day builder, to the extent of eliminating some designs altogether from consideraton -- but your idea has merit, nevertheless.

SDR

Eric Saed
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Post by Eric Saed »

I'm tired, but I love this subject.

FLLW designs that should be built:

Dr. Miller house (1942)

Dr. Arnold Jackson residence (1950)

Resurrect the Erdman Prefabs

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Huh -- I'm unable to illustrate the Drs Miller and Jackson projects. Anybody ?

SDR

RJH
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Post by RJH »

http://www.morganhouse.org/tours/2004Wright_large.jpg

Why can't a simple house like Hunt II be built today?
Last edited by RJH on Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:50 am, edited 2 times in total.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

No reason at all, that I know of. A superior sort of "traditional" family home, by today's standards, and I don't know why it would cost any more per foot than any other decent home being built today.

SDR

dkottum
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Location: Battle Lake, MN

A Usonian development

Post by dkottum »

In the wooded hills outside Battle Lake, the minimum lot size is 2 1/2 acres, ideal for this concept. I would choose Zimmerman as the basic model, because of its beautiful combination of materials, a rather timeless design, and its elegant spatial concept and scale. From these elements, a variety of homes may be designed, choosing a geometry relative to each particular site, and space relative to each individual Usonian family. That's my fantasy, but are there any Usonian families?

Doug Kottum, Battle Lake, MN

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Hmm -- I like that. Same vocabulary of forms, materials, and details, but each one an individual, based on site conditions and client needs ? A family of homes. Hard to believe that Wright wouldn't approve, based on everything we know. The Ladies Home Journal site plan, and the Suntop group, make that clear. . .

SDR

DRN
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Post by DRN »

If the current residential market was not in the tank...it might be a good time to consider marketing a model house ala the Hunt four-square. It is a very good universal American house that is not as stylistically alien or programmatically austere to the general public as a Usonian. Of the Usonians, I think the Erdman Prefabs (if they are considered Usonian) would probably have the best potential for development because their plans (closets, kitchens, baths) are more to the mainstream taste for size and appointments.

As much as I favor Wright's Usonians, I think they are still a bit beyond the public's grasp psychologically and financially. Every time my wife and I talk about our move to the Sweeton house (soon now), the conversation always slips into the other party saying "oh, only ONE bath?" or "oh, a GALLEY kitchen?"..I could go on. They don't get it. When the "low end" McMansions cost too much for the middle-middle class to heat and cool they might, but not yet.

The Usonian, as built by Wright, is not within the general public's financial grasp either. It is details are too precise and skilled labor intensive to be built for the mass market. I'm currently pricing homeowner's insurance for Sweeton. I want it insured for what it costs to replicate, not just its market value. I met with a historical restoration contractor familiar with modern architecture in general and Wright in particular for an appraisal...his view of Sweeton was that the CMU, concrete, and rough framing are not that expensive to replicate..the devil is in all the custom millwork and material costs for the windows,doors, mullions, plywood partitions, and cabinets. The cost to replicate is surprising for a 1500 sf house. You might say "well, those items could be substituted on a new Usonian with less expensive catalog items, and interior partitions could be studs and drywall...", those choices have been made by Taliesin Architects on a lot of their Legacies and Life houses much to this board's dissatisfaction.

The Usonian ideal is very relavant for production today if the public will embrace it, and if we as architects determine a new language, or "grammar" as Wright would call it, that is economical, sustainable, and captures that elegant order, rhythm, and human quality that Wright had that always seems just beyond our grasp. That's our challenge.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Well, I think you have it about right.

A lot of people, even those who are fans of modern design and of Wright's work, are just uneasy with a flat roof -- despite today's foolproof membrane technology, etc. So there's that to contend with.

Replacement value is the only true measure. Just because Jacobs I cost $5500 dollars or so in 1936 doesn't mean it wouldn't cost at least $800,000 to build today -- or is it more than a million ? My parents bought a 'thirties-built "Dutch colonial" foursquare in a New York suburb in 1947, for $12,000. Today, that property will fetch about $900,000. My dad would be amazed, no doubt. While real estate values and construction costs are not necessarily the same thing, the trend is certainly clear.

SDR

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