The first usonian

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PNB
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The first usonian

Post by PNB »

I just finished watching "Portrait of an Artist" that R. Grant recommended so highly. I was quite suprised to hear La Miniatura referred to as the first usonian house. I have never heard or seen this anywhere before. Jacobs 1 is often mentioned as the first and I have always thought of the Wiley house as the first. So which is it?

pharding
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Post by pharding »

There was a Usonian unbuilt design for a Kansas site that claims to be the first. I would not call La Miniatura a Usonian. Wiley is a great architectural work however I would hesitate to call it a Usonian.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

JimM
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Post by JimM »

Interesting; IMO, mostly by date, La Miniatura was an early and successful adaptation of an innovative building system for the middle class (upper middle class?). This "jewel" appears to have a formal grandiosity which is really masterful and deceptive scaling.

The first usonian? You could argue that, but I think it was more another particularly original idea from Wright, rather than the precursor to the steady stream of related family members that definitely followed Jacobs.

As a built work of modern zoned planning, even though vertically, it does fit the mold of the subsequent "wood" usonians in form, function and site specificity.

outside in
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Post by outside in »

No one seems to recognize it as such, but I think the first Usonian was R.M. Schindler's House in Los Angeles - 1924.

Michael Shuck
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The First Usonian

Post by Michael Shuck »

There is a lovely monograph by Pamela D. Kingsbury titled "Frank Lloyd Wright and Wichita: The First Usonian Design". She makes a rather bold case for the Hoult design as being the first Usonian (never built). She makes two interesting points in those pages: First, that the design of the "first" Usonian essentially follows, at least philosophically, the floorplan of the ground floor of the William Allen house. She is actually somewhat convincing. Second, she mentions John Sergeant's claims that the Hoult house was taken to working drawings and that Don Kalec "discovered" the first-plan sketch of the Jacobs House was traced from the Hoult House plan! Very provocative! She further emphasizes that Benjamin Dombar claimed that the working drawings of the Hoult House were "simply transferred" to the Jacobs House. There are four pages of lovely, color renderings as well in this monograph. For historical reasons alone, I found it an interesting read.

EJ
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Post by EJ »

Didn't Wright himself designate La Miniatura as the first Usonian?
"It all goes to show the danger of entrusting anything spiritual to the clergy" - FLLW, on the Chicago Theological Seminary's plans to tear down the Robie House in 1957

pharding
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Post by pharding »

outside in wrote:No one seems to recognize it as such, but I think the first Usonian was R.M. Schindler's House in Los Angeles - 1924.
It is a great architectural work built on the barest of budgets as duplex. Everything that FLW called a Usonian is extravagant in comparison. Not that Usonians are extravagant.

Personally I believe the Willey House to be the progenitor of the Usonian Houses.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

JimM
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Re: The First Usonian

Post by JimM »

Michael Shuck wrote:She makes a rather bold case for the Hoult design as being the first Usonian (never built).
No doubt about that theoretically, but IMO a built work trumps a project in importance.

Jacobs was the first opportuniy to see what was emerging as the ubiquitous Usonian, and the result was more refined than Hoult.

I agree with pharding; as a benchmark, Willey is pure Usonian (other than for the interior stucco walls), especially the evolved "workspace", open plan and gallery/bedroom wing.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Almost nothing -- in Wright, at least -- seems to spring full-blown, without any precedents. But even if Wright had once, somewhere, referred to any of the LA work as "pre-Usonian," I can't really buy it.

I'm still waiting for the definitive. . .definition of Usonian. Which of the later houses should be included, and which excluded ? (I can wait; don't all put your hands up at once !)

Outside of Wright's own work, I like the Kings Road house of Schindler as a prototype -- and in 1922 it was certainly ahead of Wright's own work in that regard: concrete floor slab, masonry masses, and a light "fabric" of wood and glass (and actual fabric, in the large sliding exterior doors), clerestories, cantilevered canopies and all. The "closed back and open front" (if front means the garden side) is the prototype of much modernist residential work, not just Wright's. . .

I just came across Irving Gill (another satellite in Wright's circle; they worked in Sullivan's office together, and Lloyd Wright later worked for him) in Esther McCoy's Five California Architects, where he is quoted on concrete floors: "If half the thought and time and money had been expended on perfecting the concrete floor that has been spent on developing wood from the rough board sidewalk to fine parquet flooring, everybody would want concrete. To overcome the popular prejudice against concrete floors is the business of the architect." (Sunset Magazine, 1915)

SDR

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Too much importance is given to words that FLW used, such as "Organic" or "Usonian." He once said that had he to do over again, he would have chosen "Bionic" instead of "Organic." It was more PR than anything. It would be interesting to be able to define just what is Usonian and what is not, when it began and when or if it ended, but I doubt there will ever be a consensus on the subject.
As to precedents, Hardy is clearly the precedent for La Min. If you take the bedrooms of Hardy and fold them back into a separate stack behind the living/dining tower, and redefine the materials, you have, in essence, La Min.

karnut
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Post by karnut »

Yes SDR, Schindler, Was also ahead of Mr. wright on a few other things.It is great to see the homes he built on such low budgets.Also I have not read where he went over budget..

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Well, he built most of his stuff himself (in the position of supervisor of construction, that is) so he had a lot of control.

By the mid-thirties he was doing houses that looked ahead to the forms of the post-war period.

There is no doubt, of course, that he was excited by what Wright had done and was doing when they were together. (A few of his houses pick up a Wrightian detail, the muntined casement window with a doubled order of muntins running up one side.) No doubt the spacial intricacy of Wright's work had a positive effect on Schindler's thinking. What they had in common was a desire to think and build differently from the norm, using the latest materials and inventing their own systems, including the module (RMS favored a 16" vertical module for quite a while).

SDR

karnut
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Post by karnut »

Amen for control over your own work.Also in some ways I have more of a feel for Schindlers homes than Mr. Wrights. Iam sure some people here will think it"s just the trailer park in me. 8)

RJH
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Post by RJH »

Wasn't the very first Usonian before Wichita designed for N. or S. Dakota?

I was reading the Monograph Vol. 7 and BBF in the Forward states, “Jacobs I was the first Usonian.�

Wiley is proto-Usonian. Similar as how Storrer mentioned “Davenport is proto-Prairie.�

Schindler and the term Usonain shouldn’t even be used in the same sentence.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Image RMS 1922

Image FLLW 1957

Image

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