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1938 Life 'Dream House' question

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 11:56 am
by DavidC
I saw a link over at The Frank Lloyd Wright Newsblog to a short article about Wright's 1938 'Dream House' for Life magazine.


Given that this home design was made for publishing (and distribution) in Life magazine, would the whole of it then be considered to be part of the 'public domain' (and therefore fully accessible) - as opposed to the 'private' designs so closely guarded by the Foundation?


David

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:01 pm
by SDR
Great question. It would depend upon the content of the article and its illustrations, wouldn't it; if copyright or other restriction is claimed in text or captions, then that would prevail. Again, there is a question whether anything other than words, names and images are in fact protected. . .

SDR

1938 Life House

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:25 am
by John
Don't forget that that house was actually built, in Two Rivers, WI. I'm guessing that Taliesen wouldn't look on anything built as "public."

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:17 am
by Paul Ringstrom
I had the privilege of staying at that wonderful house in Two Rivers, WI over this past Christmas. They not only had copies of the Life Magazine article and the original blueprints available for study. The thing that I found most interesting was that the floor plan of the "as built" house differed in many aspects from either of those drawings, albeit in minor ways.

This is the thing that many people don't understand that on most houses the final "as built" design is not 100% "as designed" even in Wright houses. Problems arise during construction, revisions are made, things happen. What looks good on paper sometimes is found to be impractical upon execution, etc.

An interesting story regarding this house is that Edgar Tafel was the apprentice supervising construction and when the wall containing the long row of clerestory windows was being built it became necessary to insert some steel that was not on the plans in order to get it to work. Edgar did what was necessary to get the house built, without informing Wright of this change. When a subsequent house was built (supervised by a different apprentice) with the same structural details it collapsed and Edgar was found out. Another example of "as-built" vs. "as-designed."

1938 Life Dream House

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:05 pm
by Wrightgeek
To follow up on Paul's post, wasn't this added structural steel in the Schwartz house the cause of Edgar Tafel's short-term firing by FLW? I thought that I may have read or heard that somewhere along the line, but I'm not positive that it was this project or another.

Also, I believe that the Schwartz Residence may have been the very first FLW project phtographed by Pedro Guerero on behalf of Wright.

Any confirmations or corrections are welcome. Thanks.

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:55 pm
by SDR
The answers should be found in Tafel's book, and Guerrero's. I'll report back if someone doesn't get there first.

SDR

Re: 1938 Life House

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:04 pm
by DavidC
John wrote:Don't forget that that house was actually built, in Two Rivers, WI. I'm guessing that Taliesen wouldn't look on anything built as "public."

My original question relates more to the "public nature" of the Life plans, themselves (which would, of course, pre-date the house itself), as opposed to whether the design happened to be built or not. Were the plans copyrighted and protected at the time of publication? Or were they designed purely for public consumption as part of the magazine's "competition", thereby leaving them open for general usage?


David

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:18 pm
by SDR
Good question. A close reading of the relevant issue of Life would answer the question ?

SDR

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:29 pm
by DavidC
I guess it may or may not - given that the magazine's concerns (and possibly FLW's as it relates to the Life competition) back in the 30's may not have been to try and "cover all legal bases".

But, be that as it may, having the relevant issue in-hand is a good idea. And to that end, I've an eBay search saved for this particular one. At some point I'll most likely pull the trigger, buy one and let you know what it does (or doesn't) say.


David

1938 Life House

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:27 pm
by John
I've got at least a couple of those LIFE issues.
To quote: "The cover and entire contents of LIFE are fully protected by copyrights........" Don't see any additional copyrights by Wright on the plans.

In reply to Paul's comments, the as-built house is on a relatively flat space whereas the original design was for the top of a (small) hill for one thing.
That spot happens to contain a white clapboard house very similar to the one in LIFE. The "winning" design was built several miles away, in Edina, on a rather more expansive piece of land next to a creek.

Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:32 am
by SDR
Thanks, John. So, any protection by Taliesin of the Life House would have been applied subsequent to its publication in the magazine.

SDR

Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:51 am
by DRN
The Life mag in question makes reference to the houses also being published in an issue of Architectural Forum (another Time/Life Henry Luce publication) about a month later, to enable architects to review and become familiar with the designs. Life magazine was encouraging its readers to go to local architects, magazine in hand, and say, "I want this." The scenario implied by the magazine in 1938, as I saw it, was that these houses were to be prototypes for typical American families of various economic means.

I also liked Edward Durell Stone's house for the lower income family.

I have the Life mag, now if only I could find the Arch Forum issue for sale...

Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 6:16 pm
by Roderick Grant
Another publication generated by the Life project was written about the work of FLW and Royal Barry Wills, architect of the submission that was chosen by the Blackbourns over Wright's design. This book is so obscure, it isn't even listed in Bob Sweeney's bibliography. Wills, a Wright contemporary, was a fine designer of colonial styled houses.

Posted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:21 am
by DavidC
DRN wrote:The Life mag in question makes reference to the houses also being published in an issue of Architectural Forum (another Time/Life Henry Luce publication) about a month later, to enable architects to review and become familiar with the designs. Life magazine was encouraging its readers to go to local architects, magazine in hand, and say, "I want this." The scenario implied by the magazine in 1938, as I saw it, was that these houses were to be prototypes for typical American families of various economic means.

Well, I finally picked up a copy of the magazine. It says (pg. 45) that "...Life went to eight of the most distinguished architects and commissioned them (my bold) to design the nearest thing to each family's "dream house" that it could afford to build."

This would lead me to believe that Life retained some sort of right as far as publication and re-usage of the plans might go.


On pg. 66 is the following: "Department stores and builders, authorized to use Life's plans (my bold), are co-operating in the construction and furnishing of one or more Life houses."

This would lead me to believe that Life did maintain tight control over any usage.


And on pg. 4 is the following: "...By all means talk to your architect, builder and realtor about these LIFE HOUSES.....For them (bold mine; italicised in the original), full and complete technical data on these LIFE HOUSES will be published in THE ARCHITECTURAL FORUM's special LIFE HOUSE ISSUE."

This would lead me to believe that usage is controlled by Life, possibly through some sort of agreement that may be mentioned in the Architectural Forum "Life House" issue that is referenced. Time for more detective work, I guess.

Now it's on to try and locate an (affordable?) issue of this particular Architectural Forum.


David

Tafel & the Schwartz house

Posted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 1:03 pm
by SpringGreen
wasn't this added structural steel in the Schwartz house the cause of Edgar Tafel's short-term firing by FLW?
I saw him talk about this in 2004. He said that after FLW found out about the steel in the Schwartz house, FLW was very angry at him, and seemed ready to kick him out. When FLW left the room, Tafel spoke to OLW and said that (as I recall) if he hadn’t used steel, it would have caused the building to collapse, and did Wright want to be known for that, since he was in a constant battle over his ideas anyway?

Obviously, OLW agreed because when FLW returned to the room, she told her husband, who agreed not to kick him out (what they did with the Life magazine designs after that, I don’t know).