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If we assume two givens:
1) that for Frank Lloyd Wright, the psychological and spiritual center of the home was the fireplace and hearth...
2) that our present situation (carbon emissions, global warming, diminishing renewable resources, etc.) requires that we expand or think beyond Wright's vision...
Then, what alternatives or corrections can or should be made, especially in new construction, to take into account these realities?
We could talk about increased efficiency, and/or establishing entirely new paradigms for creating a spiritual and psychological center within the home.
No emissions, no smoke, no lost heat up the chimney, very small use of natural resources.
Also, alas, no heat.
maybe a more japanese touch in the design of the houses could be the key...
this can be at least in the mild climate areas of the world...
to have the tv as a center of the living in the modern homes to me is not comfortable, modern and neither useful.
It is a difficult matter to even determine what is the counterpart to the hearth today: the back lit screens of our "entertainment" tools, the kitchen table, the garage door, or the living room slouch/couch, perhaps? I doubt there is a center of the home today for most houses.
A fire is more than heat; it is a visual, audio and tactile experience that can be shared as a meditative pause for groups or individuals.
The fire circle, for those of us with land, is a great attraction to friends without the opportunity to enjoy the activity elsewhere. We have often remarked that gathering around fire fosters a different, richer conversation. I suspect the reason fireplaces have disappeared or become the "sanitized" everlasting gas log has more to do with cultural lifestyle than building codes or environmental concerns.
So for those of us who need real fireplaces (at least here in the midwest) what advances have been, could be, made? spark collectors, catalytic converters, etc.
The fireplace is also the stylistic focal point of our home, and was one of the most significant features that convinced us to purchase this house. We would be hard-pressed to imagine living here without it.
The TV as the focal point, (I hate to think that anyone would think of it as the spiritual center of the house) has been in a fierce competition with the hearth since the early 1950s. Recent home designs include a "media room" or "home theater". At least in this case it assigns a special place where the flat screen rules and leaves the living area free for conversation, reading, etc. But the down side of this is that it increases the need for the extra square footage.
I liked Guanches take that perhaps nature itself becomes more central to core of the house.
I find Robert Winter's perspective on Coonley to be cynical.
Ironically, I don't think it is illegal to build or install a wood fired pizza oven in a new California house. An organically designed pizza oven as the psychological and spiritual center of the 21st century home?...
We actually are now beginning the research phase of the fireplace restoration at Lamberson. There is a hideous black and brass gas insert to be removed, but we will keep the gas line for options down the line. Then we will need to remove the extra brick facing which was added to make the opening smaller, and see what we discover underneath. Hopefully we will not be opening a can of worms, but simply peeling a layer to uncover the 1949 fireplace.
Then we will work on the draw of the fireplace, explore our options including any discreet modifications which might enhance energy efficiency, and we will reveal the "chakra" of the home...
But a fireplace does not stand alone in a organic house and lifestyle. The compact Usonian idea for a house, an efficient automobile, are much easier on the environment than their over-sized counterparts. And the Broadacre City concept should be explored, and not written off as mere foolishness, for it is the concentration of population, not the individual living habits of people, causing the unhealthy air of Los Angeles, or other cities.
The fireplace is part of a greater lifestyle.
I must respectfully disagree with your comment in regards to the automobile. Los Angeles has had the worst air pollution in the U.S. not from industry but primarily from automobiles commuting back and forth from their detached single family homes. Granted, with more decentralization, ala Broadacre City, there would be less driving, but the internal combustion engine is responsible for a huge amount of the destruction of our air quality.
I agree with you when you say small houses and efficient cars are easier on the environment.
It's interesting to note, there are some small efficient cars that emit exhaust that is cleaner than the air in a metro area.
I'm afraid that in my own home, the TV is the center. The fireplace is forlorn, with all the attention turned away. I for one, will never place the TV over the fireplace. For one thing, it makes it way too high. Like a bar. I blame home improvement shows for the trend. It used to be that taste and trend was done by magazines with editors with taste. Now taste is offered by reality TV producers. Alas!
But there is that problem when the tv is in the same room as the fireplace, then seating arrangements inevitably end up accommodating the winner of the battle, the TV!
We have no cable, and our tv, used only as a monitor for movies, is kept in a separate room.
And the average New Yorker living in his noisy city with high density and public transportation, pollutes the least of any American.
follow. Wright claims that the great log-burning fireplace he envisioned at the center of the home, was not a common thing at the end of the
nineteenth century in the suburban homes he was familiar with:
"The big fireplace in the house below became now.a place for a real fire. A real fireplace at that time was extraordinary . .There were mantels
instead. A mantel was a marble frame for a few coals in a grate. Or it was a piece of wooden furniture with tile stuck in it around the grate, the whole
set slam up against the plastered, papered wall. Insult to comfort. So the integral fireplace became an important part of the building itself in the
houses I was allowed to build out there on the prairie.
It comforted me to see the fire burning deep in the solid masonry of the house itself."
"BUILDING THE NEW HOUSE" (p 141 of the 1943 edition)
So, we have come full circle, to a day when the illusion of a fire on a hearth is deemed adequate -- again ?
A neo-Usonian home seen on these pages, based according to its owner on the Jacobs I opus, dispenses with a fireplace altogether and places a TV
on the end wall of the living room -- not on the central mass where the original design placed its fire.