Usonian houses with a shed roof

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Education Professor
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Post by Education Professor »

dtc...I appreciate your observations about Dobkins.  It does sound similar to the Shavin experience as the compressed spaces of the entry/gallery do indeed guide one gently and curiously toward spaciousness. I recall Mrs. Shavin's sister commenting that the house looked like a bird that was going to soar up and over Missionary Ridge. I thought it was interesting that she observed the house as being "of" the hill rather than on top of it.
 

dkottum
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Post by dkottum »

Referring to the question of why FLLW would use a shed roof on the Usonian house.

We have such a house of our own design under construction here as time, funds, and health permits. One of the great qualities of this roof is the magnificent views of the sky over the earth line, the many changes witnessed from sunrise to sunset, the stars and the moon when the room lighting is low, and the thunderstorms lighting the sky at night. Quite dramatic for sure and only the tall window wall allows such a complete view.

I would not claim Wright had this in mind when he opened up the space with this type of roof, but with his constant observation of nature to influence his architecture, I would imagine he was aware of it.

doug k

dtc
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Post by dtc »

In my first post on this topic I stated only the Wescott house in Ohio did not have a flat roof. I totally forgot that the Boswell house was also a building without a flat roof. along with the Meyers Medical Clinic.

Education Professor
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Post by Education Professor »

I wonder why the hip roof was used for designs such as Palmer and Reisley and the shed roof for designs like Dobkins? I believe the Serlin house in Usonia has a shed roof. Is its view more dramatic than the one at Reisley? Any insights?

On a related note, I've found it interesting that Mr. & Mrs. Lovness built a modified version of the Peterson cottage with the shed roof instead of the other cottage designs presented to them: one was a 30/60 design with a hip roof and the other two designs had the same flat roof as the main house. Perhaps they used the shed roof design to capture the view of the lake.

EP

dtc
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Post by dtc »

You are correct again Education Professor.

A number of years ago my wife Dianne and I visited Virginia Lovness.
I remember her telling us about the view they wanted and a view they do have.
She and Don felt that a flat roofed cottage would be very much like what they aready had in the way of the main (studio) house.

The redo of the Seth Peterson cottage in Stillwater is the better of the two.
Built in cabinetry which works very well for displaying all of their artifacts.
The Seth Peterson interior seems bare, almost naked when compared to the Lovness interior. Plus the second floor loft is an added intimate attraction.

We arrived promptly at 10 am and remember saying our good byes late afternoon for we needed to return to the hotel and dress for an evening wedding at 6pm.

Virginia is a real dear. It was one of our best usonian tours ever.

It was special having refreshments on the cottage terrace and listening to Virginia retell the stories about building both houses. A treat indeed. And she even showed us her basement of the cottage. Yet another space for her collections.

BBuck
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Post by BBuck »

I'm enjoying this discussion and thank dtc for his excellent visual description of Dobkins and the dynamics that are at every turn. My visit there is still etched in my mind and will never be forgotten.

There is so much going on in that space, it's impossible to imagine. As far as the landscape, I suspect that Wright anticipated how it would grow and change through the years. Seeing many old photos of some of the Usonians, during construction and soon after completion, clearly illustrates this. It's nature that is front and center.

-BBuck

Laurie Virr
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Post by Laurie Virr »

Compare two of the finest Usonians, The William and Mary Palmer, and the John and Syd Dobkins houses.

The first is on a site that I would describe as ‘brooding’. I hasten to add that I am not aware whether that environment was existing at the time the house was designed, or if it was created, or enhanced, by Mary Palmer, whom I understand was a keen gardener.

The second site feels bright and open, the presence of the Pin Oaks intensifying that sensation, rather than diminishing it.

The platforms for the Palmer house are cut deeply into the hillside, as is witnessed by the fact that grade is just beneath the height of the sill in the area of the study, whilst the hip roof is pulled down, like a hat over the eyes. Above the living room, the hip cantilevers more than 7.6 meters, and is without frets. The house is a cave, albeit one that is beautifully constructed.

The Dobkins house is sited so that far less excavation was required than at Ann Arbor, and the platform is a single level thru’out the house. In the area of the main bedroom, grade is just below the sill, but the windows have a greater height than those of the study at the Palmer house. The hip roof over the bedroom wing gratifies the sense of shelter, but without evoking the enclosure felt at the Michigan house.

Moving from the entry into the shed roof sheltered living room is a truly joyful experience during the daylight hours: the light pours into the space, and the inside and outside of the house are one. As night falls, the room appears to adopt a different vertical scale, more appropriate for activities that often involve occupants sitting.

These are two glorious houses, designed by an architect with enormous experience, and at the height of his powers, despite his age. Are they so different as a consequence of FLLW’s assessments of the personalities of the individual clients? Were the briefs he received markedly dissimilar? What of the budgets? I doubt we shall ever be in possession of the answers to these queries.

dtc
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Post by dtc »

Laurie,

I must say that your observations and thoughts about the Palmer and Dobkins houses are accurately expressed. You have experienced their spaces from time to time and can make objective comments based on being in the spaces rather than relating to the houses by viewing two dimensional images. Pictures do not express spaces truthfully. Only by spending time in a space, and participating in daily house hold activities do we start to understand and experience what Wright had in mind for his clients.
It has been 14 years that I've been fortunate to be the steward of Dobkins and in that time it (the house) has been revealing itself to us. In many aspects slowly.
Like all fine art one does not really hear a piece of music on first listening. Or see a painting on first viewing...it takes time. That is the real pleasure and joy...reading a classic that you have read numerous times before, and coming away with a fuller and richer experience.

Education Professor
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Post by Education Professor »

dtc, thank you for sharing about experience with Ms. Lovness and for the info about their cottage....what a wonderful visit it must have been. The craftsmanship and attention to detail look outstanding from the photos I've reviewed. The loft does indeed seem to be a very "cozy" space.

BBuck, I agree that Mr. Wright seemed to be able to anticipate how the landscape would change over time and thus designed his houses to "grow" with or accomodate these changes. He was truly a visionary in so many ways.

Laurie, your insights and attention to detail are first-rate as always. I've never thought about it before, but "brooding" is an apt description for the Palmer house. It fits seamlessly into the site and provides a wonderful sense of shelter. Your description of the Dobkins house, "bright and open", seems right on target from the photos I've reviewed. In some ways, your description of Dobkins reminds me of my experience at the Shavin house. Perhaps you are right that Mr. Wright combined the design with the personalities of the clients along with the site requirements.....with a "wink and a nod" style of attention to the budgetary parameters. Have any of your projects lent themselves toward the use of the shed roof?

EP

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Complicating the analysis of Palmer is the fact that, per Mary's request, the orientation was changed 90 degrees during the design process. See "Wrightscapes, Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs" by Ch. & Berdeana Aguar, pp 298-302 (site plans pp 300, 301). Originally the "prow" of the living room was oriented SSE; as built, it faces ENE. The orientation had more to do with the relationship of the house to the curvature of the land and access to gardens than sun penetration into the house. If located as originally planned, I suspect there would not have been enough room for the Tea House. There are discrepancies between the Aguar book and Grant Hildebrand's book as to the exact location of the drive. Perhaps someone more familiar with the neighborhood can tell if the drive is directly off the north/south stretch of Orchard Hills Drive (GH, pg 11) or around the corner as it turns toward ENE (Aguar)? It also appears that Palmers may have added on to their property; Hildebrand's lot is considerably larger than Aguar's.

Although the property was already hilly and verdant, both Mary and William cultivated extensive gardens over the years.

Tom
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Post by Tom »

I really like this aspect of the Dobkins house:


http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Au1bdLZBaaA/T ... mer+10.JPG
Last edited by Tom on Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:24 am, edited 2 times in total.

Tom
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Post by Tom »

What I find curious about the Dobkins shed roof is the dead space where the rise of the shed meets the fall of the hip. Seems uncharacteristic of Wright to let that pass.
Curious about the detail through the mullions that support the shed. 'T' steel routed into the wood?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Hip ?

Tom
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Post by Tom »

Isn't the roof over the bedroom wing called a hipped roof? Where the shed roof meets the roof over the bedroom wing on the field side of the house, there is this "dead" space. It seems like some sort of dangling remainder that you don't find all that often in Wright's work.
For example, in the Willey house and the original studio at Taliesin he turned a similar situation into a famous clerestory window.

Tom
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Post by Tom »

Ahhh, you must be trying to tell me that the 'hip' only refers to the end of the roof where a regular gable is closed off, no? I think I was thinking that if a roof has a hipped end then the whole roof is a hipped roof or something like that. Bottom line: I don't know.

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