Fran Lloyd Wright's hemicycle designs

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Laurie Virr
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:32 pm

Fran Lloyd Wright's hemicycle designs

Post by Laurie Virr »

In response to SDR’s comments below, taken from a previous topic, I propose to initiate a new thread.

'Come to think of it, the whole set of hemicycles should be studied as a group. There are more than a half-dozen of them, aren't there ?

Something tells me our colleague L Virr has probably devoted some time to the study of these houses . . . '

I have studied the hemicycles of Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff, Charles Montooth, Donald Reed Chandler, and John Randal McDonald.

It requires a particular breed of client from the Western world to accept a hemicycle, or any design incorporating circular elements. Frank Lloyd Wright was unable to persuade Max Hoffmann to embrace the idea. Furthermore, the number of hemicycle designs that remained as projects is high compared to those proposed and built.

Frank Lloyd Wright never succumbed to the practice of the others in making the partitions between spaces radians, at least in the living/dining/kitchen areas.

As one would expect, the Jacobs 2 house, being the first, was, as Roderick Grant suggests, rough. Budget considerations must have had a significant bearing on the choice of structure and materials. Moreover, the 2 story high living area made it difficult to exclude the sun entirely during significant periods of the year, as a consequence of the cantilevering capacity of the rafters. and hence the width of the eaves. Perhaps this effect was mitigated to a degree by the existence of the pool at the western end of the house. Breezes sweeping across it, and being drawn thru the living area prior to exhausting up the fireplace flue, may have been the intention. This approach to climate control would mirror that of the ablutions pool outside a mosque, combined with one of the functions of the minarets.

The E. L. Marting house [1947] was a more elaborate version of Jacobs 2, but it was not until the following year that Frank Lloyd Wright produced his masterpiece hemicycle, the Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent house.

In his houses designed on rectilinear and 60/30 modules he followed the dictum of Louis Henri Sullivan, and paid particular attention to the terminals of his buildings, but in my opinion, this was not always so with the hemicycles. In the case of the Laurent house everything was right.

I would suggest that the 60/30 module combines best with the hemicycle, but FLLW used it, to my knowledge, only in bedroom wings attached to the living/dining/kitchen areas in the John Rayward and Andrew Cooke houses.

Windhaven
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Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:10 am

Post by Windhaven »

Mr. Virr, just as an aside, where did you come across plans or pictures of John Randal McDonald's hemicycle designs? I was JRMcD's last apprentice and am always interested in other people's reactions to his work.

Laurie Virr
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:32 pm

Post by Laurie Virr »

Windhaven:

Thank you for your query.

To my limited knowledge John Randal McDonald designed only one hemicycle. You will find images of it on these 2 sites:

www.flickr.com/photos/googieagog/2846652192

pinterest.com/joestrom/favorite-places-spaces/

An apprenticeship with him must have been a great experience. He was a fine architect.

DRN
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

Laurie.
Your notes on the compatibility of the 30/60 module with the hemicycle are interesting. My understanding of the geometry of the Jacobs 2 type hemicycle versus the Laurent type, is that apart from the Laurent type's engaged terrace, the Laurent has a larger radius, yielding a shallower curve. Does this difference factor into the compatability of a module for one type versus the other?

The "prows" created by the intersection of the terrace wall and the house proper rear wall on the Laurent type houses have always brought to my mind equilateral triangles...the length of the radius of these two curves is very important to setting the resulting geometries of the intersections, the proportions of the rooms, and their ability to usable or daylighted. Wright seems to have found an optimal range in the proportion of the radii, or rather, the length and width of the resulting lozenge, in this type of plan.

I also found it interesting that Wright chose rectilinear mass elements to "anchor" the Laurent type plans, while he used circular secondary masses with the Jacobs 2 type...might the tightness of the curve be the driver of this design decision?

Windhaven
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Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:10 am

Post by Windhaven »

Mr. Virr, just an aside again, there are more JRMcD hemicycles. Unfortunately, some went unbuilt.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I find twelve built hemicycles in Storrer. I'll post the Storrer plans this evening.


SDR

Laurie Virr
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:32 pm

Post by Laurie Virr »

Dan:

Thank you for your contribution to this thread.

I have never been able to reconcile FLLW’s approach to the major and minor forms of the Jacobs 2 house. This was a low budget commission, for which the hemicycle made sense from the aspect of energy costs, but the circular forms of the kitchen and bathroom and their requisite cabinetry could not have been inexpensive. As for designing and fabricating a damper for a circular fireplace for what was to be low cost accommodation..................

The very nature of the brief for the Laurent house meant that it had to be on a single level, and that furnished the architect with advantages of vertical scale that were not available for buildings such as Jacobs 2, and the proposals for E. L. Marting, and Max Hoffmann. Even with the employment of balconies at the extremities of the second floors of the latter 2 projects, it proved difficult to connect the buildings with the earth line.

I hope it is not presumptuous for me to state that whilst the Laurent house is superb in every respect, many of the other hemicycles are disappointing, particularly at the terminals. Laurent has terminals, together with a solid mass at the center of the composition to anchor it, whereas many of the others do not display that rigor.

My reference to the compatibility of the 60/30 module results from my own experience in designing, and in the case of my own house, physically building hemicycles. I would suggest that the greater design flexibility afforded by the 60/30 module makes for a more harmonious integration with the hemicycle than do the employment of circular elements. If you wish, and subject to SDR’s kind offices, I will post a ground plan, so that you can judge for yourself.

FLLW’s use of this module for the Andrew Cooke and John Rayward houses does not integrate the bedroom wings with the hemicycle, the latter are just appendages, and read as such.

Education Professor
Posts: 594
Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:10 pm

Post by Education Professor »

Below is a starter list of FLLW hemicycles following a very quick "after-work" review of Storrer. I'm sure I missed a few..........

EP

Jacobs II
Meyer
Winn
Laurent
Pearce
Marden
L. Wright
Lewis
Cooke
Rayward
Spencer

BBuck
Posts: 225
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:48 pm
Location: Fort Worth

Post by BBuck »

Laurie,

We all would love to view the plan of your fine home! I've tried so hard to imagine it in my head from the few photos available and our visits. I wished we had been able to tour Jacobs II. I believe Wright's Laurent house to be the best true version of this concept. Please correct me if my limited knowledge shall prove me wrong.

Winn just does not make much sense. That living room does not seem livable at all. It appears cut off and isolated from Nature and even the rest of the design.

This will prove to be an interesting thread...

BBuck

Macrodex
Posts: 236
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:11 pm

Post by Macrodex »

Hemicycle projects from Taschen 43-59:

-Glenn and Ruth Richardson, Service Station, Automobile Dealership, Restaurant, House
-Stuart Haldorn House, aka The Wave
-Mrs. Ruth G. Keith House, Scheme 1
-E.L. Marting House
-Dr. Paul V. Palmer House, Scheme 1
-Dr. Donald S. Grover House
-Dr. G. Kenneth Hargrove House
-Walter S. Houston House
-William S, Wassell House
-"Boulder House" for Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann
-J.J. Vallarino Jr. House, Schemes 1 and 2 and 3
-Robert Llewellyn Wright House, Scheme 1
-Gibbons Gray Cornwell House, Scheme 1
-Jay Roberts House
-Dr. Arthur O'Keeffe House
-Dr. Allen Zieger House
-Art Gallery, Plan for Greater Baghdad
-Calvin Stillman House, Schemes 1 and 2

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Wow. I wonder how many of those we can illustrate here. In the meantime, by all means, let's see Laurie's house. I used to have a plan, somewhere . .

Here's a placeholder: http://www.laurievirrarchitect.com/2.php

SDR

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Presto vitruvio:


Image

Education Professor
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Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:10 pm

Post by Education Professor »

A most wonderful design, Laurie.

Thank you, SDR, for posting the plan.

EP

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Here are Mr Wright's eleven constructed hemicycle plans, as ordered (and numbered) by William A Storrer, whose plans I take the liberty
of sharing with readers here.

I apologize for the quality of some scans. The drawings are not too badly out of scale with each other -- a rough science in my hands as yet.



Image

S.283 Jacobs II (1944)


Image

S.297 Meyer (1948)


Image

S.301 Winn (1950)


Image

S.319 Laurent (1949)


Image

S.320 Pearce (1950)


Image

S.357 Marden (1952)


Image

S.358 L Wright (1953)


Image

S.359 Lewis (1952)


Image

S.360 Cooke (1953)


Image

S.383 Rayward (1955)


Image

S.402 D Spencer (1956)

Jeff Myers
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Location: Tulsa
Contact:

Post by Jeff Myers »

Marden does not seem like a Hemicycle at first glance.
JAT
Jeff T

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