Article: Usonian in IL based upon Alvin Miller

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DavidC
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Article: Usonian in IL based upon Alvin Miller

Post by DavidC »


DRN
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Post by DRN »

The homeowner and his architect appear to have made a well executed facsimile of the original. To the purists, there are significant deviations, presumably to reduce cost, with respect to cabinetry details, and windows which seem to be aluminum or aluminum clad wood units set into framed openings, which to some, spoil Wright's well studied fenestration proportions.

How does the Foundation view replicas such as this? My late father was very enamored with the Goetsch-Winckler Usonian and once shared his pipe dream to me of building an exact copy of it, possibly mirror image, with the bedroom next to the living room altered to become the chambers (complete with horizontal board and batten swell shades) for a salvaged theatre organ whose console would be located in the low ceiling portion of the living room...I do miss him.

dkottum
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Location: Battle Lake, MN

Post by dkottum »

Nicely done. Altered floor plan without destroying Usonian scale.

doug k

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Each time we encounter an attempt upon the walled compound that is Wright ("Truth Against the World") we have an opportunity to learn.

We can start by looking at Wright's plan for the Alvin Miller residence:


Image

This is the drawing which Wright chose to publish in "The Natural House." Note that, though the river view oriented the house
to the northeast rather than the ideal southeast exposure (of the principal space) Wright maintains the 30-60 degree orientation
on the page -- and the earth. Perhaps the site dictated that orientation.


Here's the plan rotated to match the one published on the site linked above.


Image


And here's the plan of the new house -- which I am calling Jensen/Wilson, after its owner and its architect.


Image


The caption is inaccurate; this is presumably the plan of the new house. Thus we have the opportunity to
compare the two plans, at nearly the same scale (it is unclear whether Mr Wilson chose the same module
as did Mr Wright; the Miller house has a module of 54", or 4'-6").


Here's an exterior view provided on the linked site; the following four photos are from the same source. The
two jarring elements are (a) the stone wall in the foreground, canted in plan, and (b) the trio of windows with
their prosaic (and separated) sills. Looking at Wright's plan we see only an orthogonal array of walls and
landscape elements. Only the natural outline of the river-front escapes the architect's guiding hand.


Image


Another instance of "naturalism" in the landscape:


Image


Moving inside, we have cabinetry in the hall (gallery ?) which, despite being of conventional (that is, unWrightian) half-overlay, face-frame construction, appears to have piano hinges on the doors ! This would be forgivable if not for the fact that in this application the hinges prevent the doors from opening more than 90 degrees or so -- not an ideal situation, especially in a confined space.

If we're going to ape the architect, let's go all the way . . .


Image


A bathroom. Didn't Mr Wright say "Three lines where one would do, is obscene" ?
Maybe owner and architect were making a comment of some kind.


Image


But when all is said and done, it's still a thrill to see this particular concoction erected anew:


Image


Something might be said about the stonemasonry in evidence in the Jensen/Wilson house. For comparison,
we have three nice photos of the Miller house, from the camera of Chat member Mike Shuck.


Image


Image


Image


Compare the stonework there, with this final shot of the Jensen/Wilson house. Yes, the stonework at Miller varies from place to place (compare the first two photos) and we could pick our favorite spot (I vote for the first example, hands down) -- but the corners tell the tale: note that everywhere your eye comes to the end of a wall, the terminal edge is a more or less perfect vertical line. I wish the same could be said of the edges of this fireplace (yes, the left edge bulges because of the wide-angle camera used). Mr Wright's random ashlar stonework is rough in texture but carefully tailored as to volume. It is decidedly not "rustic."


Image

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

SDR,
Your analysis of the specifics is, of course, spot on.

But, IMNO this house is more Wrightian than many of the apprentice houses we have seen over the years.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

It's pretty impressive, for sure. Just seeing that roof fascia is reassurance that something special is going on here -- though even that element has been redesigned . . .

I wonder how a potential homeowner would know what to look for in an architect when he wished to recreate -- or at lease invoke -- the work of a past master. I can imagine a number of unsatisfactory scenarios -- starting with flat refusal to take on the project ! A well-informed client would be the best guarantee of success, I suppose.

SDR

Rood
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Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

Post by Rood »

It's an impressive copy to be sure, but when details are studied and compared, such as at the entry and in the dining alcove ... a fellow can't help but remark that Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

In one respect, the copy is incontrovertibly superior to the original: Location, location, location.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Yes, Rood -- which is why we can learn from each attempt to "do it Wright." And it begs another query: is it better to copy the master's work as closely as one can, or might it be preferable to do as he said, to learn from "the principles" (whatever those might be) and build like this:

http://savewright.org/wright_chat/viewtopic.php?t=6529

Roderick: you are so right.

SDR

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

One of the finest architects working today learned FLW's principles of design without aping the master: Will Bruder. He never studied at Taliesin, nor did he major in architecture (sculpture), but his work is more consistent with FLW's principles than most who did touch the hem, and totally original.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Maybe it's time to reiterate those principles which Wright claimed as his. Can they be listed ?


SDR

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Roderick,
I have been to Bruder's studio and thru several of his buildings and I don't see FLW's influence, but I have an open mind.... give me links to two of Bruder's buildings that you think demonstrate that influence.
Thanks

Jjen
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Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:35 am

Post by Jjen »

Hello wright chatters. This is my home. Thanks for your input. By no means do i think my quality of execution is that of a FLW-designed home. As a matter of fact, i tell visitors who're impressed that they must see a true FLW home. After several yearsof touring FLW homes & sites, I began to entertain the idea of building my own FLW style home. In Feb '05 I spoke to a gentleman at Taliesen West re: the Legacy Unbuilt Homes Project. However, the cost far exceeded my budget, therefore I spoke to Fellowship architect Tony Puttnam. He sent me a copy of Life Magazine Project House for cost estimates, though he showed no real interest & I received no estimate from him. Next, I turned to Kelly Davis, whose FLW-style work I'd seen published, but again, his work was too expensive. This is when I approachached several local architects, & looked to a home I admire, the Alvin Miller House. I submitted floorplans to Wilson (the architect who finally accepted the project) for bluebrints to be drawn up. Being a service tech, with a moderate income, I served as general contractor among MANY other things to help keep costs down! That being said, it is still a work in progress, and as money comes in, I finish various projects, continually make improvements, & learn as I go. "I guess I could just plant some vines."

Rood
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Post by Rood »

Whether or not Bruder can attribute any measure of his success to the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright's work it can't be denied that he spent hours and hours at Taliesin West in the 70's. There were many Saturdays that he became almost a fixture; something that had to be moved before a terrace could be swept.

He once replied to someone's newspaper criticism of the Taliesin program, writing in response how impressed he was by always finding someone doing maintenance work.

Wrightgeek
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Post by Wrightgeek »

Jjen-

Welcome to Wright Chat, we're glad to have you here.

No apologies necessary. You and your architect appear to have done a very nice job of adapting a FLW Usonian plan to work with today's lifestyles and building codes. Congrats to both you and your architect, and here's hoping that you and your fiancee are able to spend many enjoyable years together looking out over the mighty Mississippi River from your beautiful home. We should all be so lucky.

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