Preparing an unbuilt chair design for construction

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outside in
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Post by outside in »

This chair issue can be transferred to the problems associated with the Legacy projects, i.e., someone puts on a pork pie hat and takes on the responsibility of developing a sketch to working drawings and construction. Its essentially a fantasy, and no one is better off afterwards. Spectators are fooled into thinking it was the work of a great architect, and a myth is created as to what actually happened. Let him be, move on, create something for today.

Jeff Myers
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Post by Jeff Myers »

Call it based on a proposed design, that would be a better way of putting it.
JAT
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peterm
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Post by peterm »

I have been giving this much thought... I think that the very existence of spindles implies that there should be a view "through" the chair. The idea of a second bent ply layer does not seem correct... Some sort of a cushion at the back makes more sense.

Having said that, I think you are 99 per cent there and you have resolved all other details. But I'm just not able to digest that "double layer"....

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Look at the drawing Wright (or Wright) left us and I don't see any other conclusion than the one reached. Cushions adequate to fill the gap under the semicircular top plate would be very thick (or, in John's version, custom-shaped to fill the irregular shape dictated by the spindle screen). Is that really a simpler and neater solution ? And what do you make of the upholstered (or at least, fabric-covered) surface seen inside the seat area ? The implication of that seems clear to me . . .

If we didn't allow our prolific architect to do something new, once in a while, would we have the cornucopia he left us ?



If the board of Frank Lloyd Wright® in Wisconsin were to build a chair for the B1 house, would the 0519.001 chair be a likely alternative ? Or is that one also beyond the pale, for the same reasons ? Should they content themselves with another chair shown in both drawings, a tall-back dining chair of the usual type ?

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

I completely understand your conclusion...

Have you considered having the back of the rear cushion (or bent ply piece...) upholstered, too?

I just can't seem to picture looking through spindles to more wood. Couldn't both sides be upholstered?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I'm afraid that seems more tortured still -- to me. But I appreciate the effort to consider all possibilities.

The implication of the solution I show is that the rear of the walnut shell will have to be finished (varnished, lacquered) before assembly of the chair is complete -- and, if desired, the backs of the affected spindles. Then, for final finish, the shell will be masked while the remainder of the wood is coated. That's the worst of it, as I see it. Structurally and aesthetically the solution seems perfectly sound.

I have to say I'm surprised at the unanimity of the response, but I accept it without quarrel. The architectural world is filled with layered responses to conditions -- rows of columns before a wall, windows screened with shutters, etc etc. Does the world of Wright's structural and aesthetic complexity not admit of this particular possibility ? The "Mossberg" chair is perfect without the added "fins," yet we don't flinch if Wright sees fit to add them as a fillip. The Allen spindled chair has no top plate to complicate the geometry or the comfort issue -- but nevertheless here we have a more complicated but related chair which requires a response to the more complicated form. Wouldn't the architect seek the most direct and geometrically pure solution -- as suggested clearly in the perspective drawing ?

SDR

pharding
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Post by pharding »

IMO the more that I read this thread and think about it, I believe that building an unbuilt schematic design for a chair for advertising for another house is wrong. I suggest just do something similar to one that was built in the same period or just design your own, which would be best.

I agree with Outside In that this exercise reminds one of building legacy designs which were shown to be il-advised with dreadful results.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

jhealy
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Post by jhealy »

Perhaps already considered ...

Are there more complete/detailed architectural plans for the Stephen M.B. Hunt II residence in Oshkosh, WI. I recall reading that Wright actually delivered plans for that house to Hunt, so he received the full architectural fee. If there are such plans, would those perhaps include a chair for the dining table?

Just a thought.

Jay

peterm
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Post by peterm »

I say, "build it!" Everyone will be fully aware that it is a posthumous work.

But, as the carpenters say, "measure twice, cut once."

It might be interesting to see Jeff's renderings from the rear of the chair showing wood through the spindles, and then another showing upholstery/cushion...

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I think the attraction of this project is that there's an unbuilt chair design -- shown in two illustrations for an ASBH house design -- that could be realized for a similar ASBH house that's been restored. The problem, if any, seems to revolve around whether the design -- as seen in the original drawings -- is really a Frank Lloyd Wright product. I see little controversy there: The chair is there for all to see. If the architect (or his drafter, at his direction) presents a design, it seems to me that makes it a Wright design.

The ASBH houses were presented by means of exterior and interior perspective views and axonometric birds-eye views of fully-furnished interiors. In at least some cases the same furniture is seen in both the perspectives and the axo views; this chair is one of those pieces.

Some find it hard to accept one particular aspect of the design -- that aspect (alone) is somehow seen as unWrightian. The interpretation I arrived at in making my shop drawings is the simplest and most straightforward of those possible, in my view, making full use of what appears in the drawings while inventing nothing; if it represents a novelty in Wright's oeuvre, I would ask what is so surprising about that ?

SDR

stoddard
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Post by stoddard »

Perhaps this sort of thing can be dubbed the Massaro Effect or the Massaroing of a design. Defined as follows: the completion of an incomplete design based upon fragmentary information, which ultimately leads to a muddling and diminution of a designer's legacy. The results invariably occupy a place in the Massaro Zone.

peterm
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Post by peterm »

I agree with your take on this, SDR. The conceptual drawing came out of Wright's studio and should be considered a Wright design. Between you and Stafford, I have no doubt that the result will be a fine interpretation of the chair, fully based on the limited material available.

(I still could imagine it working with fabric showing through the rear spindles...) but maybe this is a minor point...
Last edited by peterm on Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

outside in
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Post by outside in »

Its been awhile since I've heard so much twisted logic. This project is a travesty. I agree that it would make much more sense to build furniture of the period than to take a sketch, perhaps by Lloyd, then create computer drawings that show nothing more than it is ill-conceived. Finally, the declaration that the project viable and "straightforward" is by no means rational. If you continue on this path, the Foundation will be the ones who will decide, as the project directly affects Wright's copyright. If you will recall, the copyright is a means to protect bad reproductions of furniture.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

The drawings (whether digital or pencil-drafted -- these happen to be the latter) are the result of a careful look at the original material. It's all there, really; the plan shape is selected from among two options, a poorly-drawn curve in the perspective and an almost-arc in the plan view. As we know that Wright drew no odd curves or ellipses (news to some Wright experts, apparently), the choice is easy: the half-circle which Wright used throughout his career.

The seat shell is clearly implied by the presence of an upholstered (or fabric-covered) plane visible in the perspective. Using the kind of geometric logic Wright demonstrated, we deduce that this plane follows the shape of the semicircular top panel, to provide a comfortable back-rest. The semi-octagonal bay of spindles clearly echoes this semi-circle but equally obviously doesn't follow it perfectly; thus it is allowed its own presence.

One option, which I abandoned almost at once, was to back the entire display of spindles with a panel, which would show inside the chair (below the seat) as a plain folded surface. This made no sense to me, as the spindles should be allowed to "breathe" as much as possible. Bringing the seat-shell plane near to but not tangent with this spindle screen seemed the right and inevitable move. As the seat shell was easily conceived in planar material, self-supporting and independent of the spindles, the rest fell into place without any difficulty. That this construct should seem odd, either in the context of Wright's work or otherwise, is a complete surprise to me.

I hope Jeff's earliest SketchUp images, which included an erroneous view of a curved shell running the full height of the chair, didn't send us down this unfortunate path . . . !

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

I'm sure Stafford will make at least one prototype before committing to the final?

Jeff did correct the lower spindles.

Are you sure that the exterior side panels should be fabric (or is that to be red paint?

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