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Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:52 pm
by Education Professor
I agree that the iterations of this design are delightful and are very forward-thinking, especially considering that the initial design emerged in the late 1930s/early 1940s before the Usonian concept was fully realized.

I recently reviewed the Zero house in the Monographs at the library, and it seems that Mr. Wright may have very closely involved with this initial design. As Paul has noted, this design was very different from other designs of the era. Perhaps this is because of Mr. Wright's direct involvement? I know that the residential designs for his sons David and Llewellyn were both very distinctive and forward-thinking. Just a thought.


Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:58 pm
by Paul Ringstrom
jmcnally wrote:thanks - I'll try to venture out in the snow to see it. Winter isn't fun, but it allows some views of houses that are otherwise obstructed by trees (like Palmer in Ann Arbor).
The house is not visible from the cul-de-sac in either summer or winter. It is set back quite a ways and as Roderick mentioned non-desiduous pines block what little view there is.

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:16 pm
by SDR
EP: Not quite; by 1939 (Carlson, "Below Zero") Wright had built several of the best-known early Usonians, and that type had been fully detailed. But you're right that this fresh design has some of the uniqueness of the houses he built for his sons -- even if it incorporates the more "conventional" Usonian materials (brick or stone, board and sunk batten) and details (central masonry core, perforated glazing panels) . . . at least, in the Petersen and Slater versions.


Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:26 pm
by peterm
It's the roofline that makes it radical for 1939...

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:37 pm
by SDR
Quite so. Might as well show "Below Zero" here -- from Monograph 6:



The lower of the two roof pitches shown is 15º -- a number Wright would presumably have favored, all other things being equal . . .


Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:53 pm
by Education Professor
Well said, SDR and peterm. Thanks for posting the 'Below Zero' design. It seems to show the very close involvement of Mr. Wright.


Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:21 pm
by SDR
I think it's safe to say that all pre-war designs received Mr Wright's full attention -- that they were all his own inventions. It seems that he began allowing senior apprentices -- under the direction of Wes Peters and/or chief draftsman John Howe -- to initiate some design work, starting in the later 'forties (?). Curtis Besinger relates as much, regarding the Anthony Howard commission, in the summer of 1949. He says that Howe had him start on this design because he (Howe) was away, supervising the construction of houses -- he would return to Taliesin on weekends.


Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:13 pm
by Roderick Grant
That was true of the Neils House as well. Howe designed the original scheme from scratch. Geiger, who was doing the drafting, objected to the awkward plan and left to work in the fields. As Neils was about to be sent out for bids, FLW took pencil in hand and redesigned the house in its entirety. "Some make it through without benefit of clergy," he quipped.

Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:27 pm
by Education Professor
Great quote, Roderick!

I recall that Mr. and Mrs. Shavin tried to get a construction-related question answered by Jack Howe, and Wright sent them a reply which stated that they needed to go directly through the front door instead of through the back door.

On another note, is the module for Whitford Haddock 2' x 4'? It seems rather unusual for the Usonians.


Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:00 pm
by SDR
Approximately nine Usonian designs -- built or unbuilt -- had a 2 x 4-foot horizontal module, at least half of these being L-shaped plans.
(I guess we should add Carlson "Below Zero" to that list.)

The most frequently-seen module in this period is 4' x 4' -- 43 plans on this list, from approx. 1932 through 1952.

Some of the horizontal-module chronology:

Willey I, Willey II -- no module indication on published drawings

Stanley Marcus, Zoned Houses -- 4' square

Fallingwater -- no module indication (12' structural module ?)

Hanna -- 45" elev hexagon

A B Roberts -- 4' square

Johnson Wax -- 20' square

Jacobs I -- 2' x 4'

Hoult -- no module indication (2' x 4' ?)

Lusk, Wingspread, Rebhuhn -- 4' square

Taliesin West -- 16' square

Suntop -- 3' square

Manson -- 3.5' square

Bliss -- 2' square

Jurgensen -- 4' square

Life House/Schwartz -- 7' square

All Steel Houses -- 5' square ?

Florida Southern College -- 6' square

Armstrong -- 4' square

Pauson -- 3' square

Bazett -- 45" elev hexagon

Auldbrass -- 52" elev hexagon

L Lewis -- 4' square

Rosenbaum, Pope, Euchtman -- 2' x 4'

Goetsch-Winckler, Pew, Affleck -- 4' square

Sturges -- 6.5' square

Oboler -- 2' square

Baird, Christie -- 2' x 4'

Sondern -- 4' square

Wall -- 2' elev 60º rhombus [the first rhombus grid ?]

Richardson -- 28" side hexagon

Walter -- 31.5" x 63" as basket weave

M M Smith -- 2' x 4'

Grant -- 4' square

A Miller -- 4.5' square

Griggs -- 7' square

Unitarian Meeting House -- 4' side 60º rhombus

Bulbulian -- 2'-8" square

Alpaugh -- 5' square

Galesburg Country Homes, Levin -- 4' square

McCartney -- 4' side 60º rhombus

E Brown -- 4' square

Winn -- 4' square (semi-hemicycle plan)

Mossberg -- 6.5' square

Hughes -- 4' side 60º rhombus

Alsop, Lamberson -- 4' square

Walker -- 4' side 60º rhombus

Adelman -- 5.5' square

Buehler, Brauner, Edwards -- 4' square

Weltzheimer -- 2' x 4'

Neils -- 3.5' square

Anthony -- 4' elev 60º rhombus

S Friedman -- concentric rings at 6' intervals, radii at 18º intervals

Serlin -- 5' square

Reisley -- 4' side equilateral triangle [the first ?]

Laurent, Pearce -- 3' square (hemicycle plan)

Keys, Haynes, Sweeton -- 4' square

Davis, Berger, Mathews -- 4' side 60º rhombus

Palmer -- 4' side equilateral triangle

Carlson, Carr, Schaberg, Harper -- 4' square

Muirhead, Staley, Elam, Shavin -- 4' square

R Smith, Gillin, Kraus -- 4' side 60º rhombus

Glore -- 4'-8" square

Kinney -- 4' elev 60º rhombus

Rubin -- 2' x 4' (partial hexagonal plan)

B Adelman -- 2' square

Austin, Fuller -- 4' square

Chahroudi Cottage -- 4' elev equilateral triangle

Brandes, Blair, Lindholm -- 4' square

Teater -- 5' side (4'-4" elev) 60º rhombus

Sander -- 3' x 6'

Price Tower -- 2.5' elev rhombus

Anderton Court Shops -- 5' side (4'-4" elev) 60º rhombus

Marden -- 4' square (semi-hemicycle plan)

L Wright -- concentric arcs at 3' intervals, radii spaced 6' at outer wall
(hemicycle plan)

G Lewis -- concentric arcs at 3' intervals, radii spaced 7.5º
(hemicycle plan)

Dobkins -- 4' side equilateral triangle

etc, etc

Sources: W A Storrer, FLLW Companion; A.D.A EDITA FLLW Monographs 5 and 6

[edits 2/2: all "45º rhombus" changed to 60º; added Palmer, Dobkins]

Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:43 pm
by Education Professor
SDR, thanks for the detailed information. As someone with very little, if any technical background, what are some reasons for the use of differing module sizes.....scale, layout, variety, square footage, structural issues, etc.?

Although I may be totally wrong, the 2 x 4 module would seem more difficult to work with architecturally as compared to a uniform unit such as the typical 4 x 4 module.


Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:09 pm
by SDR
I'd be very interested to know how an architect would answer those questions. My thoughts would be as follows:

A grid inscribed into the floor of a house may be nothing more than decoration, more or less artfully related to other visible objects such as doors and windows, walls and masonry masses, etc. Wright's module grids could be seen that way -- by the layman, anyway. But, by looking at the plan drawings, one can see that the architect is fastidious with his grid, using it to regulate the structural elements and the spaces between them -- and in the case of the polygonal plans, the directions of optical and physical movement in and among those spaces. So, in the case of door openings, for instance, a four-foot module would allow for two 22" doors between posts, either one of which would provide passage, while a three-foot module would suggest a single 32" door between posts. In the same way, passages and stairs would be affected in their width by the selected module -- assuming always that the architect actually follows the unit lines when placing his partitions. Thus, the feel and the use of the spaces, and the square footage of the house as a whole, are directly affected by the chosen module and its dimensions.

Following the grid, the openings in walls and their supporting structure are regulated in the way that has pleased the eye since building began. Having selected a module, the architect is freed from having to make arbitrary decisions about the placement of such objects as he proceeds with the design, enabling him to concentrate his attention on other matters, confident that the building will project a calming regularity in its parts.

Mr Wright is perfectly willing to move a partition or other building element off-grid where necessary -- typically by a half-module or other rational subdivision of the module dimension. To some extent, the smaller the module, the fewer of these "aberrations" are necessary . . .

Studying his plans, you will find that there is actually very little practical difference between Wright's 2 x 4 and 4 x 4 grid plans, as the dimensional matters discussed above can easily and naturally result in identical spaces with either module. One would have to judge for oneself why the architect would have chosen one grid over the other. One difference between the rectangle and the square is that the rectangle permits a choice in the matter of directionality, and can also suggest a different visual scale.


Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:56 pm
by Education Professor
Thanks for your insightful comments, SDR. The simultaneous use of the module/ grid for both decoration and informing the direction of the design reminds me once again of Wright's brilliant attention to scale and harmony.


Posted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 10:13 am
by pharding
The original kitchen received a dreadful "modernization". I understand the need and want to enhance a kitchen, but this one is dubious at best.

Posted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:56 pm
by Roderick Grant
All-Steel vertical 'boards' were to be 9" wide, 1.75" thick and as long as needed. The steel was channel, filled with light-weight concrete. Windows that alternated with the boards were also 9" wide, with awning windows up to 17' in length. The square unit was made up of 6 boards, equaling 54". Stairs were 4.5" riser, 9" tread. The detail drawings are so rough that I have to assume FLW did all of them himself. Presentation perspectives, plans and elevations were apparently done by apprentices.

FLW's units were much more clearly expressed in the post-Willey era, but the Prairie buildings were also based on grid lines. However, when he needed to go 'off the grid,' he did so to whatever degree necessary, whether it fitted into a subdivision of the grid or not. I have the HABS plans of Steffens, where he took an almost lackadaisical attitude toward violating the grid. It was especially difficult to stay in the lines with fenestrated corners.