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The More Things Change...

Posted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 5:23 pm
by Michael Shuck
In the last two years I have been inside Taliesin,Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, John Rattenbury's Life's Dream House and inside the Henry Allen-Lambe House. Of course, Mr. Wright's philosophy and strategies are implemented and enacted: lowered trays/soffets, compression/tension to release, entry to great rooms at an angle, verticality softened/balanced by horizontality and an overwhelmingly large fireplace. I find all interesting and all important.

Why so much difference in the expression of each? The soffets/lowered trays seen in Rattenbury's house and in Taliesin are far less conservative when found in the Henry Allen - Lambe house. In the houses of Rattenbury, the compression begins outside on the porche, continue into the house and then relief comes after going around a corner. In the Allen-Lambe house, the porche cochere does the compression, but as soon as one enters the house, there is no lowered soffet in the interior's foyer. It doesn't happen. The ceiling is high. Yes, you have to CLIMB to get to the living room, where compression via low ceilings and soffets recurs briefly before going into either the dining room or living room.

Makes no sense to me why the large variations. Isn't it supposed to perform compression and then relief in ALL his designs? He certainly doesn't in these.


Posted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 8:26 pm
by pharding
The work of John Rattenbury pales in comparison to FLW. FLW is the original, the other a knock off. Great architectural insights and accomplishments cannot be passed onto proteges. This is common with virtually all great architects. Typically the proteges do work that can best described as "in the manner of" as opposed to work that has a spark of genius and is significant in its own right.

architectural space

Posted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:07 pm
by outside in
I get offended when people profess to know more about design than fellowship members like John R - I would like to see how Mr. Hardings designs hold up to similar scrutiny over time

Posted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 11:09 pm
by SDR
Mike is fortunate to have made a good beginning at visiting the work. Another dozen or so and some insignts will occur: there isn't any single idea or set of ideas that Wright (or any prolific architect) uses in ALL his work. Different circumstances -- program, site, artistic inspiration of the period -- will favor one knd of expresion over another. I suspect he wanted to try everything that occurred to him, at least once. . .


Posted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 2:40 pm
by Deke
John Rattenbury did some great work for Wright. One of these days someone will closely study all the designs from the last couple years of Wright's life and properly credit the lead apprentices who did much of the design work on them.

Posted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 3:15 pm
by SDR
On that note, I am waiting for someone to atttempt an analysis of the drawings that issued from Wright's "office" during his career -- all of it -- to determine how many of them are in his own hand, and which ones are by the many who worked for him in all those years.

Has anyone spoken to this issue ? Would the Foundation support such work, or seek to thwart it ?


Posted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 9:45 pm
by SDR
The most concentrated discussion of Wright's design intent that I have come across is found in Grant Hildebrand's book "The Wright Space" (University of Washington Press, 1991). He uses eight of the houses to ilustrate -- very nicely -- his understanding of the kinds of design strategy Mike mentions above. His particular contribution is to bring a landscape design theory, called "Prospect and Refuge," to bear on the design of Wright's interior spaces.

Highly recommended. . .


Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:43 am
by Roderick Grant
SDR, former apprentice John Geiger has been documenting who did what for many years now. He is very familiar with the styles of many of the apprentices, and can deduce who made which drawings with consistent accuracy. He also has a good handle on who designed which project of the post war years. This is vital, since in his old age, Wright often left a lot of the work to underlings whose skills ranged from a high of Johnny Hill down to some rather incompetent persons who just didn't get it. One of whom has been mentioned above.

Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 1:05 pm
by RJH
I would be interested to have Mr. Geiger analyze who was responsible for my house

Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 6:53 pm
by SDR
Thanks, Roderick -- that is good news to me. (I suppose some of us won't be satisfied until we have figured out what happened, week by week and decade by decade, in the inner sanctum of Wright's practice !).

Now I will learn what I can from the literature at hand, about the series of houses apparently drawn, at some point, by the same hand. The matter of a draftsman's "hand" is interesting; many different lettering styles and variants appear on the drawings over the years. . .


Posted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 5:14 pm
by RJH
I have followed up to find out what apprentice was responsible for the Haynes house design. I checked with Mr. Geiger and Mr. Brink and it seems to be a mystery.

Apparently, the Turkel house also has the sideway

the manuscript style on building sheets

Posted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 1:57 pm
by Palli Davis Holubar
We are talking about a visual letter style and i need to have a better description of the almost slanted S before I can contributeDoes this describe the distinctive S?

the letter form is slightly tilted to the right;

the top of the S is the left half of a circle;

the bottom is the right half of a circle

Note: a usual S has ends that go beyond the even bi-section of a circle.

This style of S is a drafting contrivance not unpopular, but not universal, during this modern period. Perhaps we could exchange digital images of the lettering?

If this accurately describes the S you see on the fore-mentioned plans: add the Weltzheimer House (1948) to the list. On our plans, the S is slightly tilted on 9 sheets. These plans are marked "revised July 20, 1949" but there are at least different 3 plans for our House. On the 10th (unnumbered) page, the landscape plan, the S is dramatically tilted and the page is clearly drawn in another hand. I will check the other one in the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the published Taliesin plan as soon as I can. Palli Davis Holubar, Weltzheimer-Johnson House at Oberlin College.

Posted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 3:17 pm
by RJH
Thank you for your help! Please take a look at the photos I just posted of the

Posted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 4:25 pm
by RJH
Correction. The drawings are on page 25, Fig. #21 and #22.

The book mentions that Wright did the preliminary drawings for W/J House. It appears to me that Fig. #22 with the sideways

Posted: Sun Oct 08, 2006 4:36 pm
by RJH
Just noticed