Unit System

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Braham
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Joined: Wed May 13, 2015 7:30 am

Unit System

Post by Braham »

Hey...
I was wondering whether anyone here as given some thoughts as to what made FLW prefer one unitsystem over the other. It´s been bugging me for quite some time now, did he choose the triangle or the hexagon instead of the square cause he felt like it (I doubt it), or whether there were specific site conditions that made him prefer one over another, or perhaps a third reason?????

Rood
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Post by Rood »

As the story goes, Cornelia Brierly designed a house using a hexagonal unit system as a "Box" Project (apprentice designs presented to Mr. Wright as a birthday gift). Mr. Wright immediately saw the value of using hexagons and the 120 degree angle ... and the rest is history.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

An interesting question, Braham.

Why would "because he felt like it" be a doubtful or an inappropriate motivation, for an artist-architect ?

It is possible that site conditions would dictate (or at least suggest) a 60º module (and thus a 60º grid, of triangles, hexagons, or parallelograms) rather than a rectangular one. Others have suggested that the mountainous landscape of the desert Southwest was the inspiration for the triangular plan module.

A look at the history seems to indicate that Mr Wright engaged only fitfully and at intervals with non-orthogonal plan forms and units, even in the rapidly-evolving Usonian house. It is true that from the architect's earliest work we find the 45º angle included in plan, sometimes in the form of an octagon or portion thereof. Rotation of major plan elements is rare, however.

To find evidence of other than 45-degree angles we could begin with the Tahoe summer colony project of 1923. Here we find a couple of the individual house plans employing 45-degree plans -- that is, orthogonal plans in which major elements are rotated at 45º from the main square or rectangle. One of these plans, however, contains a 60-degree development; wings radiate at 120º angles from a central space. And one of the barge cabins is a hexagonal agglomeration, as well.

(Also in 1923, Mr Wright designs three houses for the proposed Doheny Ranch scheme in Los Angeles. Again, only one of these incorporates diagonal plan elements, this time at 45-degree angles.)

Then, in 1929, Wright is invited to the Arizona site of a projected resort hotel. His response is, first, to construct the "Ocatillo" camp and studio, incorporating many 30 and 60-degree angles in both plan and elevation, and then to design an elaborate and multi-level masonry structure for Dr Chandler which is based alternately on the square and the equilateral triangle grid, with the triangle taking a central role.

As part of this project he also designs two dwellings; one of these is based on a square plan module, the other on a 60º triangular one. The latter, at least, as well as the hotel itself, are sited on wildly irregular topography.

In the same year, Mr Wright designs a house for cousin Richard Lloyd Jones, on flat land in Oklahoma. The first version of the design is a 60º one, while the second and final design is rectangular in plan.

An early and seminal Usonian house, that for the Hanna family in California (1936), is based on the hexagon, a variation of the equilateral triangle. Three years later, two further hex-grid designs appear, for the Bazetts (on another suburban plot not far from the Hanna property), and for Leigh Stevens, in rural lowland at the other end of the country. Throughout the period encompassing the above-named projects, no other work, including major forays such as the House on the Mesa, Fallingwater, the first Jacobs house, or Johnson Wax and its private adjunct, Wingspread, is based on an angular grid.

Between Hanna and Bazett, chronologically, we have Taliesin West. Obviously another desert-based project, this one is laid out on a site plan which contains major 45-degree rotations.

As the Usonian period unfolds, further 60º plans appear, though none on the complex hexagon module; only a few with 45º plan shapes are produced. From here forward, 60º triangular and parallelogram module designs occur in clusters; 1940-41, 1948-51, then with decreasing frequency through 1956, with a final spurt in 1958. Most of these plans are placed on flat or gently sloping sites, and in all parts of the country.


Rood, what would be the approximate date of Cornelia Brierly's design exercise ?

SDR

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

What was the earliest date applied to the Beach Cottages at Dumyat, Egypt, and San Marcos Water Gardens of 1927? Manson includes them with the Froebel system ("FLW to 1910," page eight).

SDR
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Post by SDR »

This guy http://www.ncmodernist.org/wright.htm has the beach cottages at 1923; Storrer says 1927. Taschen (BBF), p 161: 1927. Plan drawings at the two latter sources show 45º configuration.

SDR

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Amazon provides a view of selected pages from "Tales of Taliesin: A Memoir of Fellowship," by Cornelia Brierly. On page 101 we find this brief entry:

Image


(. . . as in, "You made you bed, Cornelia -- now lie in it !") :wink:


SDR

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Roderick Grant wrote:What was the earliest date applied to the Beach Cottages at Dumyat, Egypt?
Taliesin gives them the number T2711, meaning the 11th project of 1927 and San Marcos at T2704.
Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond

SDR
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Post by SDR »

None of the above, of course, answers Braham's question: Why did Mr Wright prefer one unit system over another ?

The question, in full, must be "Why did he choose one system instead of another for any particular commission ?"

We've mentioned the Richard Lloyd Jones house; are there others where one unit was exchanged for another before the design was finalized ?

SDR

DRN
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Post by DRN »

A link to the Chat thread relative to Cornelia Brierly's Notz house:

http://www.savewright.org/wright_chat/v ... t=brierley

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The reason I mentioned Dumyat and San Marcos is that the cottage is illustrated in Grant Carpenter Manson's book, which confines itself to the period prior to 1910, the OP era. Can that design, or anything like it, be traced back that far?

But more to the point of the original question, I would say that FLW chose whatever geometry he wanted at the time. I don't believe there was any sort of inevitability connected with his choices. Hanna didn't cry out for the hexagon any more than Jester needed circles and squares. They were just choices FLW made, and no one can do anything but speculate about why.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I believe that to be the correct response to the OP's question.

The inclusion in Manson's book of the desert cabins -- twice (a model photo and a drawing) -- seems a case of stretching truth to suit an argument. That is, there is no evidence that the work illustrated (but not named) actually originated, as the author appears to claim (on page 7), within the timeframe of the "first Golden Age" of Wright's career. Manson seems to have desired to show a project that was derived from, or related to, one of the Froebel exercises, namely folded paper forms, and, finding none at hand, reached forward to a different period for his example.

SDR

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

I was once told that Wright chose the grid based on the personalities of the client: Orthogonal for more conservative clients and Triangular for more out-going demonstrative clients. No idea what hexagons and circles imply...
Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond

Braham
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Post by Braham »

I guess it is a rather difficult question that we can only speculate on.
I seem to remember having read in one of FLW´s books that he preferred to orient his houses at an angle (45/45 or 30/60) as opposed to orienting them directly towards a North/South axis, which leaves a large part of the house in constant shadow.
So instead of creating a box and simply turning it at a desired angle (a concept we know he sought to destroy, cause it is boxlike) he might have found a solution where "the cell" or unitsystem could "grow" into an organism in accord with the suns movement. That would suggest ofcourse that the site-conditions dictates what unitsystem (cell) would be preferable in order for it to "grow" into an organism (house).
Hope I´m making sense English is not my primary.

Macrodex
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Post by Macrodex »

From what I was told by a teacher of mine years ago, Wright's usage of 30/60-angle grids was, also, due to the angles being easier to maneuver around, i.e. he felt it has a more "natural" feel to it -- iirc.

I could only wager the reason he chose what grid for what houses was just whatever entered his head -- much like if he chose a flat roof over a pitched one.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

In Storrer (1993, p 402-3), the John Christian residence is described thus:

"The Christians were 'quiet people,' so Wright told them they were to have a quiet house, built to a square module, while the [Richard] Davises, more extrovert, had been given triangles."

SDR

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