EFFECTIVE 14 Nov. 2012 PRIVATE MESSAGING HAS BEEN RE-ENABLED. IF YOU RECEIVE A SUSPICIOUS DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS AND PLEASE REPORT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION.
This is the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy's Message Board. Wright enthusiasts can post questions and comments, and other people visiting the site can respond.
You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, *-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws. Doing so may lead to you being immediately and permanently banned (and your service provider being informed). The IP address of all posts is recorded to aid in enforcing these conditions. You agree that the webmaster, administrator and moderators of this forum have the right to remove, edit, move or close any topic at any time they see fit.
Assuming (correctly ?) that Prairie School design is no longer found appropriate for new construction, is the same true of Usonian design -- either as a style or as the essence of a building's design and construction ? Does a difference here translate to a difference in the acceptability of the terms, today, as applied either to found objects or to new construction ?
What do you think ? What have others said on the matter ?
2) I do not think the two terms describe that same type of structure.
Prairie Style houses (1900-1920) were two story built on urban city lots that had ribbon windows with large overhanging hip roofs and basements. These houses were, for most part, large homes designed for people of means, many designed to be serviced by servants. Interior woodwork was mainly quarter-sawn oak including the flooring. Kitchens were not "designed" but utilitarian for use of the servants. Most of the furniture was free-standing. Dining room tables were designed specifically for the houses. Bookcases were built-in with glass doors. Windows contained stained-glass or wood muntins. Free standing garages appear in some of them. Many of the clients were entrepreneurs or high-level professional types.
Usonian houses (1936-1959) were mostly one story built on exurban acreage, and were designed for the post-servant USA. Designed for middle class people who, for the most part, wouldn't have been able to afford a Prairie Style home, but appreciated good design in a smaller package. Most Usonians had flat roofs. The large overhangs remained. The ribbon windows were still there but now there were doors incorporated will full height windows to allow easier access to the exterior enhancing the inside/outside feeling. Corner-less mitered windows are introduced. Stained-glass not used, replaced by perforated wood panels covering clerestory windows. Interior woodwork was mostly red tidewater cypress or Philippine mahogany. The basements were gone, replaced by a red-stained concrete slab for interior flooring. A lot of the furniture was built-in and the majority of the free standing furniture was designed specifically for the house. Bult-in bookcases with glass doors were replaced by open shelving. Kitchens were part of the interior design and opened to the other rooms. Carports appear in most of them. Many of the clients were academics.
Did I miss anything?
That is: does Prairie mean the same thing for Wright's pre-WWI era, as Usonian does in Wright's post-Depression period ? Further, does a "Usonian" house have to be a Wright design, or is the term now meant to include work recognizably influenced by Wright's Usonians -- in the way that a "Prairie" table is not expected to be an original Wright design, or even one designed by the small circle of Wright's original crew ?
Realtors' uses of the terms should be included in the discussion, surely. I think we have observed that many such professionals fail to grasp the finer points -- if they do not in fact grossly misuse the terms. It does seem, as you suggest, that the term "Prairie" is often misapplied.
By contrast to the Prairie, Usonians were, ironically, part of the type of "Machine" architectural-ideal echoed by the International Style architects: stripping down the non-essential.
Both styles have similarities: large overhangs, bands of windows, "breaking the box", etc. but the Prairie style still separated living/dining areas -- as was the custom of the time -- and the Usonian brought them together as one.
And so on. I see more errors done by realtors than architects, which isn't shocking since they want to drive traffic.
So, you do not hold with the use of the term "Usonian" for any work other than Wright's; a house by an architect other than Mr Wright, even when it has the features you mention above, should not be called Usonian. Is that correct ?
Is Mid-centrury Modern too broad a term ? Is there something else which would denote late-Wright-influenced without borrowing the term Usonian itself ?
Why can't we just use the terms "Wrightian" or "Wright-influenced" to describe those projects that look like his but aren't?
I agree that Usonian should only be used to describe Wright's work - it's like a trade mark, although I don't think he ever sought that protection. I know he did not first use that word, but he was first to apply it to architecture.
What other differences can we identify, between the two terms, that leads us to use them, appropriately or not, in distinct ways ?
Do we have dissenters to the views expressed so far ?
(By the way, in that show, the book that Wexler wrote about Henry John Klutho, a significant Floridian architect of the Prairie Style, was mentioned. Has anyone seen that book? Klutho was a fine architect, whose work reminds me of Nechodoma in Puerto Rico.)
The easiest would be to call everything from Hickox to 1917, including ASB and Japan, 'Prairie,' and from Jacobs I to 1959 'Usonian.' That would leave the periods of the 1890s and from Barnsdall through Fallingwater to be named, if they must be. You cannot really call Fallingwater either Prairie or Usonian, can you?
Where does H. Allen Brooks claim to have named the Prairie Style? Didn't FLW himself refer to Wingspread as "the last Prairie house"?
Gray areas: What about Fallingwater? Or solo work by Tafel, Peters, etc. done while still employed by Wright?
And to complicate matters further, I have also heard or read that some say that Wright himself later said that La Miniatura was the first Usonian, although can any of us confirm that?
Work done at Taliesin or by apprentices after Wright's passing should only be called Usonian style or Wrightian.
Prairie is a whole other question, isn't it?