The Wright height

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DavidC
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The Wright height

Post by DavidC »

Since so much is stated (or misstated) about Wright designing spaces to his height (as opposed to the client's), I thought it might be interesting to take a look at this:

According to the Taliesin FLW FAQ webpage, in answering the question of:

"How tall was Frank Lloyd Wright?"

They state:

On his passport (obtained for his first trip to Japan in 1905), Frank Lloyd Wright’s height was stated at 5'8½"...
"


Here's a webpage that lists average heights by birth decade. For males born in the US in the 1860's (Wright's birth year was 1867), the average height listed is 170.6 cm - or ~ 5'7".

- Is there any truly acurate information out there as to Wright's height?
- Could he have actually been 5'8" - making him taller than the average US male born in the 1860's? Or, is it more likely that he wore lifts in his shoes the day he got measured for his passport?
- And, just how much truth is there in the assertion that he created spaces related only to his height?


David
Last edited by DavidC on Sat Sep 12, 2015 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jmcnally
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Post by jmcnally »

Good question. I'll add one more psychological factor: if you are used to houses with 8-foot or 10-foot ceilings, a 7-foot ceiling will seem short even if you are 6 feet tall. Thus, another inquiry might be whether he designed any features that were so short that the residents (or their family/friends) bumped their heads on hanging light fixtures, door frames, etc. It may be easier to find reports of those incidents.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

On the 1905 trip to Japan, Catherine Wright's passport height was listed as 5'8". The average height of males in the 1860s was undoubtedly affected by the much lower life expectancy, due in part to the percentage of males who did not make it to adulthood, as well as to nutrition. Minus those two factors, I doubt height has changed all that much. Remember, George Washington (b. 1732) was 6' tall.

Some of my ancestors who were born in that approximate 1860-70 time frame: GGM Selma: 6'2" (her husband was about the same); GGF Johannes: 6'6" (he was actually born in 1845); both of my 6'0" grandmother's parents were well over 6'6", and two of their sons were over 7', but they were born in the '70s. And GGM Anna: 4'11". I don't see a pattern.

FLW was called by a client to visit her house. When he arrived, the maid directed him upstairs. As he climbed the stairs, he hit his head at a low spot. The owner, standing at the top of the stairs reportedly said in a stern voice, "That's what I wanted to talk to you about!" FLW's stairs often came close to the ceiling height.

FLW was more accommodating about height than legend would have it. I don't know the specifics about the commission of Tomek, but the scale of that house is very different from most. The Bogk House is also taller than usual. It would be more accurate to say that FLW used the average height of men at the beginning of his career, and didn't bother to change when that average increased. If he had changed his comfort range of 6'4" to 6'8" for the lowest ceilings to accommodate larger persons, it would have necessitated rethinking the overall scale of his architecture.

Rood
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Post by Rood »

jmcnally wrote:Good question. I'll add one more psychological factor: if you are used to houses with 8-foot or 10-foot ceilings, a 7-foot ceiling will seem short even if you are 6 feet tall. Thus, another inquiry might be whether he designed any features that were so short that the residents (or their family/friends) bumped their heads on hanging light fixtures, door frames, etc. It may be easier to find reports of those incidents.
The chief victim of low ceilings was Wes Peters, Mr. Wright's son-in-law. The entrance to his small apartment at Taliesin West was far shorter than Wes was tall. I'm only six feet tall, and I had to duck. We both had to duck in the original loggia/dining room, and that's the route Wes always took when going to the draughting room. In his later years Wes was plagued by a permanent bow in his back

Patryko
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Post by Patryko »

He was 5'7" and wore shoes with 2 inch lifts. Pedro Guerrero also often photographed Wright from a low angle to make him look taller.

FarmerBill
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Post by FarmerBill »

In the Ken Burns / Lynn Novick film, grandson Tim Wright states that his grandfather was 5' 7" tall.

In the film "Frank Lloyd Wright and His Inner Circle: A Grandson's View", Brandoch Peters says he was one of the few people who knew how tall his grandfather was: 5' 8.5".

jmcnally
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Post by jmcnally »

FarmerBill wrote:In the Ken Burns / Lynn Novick film, grandson Tim Wright states that his grandfather was 5' 7" tall.

In the film "Frank Lloyd Wright and His Inner Circle: A Grandson's View", Brandoch Peters says he was one of the few people who knew how tall his grandfather was: 5' 8.5".
I have no idea how tall my grandfathers were, so I'm not sure I trust a grandson to know unless there is a document supporting the opinion.

RonMcCrea
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Post by RonMcCrea »

I find it interesting that several of Wright's big clients appear in photos to be just his height -- Herbert Johnson and Edgar Kaufman, to name two. Maybe Solomon Guggenheim also. A lot of Japanese were his height or shorter when he lived there. Many of his female clients appear to have been to be his height.

I'm 6'5 and have had both good and bad experiences with short powerhouses. Wright, diminutive like his father, was overshadowed by the tall Lloyd Jones uncles. He leaned to box to contend with bullies in the Siullivan office. I sometimes wonder how his height affected his ambitions and his architecture.

DRN
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Post by DRN »

If I recall correctly, Wright states his height in "The Natural House" when discussing scale.

Wrighter
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Post by Wrighter »

There's the great Penfield anecdote. I'm Paraphrasing--but Mr. Penfield, a tall man, wrote to Wright to ask if the architect could design a house for man of his height.

Wright wrote back, saying that they would need to find a machine to turn the client sideways first, but then things should work out.

And wasn't he always welling at Wes to sit down because he was ruining the scale?

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

DRN wrote:If I recall correctly, Wright states his height in "The Natural House" when discussing scale.
Very good memory, Dan.

[from "The Natural House" - pp 37-38]

"Taking a human being for my scale, I brought the whole house down in height to fit a normal one --- ergo, 5' 8 1/2" tall, say. This is my own height. Believing in no other scale than the human being I broadened the mass out all I possibly could to bring it down into spaciousness. It has been said that were I three inches taller than 5' 8 1/2" all my houses would have been quite different in proportion. Probably."


David

DavidC
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Location: Oak Ridge, TN

Post by DavidC »

Patryko wrote:He was 5'7" and wore shoes with 2 inch lifts...
Where do you get the information of him actually being 5' 7"?


David

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Let's first assume that he was shorter when he was 91 than when he was 30.
Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

One can easily lose 1.5" height by compression of spinal discs.

I know the heights of my four grandparents -- 5'7.5"; 5'11"; 6'; 6'2" -- I don't think it odd at all that Brandoch might know exactly how tall FLW was, especially since it was an issue.

There is a photo of FLW and architect Paul Williams taken in the Hollyhock dining room. FLW has his foot on one of the dining chairs. The height of the chair is known, and so FLW's height, at 80+ years, could be calculated. Stan, can we count on you and a tape measure to get that information? Let's settle this once and for all.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

From the floor to the top of the back of the dining room chairs is 42", or 46" to the very top of the "hollyhocks." Now if I can just find that photo, I can figure out FLW's height! I know I've got it, but where?

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