LeGuin, Maybeck and Frank Lloyd Wright

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jay
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Post by jay »

I wasn't exactly implying the block was an abstraction of the floor plan... I'd say the piercings are fine "fractals" of the total design motif, which is heavy with the 60/120 angles.

Hildebrand's book on Palmer notes that the blocks were similar to the McCartney blocks.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Isn't that odd ? The McCartney plan's main figures are 30-60 triangles, while the Palmer plan contains multiple equilateral triangles; the Palmer block contains no equilateral triangle while exhibiting a prominent 30-60 triangle---
and the McCartney block features 45-degree triangles !

Palmer:
ImageImage



McCartney
ImageImage


My point is made with embarrassing ease, by virtue of choices not my own . . .:oops:

Wright's only excuse---and it might be a good one---is that the plan shapes we discuss occur on the horizontal plane, while the perforated patterns are
elevational. The architect does seem, in the work, to distinguish between the one and the other: In the earliest Usonians, the vertical module increases
almost immediately from 12 to 13 inches, unrelated (thereafter) to the 2 x 4-foot or to the various triangular plan grids.

S

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I must say, the Schwartz house perf figure would be laughed off the easel in any freshman 2D design class: it seems to me a meaningless jumble of
disjointed (and easily broken) shapes. (These perfs must have been made of solid wood, a particularly bad choice given the tender nature of the forms ?)

https://live.staticflickr.com/492/32047 ... 88a1_b.jpg

https://www.savewright.org/wp-content/u ... 690677.jpg
photo © Mark Hertzberg

S

jay
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Post by jay »

I see your points (in 30 and 45 and 60 degrees) about the blocks. Yet still, when I look at the Palmer blocks, I see an abstraction of its total design:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/0c/72/05 ... aaca4e.jpg

(Apologies for steering this topic pretty far from LeGuin and Maybeck.)

SDR
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Post by SDR »

The Palmer perforated block is certainly not out of place there, and is sympatico with the house as perceived by the observer. I'm happy that we had a discussion about these issues.

S

Tom
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Post by Tom »

The Palmer and McCartney plans will come in handy down the road comparing Wright to Maybeck - especially comparing bedrooms I think.

But to back up for a sec and give LeGuin her due:
The book I'm reading from is called: "Words are My Matter."
-it's a collection of short essays.
The longest essay in the book is the one on her Maybeck house.
In the forward she apologizes to the reader upfront stating that poetry and
fiction are her strengths and that with the prose essay she's not that good.
She says prose essays require diligent research.
She says her essay on her house is barely researched.
Yet it's still her favorite in the book.
She had wanted for awhile now to think through the experience of her house which had a big experience on her imagination growing up.
She even goes so far as to say her writing at it's core just might be based on her imaginative experience of this house.
So - it's really not an essay about Wright and Maybeck at all. Wright occurs in the first two pages and then is not mentioned again.
The difference she judges between Wright and Maybeck strikes me as some sort of twitch or side glance.
However I do think she is trying to get to some fundamental qualitative experiental difference between their two architectures.
But she leaves it, moves on , and does not return to it.

But we can.
One thing we don't have, in order to even things out however is a similar first hand account from a poet of growing up in a Wright house.
Am I correct? We don't have that?
But I could imagine being equally enthralled as a child growing up say in the Pew House or Hanna.
... and children impart magic to their surroundings regardless.

...will try to find a way to post the whole essay here.

SDR
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Post by SDR »


Tom
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Post by Tom »

This piece from the Autobiography posted by SDR in the "Plagued By Fire"
thread will help in the question of how "self expression" is understood."

"We do not choose the style. No. Style is what is coming now and it will be what we are
in all this. A thrilling moment in any architect's experience. He is about to see the counte-
nance of something he is invoking with intense concentration. Out of this inner sense of
order and love of the beauty of life something is to be born---maybe to live long as a message
of hope and be a joy or a curse to his kind. His message, he feels. None the less will it be
"theirs," and rather more. And it is out of love and understanding that any building is born
to bless or curse those it is built to serve. Bless them if they will see, understand and aid.
Curse them as it will be cursed by them if either they or the architect fail to understand each
other. This is the faith and the fear in the architect as he makes ready---to draw his design.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

"A thrilling moment in any architect's experience. He is about to see the countenance of something he is invoking with intense concentration."

Any designer will recognize this moment: an object has been growing in the womb of the brain. Its visible features will be the product of a system
he has devised---conceived, concocted, almost certainly borrowed to some degree---having taken into account the brief, the site, the chosen materials
and methods. (Sometimes one of these, sometimes another, will have dominated the process ?)

He anticipates eagerly the result, still only supposed and hoped-for, that will appear when the pieces of this invention are assembled on the page for the first time.

Here is where we recall the instruction to delay this gratification as long as possible: while the parts and pieces are still in the mind, they are fluid---they can be rearranged,
they are as yet indefinite in size, in shape, and in their interactions. Once seen on the sheet they quickly freeze; they stick to the paper and are harder to rearrange; they become
burned into the retina.

Put that moment of gratification off for as long as you can---assuming that you won't lose the whole thing in the cloud of your mind ! (This hazard, of course, is one reason to rush to the tablet, the board.
A delicate balance, there ?)

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Another ability one must have in the arts is the willingness to let go when it becomes obvious that the countenance of the thing is not working.
That is especially difficult and painful if all has gone well up to the final detail, then it suddenly collapses.

I have never found it hard to keep a design in mind. I don't rush to the board to get it down before I forget.
There are things that I did in the 50s that I remember clearly, even though the evidence is long gone.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Just as in the physical world, a concept built on incomplete information can fail when a new fact has to be inserted late in the process. If it's true that a
problem contains within it the seed of its solution, a faulty description of the problem---a damaged or incomplete string of DNA---will create a compromised
solution. A carefully-balanced building design which includes provision for a two-car garage can be thrown out of whack when the client announces, late in
the game, that housing for a third vehicle is now necessary . . . for instance.

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

I refer to something different. Whenever an architect takes on a job - residential, commercial, institutional, industrial - there is always the possibility, and even more the probability, that there will be changes demanded by the client. I refer to design glitches that throw a monkey wrench into the works of the very essence.

In 1935, FLW designed an indescribably beautiful house. Toward the end of his process, he perceived a problem of relationship with the environment, and came upon the solution of linking the living room to the stream below with suspended stairs. The opening cried out for a semicircular terminus, which in turn demanded that all concrete edges be rounded. The result of overcoming what he deemed an imperfection is a masterpiece. If he had not done what he did, Fallingwater would not have attained the level of perfection it has. All of that was part of what occurred in his own head.

Later, the client requested a sitting room for the help, a guest cottage, a swimming pool, a servants' quarters and a four-stall carport, none of which were in the original scheme, but each of which FLW integrated into the plan seamlessly.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

"The opening cried out for a semicircular terminus, which in turn demanded that all concrete edges be rounded."


Roderick perhaps recalls the first paragraph of chapter III of Donald Hoffmann, "FLW's Fallingwater" (Dover, 1978), where the subject is presented a bit differently:





Image


Image

jay
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Post by jay »

Tom––thanks for recommending this essay. I read it last night; it seems to me a great contribution to descriptive writing about architectural experience. LeGuin's elegant prose shines brightest when recalling remarkable memories and impressions made in the home, especially as a child.

I think her mistake, in regards to the Wright criticisms, is that she briefly generalizes other architects in order to praise the object of her tribute--Mr. Maybeck. As a self-described novice of architecture itself, the only reason I can figure for her to 'throw shade' at other architects, like Wright, and in general, is in order to make her hero, Mr. Maybeck, shine brighter.

This quip is particularly concerning: "We are not as used to this idea that the house should also be appropriate to the individuals who will inhabit it; indeed we are not used to our architects thinking about individuals at all."

Good grief. I suppose all the residential architects of the past 100 years, whom have drawers full of client "must have lists", will have a good chuckle at that line.

In regards to Wright, she says the inhabitants of his houses "have no part in them but to accept the whims and mandates of the Master." But the very next paragraph, she talks about Maybeck's "quirks", which sometimes lent "real oddity".

"Our house, for example, originally had no stairs to the basement," LeGuin writes. "'Maybeck was moody about stairs' my mother said. She claimed he had also left them off one of the University of California buildings, or added them outside because they didn't look right inside...."

Interesting way to follow up a criticism about architectural whims.

Regardless of that, I loved her descriptions of her cherished house. The aroma of the wood, the light streaming down the stairs, and this wonderful bit about the redwood floors:

"Redwood floors have a kind of delayed resilience; compressed by a footfall, they snap back . . . after a while . . . hours perhaps. Once you understand the phenomenon, it is more or less endurable. As an adolescent I rather liked to hang over the deep staircase and listen to the invisible people ascending it, or later, to lie in my small room and listen to myself walking around up in the attic, the floor repeating every step I had taken there that afternoon."

What an image!

The essay reminds me of Gaston Bachelard's "The Poetics of Space", a book that focuses on the way a house shelters daydreams for the person.

Tom
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Post by Tom »

Definitely connected to Bachelard, I agree.
The part you quote about the redwood floors stood out for me too.
You make helpful connections for me in your first part regarding her attempt at comparative criticism - appreciate it.

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