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Herbert Jacobs House 1936, (Usonia 1) Madison, WI
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
Posts: 1145

PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that it is very difficult to believe that the term "Usonian" applies to a group of buildings that were all constructed using the same building techniques. The details were constantly evolving with each project, and Wright was clever in adapting his loosely defined system to a variety of climates, clients and contractors. If one were to take the "Usonian Detail" sheet and use it as a standard, it would be interesting to see the number of homes that were constructed accordingly. The Jacobs is a prototype, not one of many.
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JimM



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 1388

PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a qualification for my post... the structure of Jacobs was (as were later Taliesin's) somewhat "stage set"-like, but still very successful in that as a prototype it achieved the end Wright wanted and continually tweaked in later Usonians.

Considering it's 75 year old age, it has held up well despite the predictable wear and failures suffered.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16264
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are only so many houses (call them Usonian Type I ?) built with the brick and sunk batten -- no plaster, no paint -- drawn (pretty much) as it is given on the Standard Detail Sheet. Fewer than two dozen ? They represent just a small fraction of what Wright got built from 1935 on. And, yes certainly, no two were alike (did Wright ever spin so many checkerboards and snowflakes from the same two sleeves before he turned 70, as after ?) -- and the details were constantly evolving, as stated.

But Pew, and Lewis, and Sturges and Affleck and Walker and Walter and Lamberson are houses that are quintessential Usonia -- and Usonian, of course -- without a foot of board and sunk batten (I believe I'm right ?) between them. And that's central (literally) to the SDS.

Usonian Type One ? Has someone been there already ? Anybody ?

SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keep in mind, as you ponder the true meaning of the word, FLW used 'Usonian' as a buzz word only, just PR. In the final analysis, he would have offered no more exacting a definition than anyone else is likely to come up with. As he said to Geiger, if he had to do over, he would have chosen 'bionic.'
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
if he had to do over, he would have chosen 'bionic.


Unfortunately the '70's saddled the word "bionic" with baggage it may never shed.

"...the American home, a building barely alive. Gentlemen we can rebuild it. We have the technology. We can build it better, stronger, faster...." cut to cheesy '70's theme music.

Apologies to Martin Caidin and people with refined sensibilities everywhere.
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Palli Davis Holubar



Joined: 27 Feb 2006
Posts: 1036
Location: Wakeman, Ohio

PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RE: the meaning of Usonian from JGonWright.com/episodes.html This is the reference Roderick used above.
John Geiger, Taliesin Apprentice 1947-1954 begins his Episode #1 with this anecdote and interpretation.
Quote:
It was a sunny summer afternoon in 1953 after I had returned from supervising construction of the Zimmerman House in Manchester, New Hampshire. I have no idea how Steve and I happened to be in the living room at Taliesin in Wisconsin talking with Mr. Wright. It was certainly an uncommon circumstance. Mr. Wright was sitting at the head of the dining table in that high backed slatted chair and Steve and I were sitting in the barrel chairs at the side. After some talk, he asked us, "Would you rather have people like you or respect you?" Steve responded with 'like' and I with 'respect.' The answer he was probably looking for was 'both.' Mr. Wright then went on to talk about the word organic.
The gist of the discourse was that, if you wanted people to remember you and your work, you had to have a simple descriptive word or phrase that people could easily remember and associate that word with both you and your work; the hook, as they say in the advertising business. Then he said, "For that purpose, I chose the word organic. If I were doing it today (1953), I would choose a different word, probably bionic. One of you boys can use that." Those are his exact words. The implications are obvious for the use of Organic, Prairie or Usonian as descriptive names for categories of architecture. It is the word he chose to represent his work and for good reason. If he had chosen bionic, it would have made no difference in the work. But don't expect an esoteric dissertation on the use of the word organic from Mr. Wright. He simply did not think that way. Had he been a deductive thinker; he might have been a doctor, an architectural historian or even a scientist, but not the world's most creative architect. He was an inductive thinker. The creative process for architects is different from that of the scientist, as MacKinnon has indicated in his IN SEARCH OF HUMAN EFFECTIVENESS. But it is the measure of Wright's penchant for being ahead of the times that in 1953 at age 86, he would have chosen bionic as a current alternative to organic. The common use and understanding of the word Bionic was some 20 years in the future and organic was 100 years in the past. These words are only labels anyway, and irrelevant to the work. His architecture stands on its own with or without words, probably fewer words until scholars gain the perspective of history.

Mr. Geiger goes on:
Quote:
It is my suspicion that the same logic that engendered the possible use of 'Bionic' in place of organic, also prompted the shift from prairie to organic, whenever that took place. I don't know if Mr. Wright was originally responsible for applying 'prairie' to architecture, but it is certain that after it became associated with the Chicago School of architects, Mr. Wright was through with the use of that particular word. Organic, as applied to architecture, had been in use since the 1840's by Greenough and later by Sullivan, but Mr. Wright made it his own. In the 30's he needed a fresh word that was uniquely his own to reference the new work typified by the Jacobs #1 house. He coined 'USONIAN' and attributed it to Samuel Butler to give it credibility in the first instance. It eventually became his own ID tag, which is why he invented it in the first place. The association with Butler became irrelevant, as he knew it would.

The only footnote I can add is trivia: the word “Usonian” occurs nowhere in Butler’s writings, now learned through the “search” capacities of computers. However, the word does appear in the writing of John Dos Possos (1986-1970). I believe it was in a volume of the U.S.A. Trilogy.
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v.hain



Joined: 20 Apr 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found one very brief report in book and I would like to ask if somebody can say something more about that:

The first built prototype of the affordable Usonian residence. It envolved from the "City Subsistence Homestead" affordable housing scheme Wright first prepared for the Broadacre City Models in 1934 and plans produced for C. H. Hoult in Wichita, Kansas, and Robert Lusk in Huron, South Dakota - Both unbuild. Perhaps tht is why Wright so readily agreed to build the Jacobs House within their circumspect budget. In a book is written about their experience of building with Wright, Katherine Jacobs described their first meeting:

We were living in Milwaukee when we first came in contact with Mr. Wright. Although we didn’t expect him to have interest in designing a small house such as we might afford we decided to drive over to Spring Green . . . In order to brake ice Herbert said: What this country needs is a decent $5,000 house. Can you build one? He said that we were not the first to ask him for $5,000 but the first who were ready to build it. He agreed. Than we found the lot 16 feet wide in Madison, Wisconsin. When we recieved the plans from Mr. Wright and studied them carefully, it suddenly dawned on us that he had designed it exactly sixty feet wide. Of course, we knew it could not be placed on a sixty-foot lot. We found a property across the street, a doublewide corner lot, and Mr. Wright just floped the plan. And we got better exposure than we wold have otherwise.
Again:Wrigt clearly countermanded ris own rhetoric and ‘ just flopped the plan’.

Are there somewhere exist the original plan for the first Jacobs house, 16 feet wide, composition and urban analysis of land or original transcripts of their interviews. Original letters or contracts between FLW and Jacobs family?
Or if someone have posibility to find part from "City Subsistence Homestead" about that 2 unbild Houses with plans. Maybe there is a good opportunity make this situation more clear.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16264
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never seen any visuals related to the first ("16 foot") version of Jacobs.

Here are some images of Lusk and Hoult. These are presented by Mr Pfeiffer in reverse order in Monograph 5 -- and both follow Jacobs I --
so both of these projects may follow from Jacobs, rather than preceding it (?).


Lusk plan

Lusk elevs

Lusk view



Hoult plan I

Hoult plan II

Hoult elevs

Hoult views



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v.hain



Joined: 20 Apr 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2010 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are there somewhere exist the original plan for the first Jacobs house, 16 feet wide, composition and urban analysis of land or original transcripts of their interviews. Original letters or contracts between FLW and Jacobs family?

I would like to ask to about this book?

Building with Frank Lloyd Wright
-an illustrated memoir
written by Herbert Jacobs

The book consists of two parts that describe the conversation and cooperation with Wright and Jacobs family at both their houses. I was looking for this book everywhere, but so far without success. Does anyone have the opportunity to look into the first part of the Jacobs I and will share with us this interesting information?

Another issue is. Who? or what? could have been for Wright at that time around the year 1936 the greatest inspiration and influence for his usonian work?

Thanks for everything
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DavidC



Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 6557
Location: Oak Ridge, TN

PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2010 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

v.hain wrote:
I would like to ask to about this book?

Building with Frank Lloyd Wright
-an illustrated memoir
written by Herbert Jacobs

I was looking for this book everywhere, but so far without success.



Building with Frank Lloyd Wright: An Illustrated Memoir (Wright Studies) [Paperback]


David
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16264
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2010 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

v. hain: Your story about the original house being the same width as the first lot bought by the Jacobses is correct -- but the dimension was 60 feet (18.28 m) rather than 16 feet ((4.87m). The book "Building with Frank Lloyd Wright" tells us this, and that the actual building site across the street consisted of two 60-foot lots together, resulting in a 120 x 120-foot property. No mention is made of the flopping of the plan -- though that sounds quite possible, considering the 180-degree reorientation of the entry facade of the house while maintaining the same southern exposure of the bedroom wing.

The design very likely changed little in other respects; as built it is just under 60 feet wide.

The first lot cost the Jacobses $800; exchanging that lot for the other two nearly wiped out their discretionary funds. And the lending agency refused their loan application because (it was said) of the flat roof design. But the house got built anyway. It was the first house from Wright's hand to have his gravity heat system; Mr Jabobs surmised that Wright hoped to have a built example in place ahead of the coming Johnson Wax building, also planned for the system.

SDR
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v.hain



Joined: 20 Apr 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Building with Frank Lloyd Wright" tells us this, and that the actual building site across the street consisted of two 60-foot lots together, resulting in a 120 x 120-foot property.

Hi,
SDR. Are there in the book any graphic images and information about this. (site plan, or floorplan, contract) Could you post these plans from the book? Please. My time for Research is at the end and even though I have already ordered the book. I will not be delivered on time. I would like to incorporate it in to this complex, which in turn I can also send you if you will want. Thank you very much[/quote]
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16264
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know of no drawing of the original site. The Jacobs book has no site plans. This drawing is from Monograph 5 (1985):

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HOJO



Joined: 19 Oct 2006
Posts: 47
Location: Belgium

PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

v.hain wrote:

Building with Frank Lloyd Wright
-an illustrated memoir
written by Herbert Jacobs

The book consists of two parts that describe the conversation and cooperation with Wright and Jacobs family at both their houses. I was looking for this book everywhere, but so far without success. Does anyone have the opportunity to look into the first part of the Jacobs I and will share with us this interesting information?


First part of the book: http://education.skynet.be/kunstschool/Jacobs-I.pdf

Groetjes uit (greetings from) Genk, Belgium Surprised
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