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Known to Wright's disciples as the Marden House, this hemicycle design set into the rocky hillside was named after Luis and Ethel Marden, the photographer and mathematician couple for whom the home was designed. The Marden's occupied the residence until 2003. Presented with a choice, Kimsey decided to do what any steward of a masterpiece would, and he undertook its restoration to exactly what the artist intended it to be. Kimsey even visited Wright's archivists at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, housed at Taliesin West in Arizona, and in 2004, he began the $1 million-plus restoration. The result is pure F.L.W., a cinderblock work of minimalist genius suspended over a torrent of rapids half a mile south of the Key Bridge.
article (captions) . The surprising thing to me is, after the big buck restoration, Kimsey or his advisors chose to use so much non-Wright furniture. I suppose the scandanavian modern coffee table is somewhat in keeping with the Wrightian spirit, but the sofa, Arco lamp and that
awful arm chair 'make my teeth hurt' to quote FLlW.
Still, considering the 'taste' Kimsey exhibited in his own mega-
mansion, mercifully not seen in these photos, I am grateful that
this small gem wasn't just bulldozed into the Potomac!
On second thought, perhaps I am being premature. Could the
Wright furniture still be coming. One can only hope.
'Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs". In a nutshell
it seems only 4 of the 11 of this type constructed during Wright's life
are properly oriented southward to take advantage of the sun. Even
discounting the George Lewis house in Florida, where the southern
orientation is of no particular benefit, we are left with 6 that are not
oriented in accordance with the design principle involved.
It is stated in the above referenced book that the Marden was reoriented by the owner to maximize a particularly attractive view. The
Meyer was rotated in order to minimize snow drifting into the carport.
I recall that the large windows at the 'back' of the Pearce were added at
the owners request to provide a view of the San Gabriel Mountains. I
believe the Laurent, if it had been faced south would be facing the
street, so it faces northwest. I would guess that the others are
rotated off of south for similar view enhancing or privacy gaining reasons.
Of those I have personally seen (four), I would concur with R Grant that Laurent is the pick of the lot.
In most cases, when design requests came to Wright they were in the form of a detailed survey of the lot. He would have known the orientation of the lot along with all the other aspects of the lot itself before choosing a design. If he knew Laurent had to face north west
'Wrightscapes', I'll quote the authors regarding the Meyer hemicycle.
" Correspondence of record confirms that Lillian and Curtis Meyer requested that their house be rotated to minimize the possibility of snow drifting into the carport, even though the consequence of this change - a
rotation of some 90 degrees- was that the two-story glass facade faced northeast."
As to RJH's larger point," did Wright want all the hemicycles to face south?" Let me throw a few speculations out there. The client came to
Wright having seen and fallen in love with a hemicycle and that's want
he wanted, suitablity on a given site be damned. After all a commission
is a commission, so give the client what he demands. Wright would
ocassionally back down when faced with a strongwilled client. Or say he
was being flexible to the wishes of the client if you perfer.
Second speculation. Wright was certainly not above 'forcing' a given
design either onto a site or onto a client just to get it built. There are
numerous excamples, again in "Wrightscapes" of houses originally
proposed for one site getting built on another with a different orientation
to the sun. If I recalled correctly, Jacobs I was a case in point, as the
original lot proved too small for the design and the owner lucky was
able to purchase a double lot across the street. Wright simply flopped
the plan giving the living room an east exposure rather than a west.
In any event, I highly recommend " Wrightscapes" as an illuminating
look into the way Wright fit his buildings into their natural surroundings.
None of what is presented there diminishes his genius in my eyes.
Perhaps the occassional failures and compromises just make him a
little more human.
That answers a lot of questions. Great job researching the client correspondence!
I agree with your comments about Wright clients coming to him asking for a particular design. Personally, I think it is difficult to match a site perfectly in terms of geography and solar orientation to fit the design properly. But it can be done if one looks long enough for the perfect plot of land.
3 years ago I did have the chance to walk around the Epstein house in the middle of winter. Epstein is next door to Meyer and a short walk away. The snowdrifts were indeed VERY deep. If I recall correctly, Epstein
Re: Snowdrifts. Having grown up in Minnesota, albeit the southwest corner where the weather is downright balmy compared to, say International Falls, I have been exposed to snowdrifts and attempts to prevent them from cuddling up to the wrong side of the house. Orientation doesn't always work. Our entrance faced due west in a 'court' 10' x 20'. With 200' of wall space that could easily have accommodated drifts, all the snow eschewed the almost blank north wall in favor of the 'court'! I told them to build on a south-facing lot, but to no avail. They didn't have to shovel it.
Perhaps a greater problem to the north-facing carport is not the snow drifts, but the compacted snow and ice that sits in its shadow at the entrance all winter long. The south-facing carport will see this ice and snow melted away in hours on even the coldest sunny day.
Doug Kottom, Battle Lake, MN
Thanks for the compliment, but I don't want to leave the impression out there that I researched any original client architect correspondence.
Just quoting from the Aguar's fine book 'Wrightscapes".
According to the appendix they interviewed the following original owners of Usonians: Rosenbaum, Pope, Pew, Jacobs, M. M. Smith,
Weisblat, McCartney, Brown, Mossberg, Buehler, Brauner, Reisley,
Laurent, Schaberg, Berger, Palmer, Shavin, Kraus, Blair, Elizabeth
Wright, Geo. Lewis, Christian, Fawcett, Tonkins, Tracy, Pappas,
Van Tamelen, Gordon, Kinney, Olfelt and Ablin. Apparently they had access to the correspondence of others, Meyer being one such case.
In my estimation only a small fraction of what they must have learned
from these interviews is actually presented in the book. As it stands the
book still is about 350 pages of informative reading. I don't know if
they published any articles on this subject or if transcripts of the
interviews are available anywhere other than the authors personal
files. Would make fascinating reading I'll bet.
Changing the subject, I'll extend kudos to RJH, Paul Penfield, and
the owners of the Schwartz and Muirhead houses for their efforts in
making the Wright experience available to us all.
Finally, I have no idea why the computer splits my sentences and
paragraphs into such a strange pattern. Perhaps some computer savvy
person out there will take the time to enlighten me.