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Surprisingly ignorant critic
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Paul Ringstrom



Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 3769
Location: Mason City, IA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:47 pm    Post subject: Surprisingly ignorant critic Reply with quote

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kamin/ct-met-apple-store-icicles-blair-kamin-20171229-story.html

My letter to the author:

Mr. Kamin,

I previously thought of you as a knowledgeable reporter,
but no longer after I read this:

Leaking roofs don't get a pass, either. But is anyone ready to throw out the flat-roofed Prairie School houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, which are infamous for their leaks? Wright's buildings, like all great works of architecture, exist on two planes — the quotidian and the transcendent. Problems in the former do not cancel out the magic of the latter.

As most true Wright-o-philes know:

Wright’s Prairie Schools houses had 4/12 hip roofs
and his Usonian houses had, for the most part,
flat roofs.

We also know that the technologies for fully waterproofing
a flat roof were not invented or perfected prior to
1959.

Also, perpetuating stories about leaking roofs and
implying that that was a universal trait of Mr. Wright
is unacceptable for a supposed learned architecture
critic, unless he was going for a quick cheap shot.

UPDATE:
PRR says, Please name for me a Prairie House (pre 1914) that has a flat roof.

Also, just because other reporters are cheap shot artists who attempt
to raise themselves up by putting their betters down does not make it right.

BK says, Emil Bach house. Anyway, I’ll change the story to say gently sloping roofs. But they still leaked! Paul, are you calling Ada Louise Huxtable a cheap shot artist? I think you’re being too kind to FLW.

PRR says, Sorry, Emil Bach is 1915. Harry Adams 1913 is considered the last Prairie house.

I loved Ada’s book on Wright, she wrote it thirteen years ago, and you are still using it
to justify the overuse of that tired, overwrought and lazy cliche which has had its time in the sun?

Isn’t there a more insightful feature of his work that you could use instead?

Are his leaking roofs the most notable feature of Mr. Wright’s body of work?

Did the roofs of any other architect's houses leak over the past 150 years?

I agree that flat roofs, by any architect, have a tendency to leak due to poor technology, installation and maintenance,
not hip roofs.

BK has no response.
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Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond


Last edited by Paul Ringstrom on Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7775

PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like Foster's work, and the Chicago Apple Store is handsome. It does lack a sense of enclosure and warmth when swallowed by the Chicago winter weather, which might make the place seem bleak.

Kamin's article seems a bit weak, perhaps rushed to get something in print ... anything.

I will use this opportunity to backtrack on my earlier dismissal of our own architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne. In last Sunday's Times, he wrote an interesting article titled "The Harry Potter Look," about how the "Neo-Neo-Gothic" architecture that is overtaking, once again, campuses across the land, inspired by the Millennial obsession with Hogwarts. Colleges should be forward-looking, not places that dredge up the distant past. But that's what one college after another is doing these days. Gothic architecture is warm and cozy, a redoubt from turbulence. College should be dangerous, no safe places. It's a time when children grow up, at least in theory. Hawthorne nails it succinctly. Now if only he can get off the Peter Zumthor/LACMA Oil Spill bandwagon!!
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 14840
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, your complaint, whether apt or not (considering the contex; Kamin is at pains in this piece to defend architects and their work), seems to have been heard: the offending sentence now reads "But is anyone ready to throw out the Prairie School houses of Frank Lloyd Wright and their gently sloping roofs, which are infamous for their leaks?" Of course you're right: it's the Usonian era where most (but certainly not all) of his flat roofs are found.

Did you write the editor ? Someone apparently did. Maybe the sped-up pace of the news cycle has been matched, here, with pronto correction of journalistic error ?

SDR
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Paul Ringstrom



Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 3769
Location: Mason City, IA

PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR,
Yes, the author revised his online article. I did not talk to his editor (do they still have those)?

He still assumes that Wright's buildings leak more than other buildings. I don't believe that is a statement based on facts.

I still contend that his misplaced blame on leaky hip roofs should be the fault of the roofer, not the architect. As a builder, I always thought that was a cheap shot.

I blame the leaky flat roofed Usonians on the technology available to the architect at that time in addition to the installation expertise of the installer.

Roofs have a tendency to leak no matter what the architect draws on the paper due to faulty materials or workmanship.

PRR
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 14840
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right. But remember the "always and never" caution; almost nothing is entirely the fault of one party rather than the other. Wright's placement of clerestory window bands virtually on top of a lower roof, in snow country; his design for the connection of flat roof cover to the top edge of roof fascia with no flashing; and his placement of french doors on a slab with no drains or change in level at the (non-existent) sill, are all examples of inadequate architectural detailing in my view.

SDR
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Paul Ringstrom



Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 3769
Location: Mason City, IA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR,
I agree with those items to which I would like to add his 22-½" doors and hallways.

PRR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7775

PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, the narrow doors and hallways encouraged owners to watch their diet. Paul Hanna wrote that at social gatherings at their house (before the alterations), they had a sort of game with heavy-set guests to see if they could negotiate the narrow hallway without getting stuck.
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 1363
Location: Northern CA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laura Gale (1908) is one example.
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Paul Ringstrom



Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 3769
Location: Mason City, IA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moving furniture down a 22-½" hallway or up and down the same size stairway if just not practical even if your name was Twiggy.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 14840
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes.

And, Laura Gale, and Larkin, and unbuilt projects like the Yahara Boathouse . . .

SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7775

PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One might say the same thing about circular stairs. Imagine hauling a king-size mattress up one, bendy though they may be. Yet circular stairs are considered desirable. Every building has limitations. If you want a chesterfield couch in your Usonian bedroom, chances are you will have to cut it up and reassemble it. These sorts of things have to be considered before you buy. I would love to have a throne on a stepped platform, a concert grand and a musicians' gallery in my living room to go with my ego and pianistic talent, but there simply is no room.
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 1363
Location: Northern CA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't most of the rooms in Hanna open to the outdoors?
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7775

PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Other than the kitchen, they all do, and did before the children's bedrooms were remodeled into the new master bedroom. The narrow hall served those long-gone rooms behind the playroom/dining room.
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Tom



Joined: 30 Jan 2011
Posts: 2155
Location: Black Mountain, NC

PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I listen to a podcast called: "About Buildings and Cities."
The latest episode is about Corbusier's villa's of the 20's.
Evidently all theses houses were technical disasters:
water poured down the walls inside from the roof, pipes froze and burst, boilers constantly breaking, huge mold issues.
It got so bad in the Villa deRoche that de Roche built walls inside of the walls.
Made Corbusier livid.
The podcast hosts say there are miles of client complaint letters in the archives.
Strange how I've always heard of Wright's leaking roofs, but until now, never
the failures of Corbusier's work.
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
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Location: Northern CA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schindler's Pueblo Ribera court in La Jolla is another technical failure.

I suspect that we hear less about Corbu's leaky roofs because we hear less of anything about him than we do of Wright.
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