Video: Interview w/ John Rattenbury

To control SPAM, you must now be a registered user to post to this Message Board.

EFFECTIVE 14 Nov. 2012 PRIVATE MESSAGING HAS BEEN RE-ENABLED. IF YOU RECEIVE A SUSPICIOUS DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS AND PLEASE REPORT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION.

This is the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy's Message Board. Wright enthusiasts can post questions and comments, and other people visiting the site can respond.

You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, *-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws. Doing so may lead to you being immediately and permanently banned (and your service provider being informed). The IP address of all posts is recorded to aid in enforcing these conditions. You agree that the webmaster, administrator and moderators of this forum have the right to remove, edit, move or close any topic at any time they see fit.
SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

"Heritage-Henredon was two companies. Henredon [Fine Furniture] did upholstery and small chairs, and I guess-- Well, I don't think they did dining room furniture. Heritage [Furniture Company] did case goods and dining
chairs. So the two companies worked together. And then Drexel [Furniture Company] bought Heritage, and that split them up. But the president of Henredon, Henry Wilson, was awfully nice and a great admirer of Mr. Wright.
He and his wife came here often. Mr. Wright designed a house for them. They didn't build it, but-- That was a very happy marriage until the company split up. But the trouble with the product was that the stores didn't know
what to do with it. They didn't know whether it was traditional or modern. They didn't know what buyer to send to the show. And when it got, then, to the store, it wasn't shown together. The bedroom things went to the
bedroom department and dining tables in the dining and so on. And things like the wooden vases never got anywhere near the furniture. It never was shown the way he intended it to be. He thought of it as a way to take a
perfectly ordinary apartment and line it with some architectural feeling. So it was successful but short-lived because of the splitup of the companies."

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Of fabric designs: "...this one is an adaption from the [Avery] Coonley House rugs, and that in turn was like a shadow pattern of what the windows would cast on the floor when he originally did them."

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

"I notice that Alfred Browning Parker got a lot of attention in that magazine, as did [E.] Fay Jones and Aaron Green. But I think of them as being very different kinds of architects. Can you compare for me their approach or what
it was like to work with them, for example, in Pace Setter houses or houses you featured?"
HILL
"Well, Al was very energetic starting out, and he was a great experimenter on his own. He had a good imagination. There again, he was an attractive person, so he got along wonderfully with Elizabeth and the decorating staff
and enjoyed it all. It was very easy to work with him, to get included in what he was doing, things that we could use, and occasionally getting products that we wanted to talk about and that sort of thing in there. He was
particularly adaptable. In the case of Aaron, I don't think we ever did anything except things that were already completed of his. But of course, I was always looking to people who had been here to watch over what they
were doing, and he was one of the best. Fay Jones I'm trying to remember. I knew him because he had been here [at Taliesin]. I don't remember what it was that we showed of his first, but it must have been a small house; he
hadn't done any really big things yet. But he was good and certainly showed promise as somebody you could recommend and feel that you weren't getting somebody into trouble. And you know that he was-- Wal-Mart started
because he [Sam Walton] was a client and building a house. And they had a store. I think they had two stores down there in Arkansas, and the house began to be more costly, so he opened another store." [laughs]
VALENTINE
"I didn't know that story." [laughs]
HILL
"Yeah, that's what got him going until--" [laughs]
VALENTINE
"Did you hope to boost these architects' careers by giving them attention?"
HILL
"Oh, yeah, yeah. That was a very purposeful-- Actually, that was probably the reason, say, for showing something of Fay Jones's, although it was far better than something else that we could find. And no, I guess it worked
both ways. But the notion that a reader would go to that professional was always-- You had to remember that and not pick somebody who was going to-- There were some rather good designers in that period who were so
difficult to get along with that they almost inevitably had client trouble, and I stayed away from them."
Last edited by SDR on Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

On the Japanese term "shibui":

"The whole thing of getting into it so deep was totally hers. I would have thought it was impossible. It was a word that I'd heard because Mr. [Frank Lloyd] Wright used it to refer to Taliesin here [Wisconsin] as opposed to the
desert camp [Taliesin West, Arizona], which he considered barbaric. It's a Japanese term that they use for the very highest aesthetic level of a certain kind. It means bitter, and it means aristocratic, and it means weathered. The
kind of beauty that comes from aging and that would be in a half-dead cherry tree, say, where the old and the dead and the living are still there. It's sad and beautiful and very understated. It's not a term that the rest of
the world has. We know clearly they have four categories. Shibui would be this highest level, and that would include things that are beautiful due to their age or due to their subtlety or extreme simplicity or-- Tea ceremony
things would be shibui. Then the hade. What they've exported to America always is the Christmas ornament type of beauty, the real gaudy, very colorful, bright-colored, party kind of thing. Iki is like chic almost exactly--
stylish, beautiful, elegant. Jimi is good but dull. It's never exciting. It's the kind of fabric that older people would wear, that sort of thing. But those four categories pretty well cover the possibilities. In any of them it can reach a
fairly high artistic level, but the serious one is the shibui. And I think there's a shibui show or something like that. Anyway, we tried hard in the Japanese issues to explain these. And I have no idea. A lot of the people just made fun
of the word because it sounded funny. It's a rather explosive sound that doesn't really go with what it means."

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

And finally:


"This is the organic thing. I think, for instance, with a few exceptions, nothing of Mr. Wright's is dated. It's a timeless sort of stuff. It's as interesting now as it was when it was new. Some of it is dated by the
materials that were prevalent at the time or something, but still, it escaped being fads or styles or anything like that. And I think it's because he was basically an artist. He was interested in beauty first--beauty of living and
freedom and joy, everything in nature. That was his motivation, and the fact that he happened to be an astonishing engineer and that he happened to be a genius was along with it. [laughs] But there were so many things that he
simply knew without having to read them or be told. And this was, of course, something you had to take into account with him. He didn't have to explain anything. Clients didn't have to-- They'd talk far too much to him beyond
what they needed. He knew what was going to be right for them. Sometimes he didn't take into account that they couldn't possibly finance it. But he wasn't extravagant. He thought things shouldn't be expensive. That's all." [laughs]
VALENTINE
"One more tough question: What's your favorite Frank Lloyd Wright building?"
HILL
"This one. Taliesin."
VALENTINE
"Why?"
HILL
"Well, there's so much of him in it. It's so extensive that you can't get bored with it. You know? And it's a feeling that it's still ongoing, that it's still got to be finished someday. [laughs] It's not a frozen thing from the past
somewhere. It's like a person. It's got all kinds of faults that you take into account and sort of love it for because it makes it more interesting. And you pay a price to enjoy it. I mean, it's not always comfortable, and it's a terrible
job to keep it shiny and really in proper use. But it's just-- It really is designed for the soul and for the emotions. And it's just wonderfully comforting. I don't know how else to explain it. It isn't even always beautiful.
This room I don't consider beautiful. It's very makeshift and just bare minimum, but I love it. It's a wonderful place to be. [laughs] It's-- Well, it's-- I don't know. I still remember the chill of seeing it for the first time as a boy.
I just had no idea that there was such a thing outside of someplace I'd never been, someplace in England or someplace in Greece or something. But of course, there are many of the buildings that I think are wonderful. But it's
like saying what's your favorite piece of music or something. This is the one I want to live in."

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

There really is so much more in this series of interviews, conducted at Talieisin between 1993 and 1995, than what I've quoted: his time in New York at
House Beautiful and work with Elizabeth Gordon and others, private work and contacts in many trades, his return to Taliesin, his marriage and the birth
and too-brief life of a son, his travels with the group to Europe after Wright's death, his views of the community in the decades following 1959---and many
other subjects.

S

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Wright and Elizabeth Gordon.


Image

Roderick Grant
Posts: 9868
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

The house designed by Harwell Hamilton Harris for the Texas State Fair affected me profoundly. It is rather "non-Harris-like," but fascinating. Hill's assessment of it is spot on:
"It had some totally impossible things about it in the way of circulation...."

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I don't find a plan in Lisa Germany. You must have the magazine...?

S

Roderick Grant
Posts: 9868
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

"The House Beautiful Treasury Of Contemporary American Homes" is a slim tome published multiple times between 1949 and 1958. The Texas house, an HB Pacesetter, is covered on pp 52-61. It was as grand an MCM as ever graced the HB pages, with a photo you would love: The front of the house featured a gravel parking lot with 4 wonderful cars parked, '53-'55 Corvette, "54 T-Bird, '55 Cadillac, and a large car sort of hiding behind some greenery. Not a GM car, but perhaps a Chrysler. The house seemed to be a celebration of the automobile, which was appropriate for the 50s.

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

House without automotive entourage:


Image

DavidC
Posts: 7386
Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:22 pm
Location: Oak Ridge, TN

Post by DavidC »

It looks similar to Fay Jones' work.


David

Roderick Grant
Posts: 9868
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

Yes, David, more Jones than Harris. But with all its flaws, it's still a fabulous MCM, especially the huge kitchen.

Matt2
Posts: 198
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2018 1:07 pm

Post by Matt2 »

All those exposed rafters wouldn't last very long. I'm researching a Seattle architect who did the same thing. A long retired contractor I interviewed bemoaned the exposed wood on such designs, saying they looked great when built, but soon deteriorated. He said he had a hard time using such buildings as examples of his craftsmanship even just a few years after construction. Unless regularly stained or painted, the wood would rot.

SDR
Posts: 18792
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

The solution, long employed around the world, is sheet metal---copper, typically---applied to the upper surfaces of exposed rafter tails, etc.

S

Post Reply