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How many Usonians are there?
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CITYTYPE



Joined: 13 Jul 2015
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:48 pm    Post subject: How many Usonians are there? Reply with quote

After a quick Google search, I'm wondering how many Usonians actually were built. I found statements that ranged from 60 built to 170 designed.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13726
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The variation may be the result of varying definitions of "Usonian"; did Wright call (almost) every house he built from 1936 -- or 1940 -- on, a Usonian, or are they only the houses that follow the initial "recipe," more or less ?

I'm glad you asked, because I'm not sure we've ever answered that question properly. Indeed, in the last ten years I don't recall a serious effort here to arrive at a consensus on the definition of "Usonian house."

How do you define "Usonian house" -- assuming we're talking, now, only about Wright's own work ?

SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7195

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The term was just PR. If asked, I doubt FLW could have defined which were and which weren't Usonian from Jacobs I on. As he admitted himself to Geiger, he regretted using the term, and thought "Bionic" would have been preferable.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So -- that makes the counting job easier. How many non-Fallingwater, non-Wingspread houses were built from 1932 on . . . (I assume that, whatever Usonian means, those two don't qualify.

Or maybe Fallingwater is the only exception ? Is David Wright a Usonian ? Lykes ?)

SDR
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
Posts: 1041

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm afraid the term lost meaning as Wright's clients benefitted from the booming economy of post-war America. Clients requested larger homes, and costs skyrocketed. Although Jacobs cost $5,000, the next cheapest Usonian was $10,000 - Weltzheimer reportedly cost $35k. At the same time, municipalities required frost-depth footings in masonry (no stone) and contractors avoided solid, thin walls and preferred 2x4 stud walls (albeit turned 90 deg) for installation of electrical conduit and piping. The most difficult component is defining what a Usonian really is! I doubt if more than 30% of the houses designed after 1937 were in keeping with the original concept.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Using Storrer (1993), I count 152 residences built between Willey I (1932) and Lykes (1959). (Storrer's 1978 handbook gives us 145, I believe.) This counts Auldbrass as one residence, and includes the New York Exhibition House.

SDR
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 1329
Location: Northern CA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the "classic" Usonian period (1934 - 1941) I'd also exclude L. Lewis as too high-end. A necessary condition of being Usonian is a servantless family, and Lewis contains a maid's room. The Popes had live-in help at one time ("a colored girl" in Mr. Pope's phrase), but I don't know if she had a separate room.

Some would require a radiant heating system, which excludes Hanna and perhaps others.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting. This illustrates the difficulty in nailing down a definition, and a list. For me, those houses which were built from one of the Standard Detail Sheets, regardless of number of stories or rooms, would be on the list, for sure. These are made of brick, on concrete slabs, and have the three-ply sunk-batten walls. There are 26 or 27 built examples of these, the first being Jacobs I, 1935 (Willey has plaster walls and a brick-paved floor) and the last Paul Trier or Allen Friedman (both 1956); just over half of them have flat roofs only.

This list of two dozen or so would be considerably larger if CMU or stone replaced brick. Others, like Pew, Lewis, Affleck, miss out because they have lapped board walls and partitions instead of board-and-sunk-batten. Beyond that we have houses like Willey and Alvin Miller (plaster), A B Roberts (wood floors), Sweeton (plwood partitions), etc etc., which deviate from the Standard Detail Sheets in one way or another.

SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't consider Willey Usonian, at least from a stylistic point of view. The construction was also standard at the time, right? Usonia begins with Jacobs I.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right. Perhaps only the program, and some superficial aspects of form, point to the Usonian ?

SDR
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3030
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not so sure lapped wood should be a disqualifier....the unbuilt Willey#1 seems to be a forerunner of Lloyd Lewis and in some respects, Suntop Homes...all of which seem Usonian at least to John Sergeant. Of course Sergeant included Sturges, Pauson, and Pew as well...
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, yes. Only the ulra-orthodox would limit the list to those dozen or so flat-top single-story brick and sunk-batten houses.

So, at the other extreme, what do we leave out ? Why isn't Fallingwater a Usonian -- or is it -- pretending for the moment that we could be thinking the same things when we say "Usonian" ?

SDR
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3030
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wright houses having one or more of the following:?
-plan is organized on a defined unit grid scored into the floor slab
-radiant heat via a concrete slab
-service core containing utilities and kitchen
-open plan living and dining area surrounding a service core
-bedrooms clustered or in a linear wing projecting from the living/dining/service core
-a dramatic cantilevered carport roof situated near the main entrance

This would seem to capture most of the post 1936 residential work. I don't believe a 1900's or 1910's Wright house would easily fit this criteria. Does size matter?
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13726
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's refreshing to see a list that's almost devoid of formal or material specification, focusing more on programmatic criteria. It gives me perspective on my own view. Your first and last items, naturally, appeal to me !

It would be interesting to have as many personal lists as possible; even if no consensus is forthcoming, new insights would be sure to arise . . .

SDR
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13726
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have no desire to "rate" houses or make value judgements about them. I certainly don't believe that any Wright structure is more or less important than any other. The thrust was to identify various Wright structures in order to answer the OP's query. It may be that a definition of "Usonian house" is beyond our grasp . . .

SDR
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