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How many Usonians are there?
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Unbrook



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Posts: 681
Location: Lakewood, Ohio

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 8:52 pm    Post subject: How many Usonians Reply with quote

Outside In has alerted me to this discussion today, so I will chime in. I have always considered the Weltzheimer/Johnson house to be one of the last of the spare early Usonians and the one of the first of the later Elegant Houses (as named by Futagawa in his series of books).
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SDR



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

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aha. It must be the ceiling treatment, and the decorated fascia, which move it into Elegant territory ?

I don't have as much Futagawa as I would like; aside from two Monographs, I have only an early Global Interiors, with 26 houses covering the period from the Oak Park residence and studio and Winslow, to some Textile Block houses and Richard Lloyd Jones -- almost entirely in black-and-white. The text is Japanese. Then I have Selected Houses 6, including Jacobs I, Pew, Goetsch/Winckler, Lewis, Pope, Rosenbaum, Schwartz, Sturges, Baird, Wall, and M M Smith. The text is by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, who tells us that the Lewis house was "composed of used bricks, intelligently arranged." They seem to be ordinary Chicago Common bricks, to me . . .

So, I have read nothing by Yukio Futagawa. "Elegant Houses" rings a bell, nevertheless. Could that be Pfeiffer's writing ?

SDR
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5258
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That might be Futagawa's term, but is there any indication that Wright himself said this or stopped referring to his fifties houses as Usonians? Aren't we really just discussing the variations and increased experimention in design which begin to appear in approximately the last 9 years of his life? The changes are so gradual and overlapping that it's difficult to determine whether it's a new phase or simply an elaboration of Usonia.

I would consider Lamberson to be quite modest in scale and "spare", yet it anticipates some of the later designs in several ways: the use of plywood in place of board and sunk batten for interior partition walls, and the absence of any wood exterior walls or perforated clerestories. (And what year do skylights appear in "Usonians"?) But I wouldn't think this in any way be could be enough to place Lamberson in a so called "Elegant" category. The neighboring Alsop has plaster ceilings, yet retains cypress board and batten interior partitions. Neither has a flat roof, or exterior wood, though Alsop incorporates a flat cantilevered carport roof. Both designs are from the late 40s, yet predict some of the 50s changes...
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Aren't we really just discussing the variations and increased experimentation in design which begin to appear in approximately the last 9 years of his life?" I expect so. Ever restless, and of course not content with something that might be improved. And he had more ideas than time to try them out, surely; when you find a rich root upon which to build, the possibilities are literally endless.

I'm not sure we've seen the "back rooms" at Lamberson, to view for instance the plywood partitions -- if I'm not mistaken. Bathroom, master bedroom, kitchen, main space we've had a look at. Are there photos -- when you have time ?

SDR
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victoriad



Joined: 08 Jan 2012
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the bottom of a brief letter to Dr. and Mrs. Zimmerman, typed on Taliesin letterhead and dated June 19th, 1952, is this notation, in FLLW's handwriting:

The house is a classic USONIAN!

I've always thought that was a little wink... and a nod to the nature of the neighborhood. "This is how we do New England... modern!"

I'm pretty sure it thrilled the Zimmermans.

(The capitalization and punctuation is Wright's own styling)
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha ! Excellent; thanks for that, Victoria. The horse's mouth is what we're here for . . .

SDR
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Unbrook



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Posts: 681
Location: Lakewood, Ohio

PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:51 pm    Post subject: Usonian Reply with quote

I believe Wright referred to even Fallingwater as Usonian. But the importance of the Usonians to me has always been that they were meant to be for families of more moderate income. Jacobs 1 is brilliant in its economy and updating what a family in the 20th century needs in a house.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you. I would be interested to find the reference to Wright mentioning Fallingwater as Usonian; that would help us to narrow -- or broaden ? -- our definition. The definition of "Usonian house" might be either functional (programatic), formal, or material -- or all three. Regardless of the term (which we know was somewhat arbitrarily chosen), the possible categories covered by the definition remain, and can be discussed ?

SDR
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pharding



Joined: 25 Jun 2005
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Location: River Forest, Illinois

PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reidy wrote:
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.

As a Restoration Architect intimately familiar with Lloyd Lewis, I wouldn't exclude it from being Usonian because a bedroom was labeled Servant's Room. FLW's 1940 Lloyd Lewis House is a raised Usonian. It is very much of an Inline Usonian that happens to be raised because of the 100 year year flood plane.
_________________
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 13726
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Certainly. Lewis is one of several Usonians which are raised to varying degrees in response to site conditions; others would be Pew, Surges, even Affleck.

SDR
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5258
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From Steiner Ag

"In 1936, Wright developed a series of homes he called Usonian. They were designed to control costs. Wright's Usonian houses had no attics, no basements, and little ornamentation. He continued to develop the concept, and in the early 1950s he first used the term Usonian Automatic to describe a Usonian style house made of inexpensive concrete blocks. The modular blocks could be assembled in a variety of ways. Wright hoped that home buyers could save money by building their own Usonian Automatic houses. But assembling the modular parts proved complicated, and most hired contractors to built their Usonian houses. A precursor to the Usonian Automatic system were the four Textile Block homes in California, Millard (La Miniatura) S.214, Storer S.215, Freeman S.216, and the Ennis S.217.
The basic concrete block of the Usonian Automatic system is 12 x 24 inches. The blocks were laid without mortar, with rebar placed both horizontally and vertically in semicircular joints. After one or two rows of blocks were laid, cement grout was pumped or poured into the joints to bond the structure together. There were many homes designed (projects), but only seven Usonian Automatic homes were built using concrete molded blocks. The concept was designed on a two foot grid floor plan. The walls were built with 1' x 2' blocks and the ceiling blocks were 2' x 2'. Others Usonian homes were built, but constructed of standard concrete blocks and other material. May 2009."

If we accept Steiner's claim that the first use of the term "Usonian Automatic" appears around 1950, then it seems to point to the idea that the Usonian house was still alive and well, but he was introducing an alternative to the brick, wood and stone types. It seems to me that the larger, more elaborate fifties houses don't seem to deviate enough from the 30s and 40s houses to warrant a new category or suggest that Wright had abandoned the idea of Usonia or Broadacre.

I think of houses after Jacobs as Usonian, Willey as transitional, until I see some evidence from Wright's own writings, or those of apprentices who worked at his side, that he had created and named a new type.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

https://www.linkedin.com/company/steiner-ag
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5258
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That would be Steinerag, the Wright Library:

http://www.steinerag.com/flw/Artifact%20Pages/PhRtUsonAuto.htm
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Unbrook



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Posts: 681
Location: Lakewood, Ohio

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:12 am    Post subject: Usonian Reply with quote

Now you have made me think. I recall some reference to Fallingwater as being Usonian, but don't remember where.

It certainly was a take on a simpler way of living, away from the tensions of Urban Life. A kind of Petit Trianon for the Kaufmanns, away from their busy life in Pittsburgh et al.

That it is an alter ego to the Jacobs I, makes it a contrast. It is Organic Architecture, a Natural House and everything else Wright talked about.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fallingwater is -- to Wright; to us -- either the uber-Usonian, or it is a separate and unique manifestation.

John Sergeant mentions Falling Water (as he has it) or the Kaufmanns only three times, very briefly. So far I find Edgar Kaufmann, jr, Edgar Tafel, H-R Hitchcock, B B Pfeiffer, Anthony Alofsin, William Cronon, Kenneth Frampton, Terence Riley, Gwendolyn Wright, and Richard Cleary all failing to mention the term Usonian in connection with Fallingwater. But that list just scratches the surface; absent the index to the Autobiography (or to "The Natural House") I cannot say whether Wright himself did or did not voice that connection.

While continuing to look -- perhaps the fact that Fallingwater precedes the first built Usonian helps to excuse it from the list. Hitchcock makes clear (p 88 ) that the Willey house "is not yet of the Usonian type . . ."

SDR
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