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Erdman Prefabs
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Matt



Joined: 25 Nov 2009
Posts: 400

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My problem with Erdman is that Wright wants to make a Usonian house in a prefab manner, rather than creating a design from easily replicated modular parts. Which is odd as Wright was all about the modular. I suppose there is a history of his difficulty in working with modular units in the textile block homes. The idea there was a house built from a limited type of block but that limited number always grew. I can't recall how many different types of blocks were needed for Innis or Freeman, but it was a lot.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16025
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's so.

I don't think the Erdman designs are Usonian; the houses are fresh responses to the requirements of the project. They are, coincidentally or not, much closer to contemporary modernist houses familiar to the public at that time, than to the unique Usonian prototype.

SDR
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SREcklund



Joined: 26 Feb 2013
Posts: 732
Location: Redondo Beach, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR wrote:
That's so.

I don't think the Erdman designs are Usonian; the houses are fresh responses to the requirements of the project. They are, coincidentally or not, much closer to contemporary modernist houses familiar to the public at that time, than to the unique Usonian prototype.

SDR


Agreed. I think the Erdman designs embrace a number of Usonian principles, but are more forward looking - as if Wright understood that they could potentially be designs with legs, with multiple copies being built in a number of locations and siting conditions, and so made them more generically applicable to a wide range of clients. Perhaps inadvertantly, he simultaneously made them some of his most livable designs ...
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 8454

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As for the number of block types used at Ennis and Freeman, there were between 50 and 60.

I agree, Erdman are not Usonian, and yes, they seem to be very livable. The ones I have seen have survived almost without alteration.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
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Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All quite true. But Erdman 1, at least, cannot be said to be the unique work of art that is the true Usonian. How could they be ? One might say that Mr
Wright "knocked himself off" to produce a hopefully popular residential option for those not up for a custom home. In doing so he naturally watered-down
the magic considerably; the windows are a symptom of that, and others have commented on the unusual scale of the interiors.

My first, and lasting, impression of both Erdman 1 and 2 is a sort of Plasticville object, a slightly oddly-scaled and brightly-colored toy house blown up to
usable size.

The number of these houses that got built should speak to the success of the venture. Another comparison would be to the American System-Built Home of
three decades earlier. These too are "knocked-off Wright," in a sense -- but the difference is that Mr Wright poured his heart into that project, producing
dozens of unique details illustrated on hundreds of drawings, and a surprising number of variants on the basic idea.

Just my two cents. Those who own an Erdman can be proud of their home, and I have no doubt that the Wright name will continue to provide extraordinary
value to these properties.

SDR
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SREcklund



Joined: 26 Feb 2013
Posts: 732
Location: Redondo Beach, CA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR wrote:
The number of these houses that got built should speak to the success of the venture. Another comparison would be to the American System-Built Home of three decades earlier. These too are "knocked-off Wright," in a sense -- but the difference is that Mr Wright poured his heart into that project, producing dozens of unique details illustrated on hundreds of drawings, and a surprising number of variants on the basic idea.


The Erdman designs represent the unique level of learning that can only come from a career spanning decades. As you accurately state, Wright poured himself into the ASBH project, generating hundreds of drawings at a point in his career when he had the time to allow such investment. Forty years later, at the busiest time of his career, he could look back and see the lack of tangible success that came from the earlier effort and adjust his design process accordingly.

Erdman 1 was the closest Wright ever came to a "tract house", and I would argue is superior to the vast majority of them.
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Matt



Joined: 25 Nov 2009
Posts: 400

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

" In doing so he naturally watered-down
the magic considerably"

I agree with this. It is interesting to hear the comparison between Erdman and "custom" Usonians when the Usonian was intended to be the low-cost house for the common man. From the outside, Erdman has a tract home look that feels dull compared to the more activated moves of most Usonians. I'm also not a fan of the board and batten "prison stripes." How many were made? I thought there was just the one.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16025
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Storrer shows nine #1 houses.

SDR
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3545
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two Erdman #2’s were built; no #3’s...yet.
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DavidC



Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 6448
Location: Oak Ridge, TN

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has anyone ever seen any information on what the average Erdman 1 would have cost in 1950's dollars vs. a 'standard' house of the time with the similar square footage? Also, I wonder what the average custom Usonian he designed around that time would have cost vs. the Erdman 1?

If there was a substantial cost (and time) difference between 'Wright custom' vs. 'Wright pre-fab' then he may very well have succeeded in his hopes for 'better architecture for the masses' (assuming that Erdman costs were comparable to other standard-built homes of the time).

I continue to be a fan of the Wright Erdmans - in design and overall concept. Even more so after visiting many of them - including an overnight stay in one.


David
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A link to a Levitt and Sons brochure and price list from 1957...median houses of the day:

http://www.levittowners.com/houses.htm

Remember, Levitt was a one stop package with an economy of scale...Levitt bought villiage sized tracts, built roads, drives, and ran utilities. The house was a stock item being built with 20 to 30 others just like it in the same block of time allowing lower cost due to shared material purchases and labor mobilization.

An Erdman, though a pre-cut kit, was built one at a time on individually sourced and developed lots, with a separate “vendor” for the concrete, foundation, masonry, plumbing, and HVAC which were not part of the “kit”. The comparison between Erdman and a typical tract house of the day is apples to oranges. The best comparison may be Erdman to a custom scratch built Wright or, another kit house such as a ”Techbuilt”.

http://instanthouse.blogspot.com/2012/06/techbuilt-house.html?m=1

http://www.ncmodernist.org/techbuilt.htm
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In an article about the Duncan house (an Erdman#1) by Charles Rosenblum in the Summer 2008 issue of FLW Quarterly, it is noted the building costs the Duncan’s paid in 1957 Lisle, IL as follows: “$17,473 to Erdman and $16,400 to their contractor”.
It is not noted if the sum paid to the contractor was turn key (all inclusive) or if utilities were separate costs: well or city water connection, on site septic system or municipal sewer connection, heating oil tank or gas service connection, electric service connection. It is also not stated if the building lot was included in the contractor’s price (it likely wasn’t) as it would be with a home builder/developer like Levitt, or if that was a separate cost to the Duncans.

Relative to scratch built Wright houses...When Wright stated his construction costs in books such as “The Natural House”, he did not necessarily include all of the costs that accompany the development of a house, particularly the cost of land. From my experience delving into the correspondence and financial records of the Sweeton house, which had a low budget for Wright in this era, I have found that the base house and furniture itself was very close to the $15,000 budget. Extras requested by the Sweeton’s, most notably the workshop which represented a 10% increase in floor area and was situated partially below grade, combined with the cost of the lot, septic system, water well, and 400’ long drive brought the cost to mid- $23k in October 1951. I suspect some amount of Wright’s “budget excesses” might be attributable to extras and site development costs to the owner not included in original budgeting. Wright’s fee was calculated as 10% of the budget cost of the building (what he designed); that number might be the benchmark that the final total development cost (all in) is measured against, possibly unfairly.
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Paul Ringstrom



Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 3932
Location: Mason City, IA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marshall Erdman Prefab Houses
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Throughout his career, Frank Lloyd Wright was interested in mass production of housing. In 1954, he discovered that Marshall Erdman, who contracted the First Unitarian Society of Madison, was selling modest prefabricated homes. Wright offered to design better prefabs, ones that he believed could be marketed for $15,000, which was half as much as Marshall Erdman and Associates, Inc. (ME&A) were charging for their own version.[1][2][3] Wright didn't do much on the project until late 1955, but by spring of 1956 he had final plans for three Usonian-type homes to be built exclusively by ME&A. The December 1956 issue of HOUSE & HOME Magazine featured the Wright designed Marshall Erdman Prefab Houses and included Marshall in the cover story.[4] No examples of Prefab #3 were ever built.
The prefab package Erdman offered included all the major structural components, interior and exterior walls, floors, windows and doors, as well as cabinets and woodwork. In addition to a lot, the buyer had to provide the foundation, the plumbing fixtures, heating units, electric wiring, and drywall, plus the paint.[1][2][3]
Before the buyer could purchase the house, he or she had to submit a topographic map and photos of the lot to Wright, who would then determine where the home should sit on the lot. Wright also intended to inspect each home after completion, and to apply his famous glazed red signature brick to the home if it had been completed as planned.[1][2][3]
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Last edited by Paul Ringstrom on Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 16025
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A well-written, apparently accurate and informative piece. The information in the brochure and prospectus (?) poster earlier in the thread expands on this
information. I note again a curious lack of mention of the roof, a major part of construction and cost ?

Wright's formalization of the design and authorization procedure, there, down to the "granting" of a red square, represents an unusual degree of revelation
about the architect's preferences and (presumably) habitual process. It remains to be discovered, perhaps, whether every letter of the "law" was in fact
observed, on Wright's or the company's part as well as that of the purchaser.

SDR
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DRN



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3545
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe it is worth noting that the Erdman pre-fabs were by no means small or particularly spartan. The amount of cabinetry in them (read a lot of it) leads the lady of the Sweeton house to sigh with a bit of envy. Reduction of cabinetry was one of Wright’s surest methods of reducing cost... probably more reliable than wood specie or masonry selection.

Wright’s embrace of catalog elements such as the Andersen windows and Pella accordion doors, and his attempts to design WITH them was significant. As designed, the houses were still more expensive than the median house, but beating Levitt with these houses was not likely the goal. I believe the direction Wright was going with the Erdman #3 may have been a more economical version of the type.
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