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Lake Tahoe Summer Colony
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18150
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is the provenance ? These wound up with Alphonso Iannelli ?


SDR
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is one of my complaints about Sweeney's book, illustrations got short shrift.

The perspective and plan of Tahoe appear in "A Testament" at a larger size, but in monotone. I have never seen the elevation before, either.
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Meisolus



Joined: 06 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My understanding is that the elevation has never been published. These drawings have been in private collections for a very long time. Iannelli had them and then they were sold to a private collector and have been sequestered away ever since. How wonderful that we get to see them now!
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18150
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although most of the illustrations in Sweeney are black and white -- there is a brief color section to the book -- what's there is fully identified in the captions,
and there is material I have not found elsewhere, such as an extensive collection of Textile and other block drawings, site plans, and construction photos . . .

SDR
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Meisolus



Joined: 06 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can we discuss the materiality of this new Fir Tree cabin some? I'm very curious as to what the masonry would be. On the rendering it shows a heavy diagonal line on that huge retaining wall and there is a fainter depiction of horizontal lines as well. Would this diagonal line have actually been there, scored in the masonry somehow? Would this have been a block system? On the elevation it is only showing horizontals.

Looking at some of Wright's drawings for textile block houses, it appears that for plain (undecorated) textile blocks, he would only show the horizontal lines. This is clearly distinct from his design for the E.A. Smith house, which shows irregular ashlar for the foundation/retaining wall. Or could this be masonry with a plaster coat on it? Or concrete?

Looking at the roof, there are diagonals there as well on the rendering. Also on the elevation there are a (rather confusing) mix of horizontals and diagonals (though consistent with the perspective). Would the roof have been more made out of boards than shingles, as in the E.A. Smith house?

As a side note, Wright's inconsistency from one drawing to the next is evident even when there are only three preliminary sheets. The chimney in the perspective clearly matches the plan, but the monstrosity in the elevation does not.

All thoughts welcome!
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Rood



Joined: 30 Oct 2010
Posts: 1076
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Meisolus wrote:
Can we discuss the materiality of this new Fir Tree cabin some? I'm very curious as to what the masonry would be. On the rendering it shows a heavy diagonal line on that huge retaining wall and there is a fainter depiction of horizontal lines as well. Would this diagonal line have actually been there, scored in the masonry somehow? Would this have been a block system? On the elevation it is only showing horizontals.

Looking at some of Wright's drawings for textile block houses, it appears that for plain (undecorated) textile blocks, he would only show the horizontal lines. This is clearly distinct from his design for the E.A. Smith house, which shows irregular ashlar for the foundation/retaining wall. Or could this be masonry with a plaster coat on it? Or concrete?

Looking at the roof, there are diagonals there as well on the rendering. Also on the elevation there are a (rather confusing) mix of horizontals and diagonals (though consistent with the perspective). Would the roof have been more made out of boards than shingles, as in the E.A. Smith house?

As a side note, Wright's inconsistency from one drawing to the next is evident even when there are only three preliminary sheets. The chimney in the perspective clearly matches the plan, but the monstrosity in the elevation does not. All thoughts welcome!


First off ... Scheme I, as shown on the plan, features a terrace with a 120 degree prow, while "Scheme II" shows a terrace with a 60 degree prow. The perspective seems to illustrate Scheme I, while the elevation ... Scheme II.

The walls of the terrace appear to be slanted in, slightly, with diagonal striations that overshadow the horizontal layers ... composed (evidently) of concrete blocks. Later Mr. Wright occasionally designed concrete block walls where each horizontal layer slightly overlapped the layer below ... by a fraction of an inch, the ostensible purpose of which was to prevent water infiltration and (in cold regions), freezing of standing and infiltrated water in horizontal joints.

I don't know .... just a guess on my part, but might the dominant diagonal striations have been an attempt to wick water from walls built in a region subject to ice, snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures?

As for the elevation, I'd guess it pre-dates the perspective.

The E.A. Smith house walls would have been of "Desert Masonry" ... with concrete poured behind flat-faced stones set against wooden forms ... a system invented by Ernest Flagg. See Flagg's Small Houses: Their Economic Design and Construction, 1922. ISBN 0-486-45197-6.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18150
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deferring to Rood's closer study of Wright's work, I would nevertheless posit that Wright's use of the battered (inward-leaning) masonry wall, and its counterpart, the outward-tilted wall, had mostly if not entirely to do with
architectural expression. In the Usonian era, standard concrete masonry block (CMU) walls, straight or curved in plan, are erected plumb, or stepped in or out by 1/2" per course, as he saw fit, sometimes mixing both or all three
conditions on a single building.

Roughly contemporaneously with the Lake Tahoe project, in Los Angeles Wright used battered walls of Textile Block at Ennis, and at the unbuilt "Little Dipper" playhouse for Olive Hill.





The diagonal lines on the Fir Tree view drawing appear to be laid at 15º from the vertical, a not uncommon angle in Wright's work. A faint indication of horizontal coursing can be seen -- but he may have hesitated to indicate
the horizontal joints while he considered whether the units would be rhomboids or tilted squares . . . Even more faintly visible in the black-and-white illustration is a hint of countering diagonals -- which would make the blocks
triangular or diamond-shaped ?

Diagonal textures abound in the Tahoe drawings; the Fir Tree, Wigwam and Lodge cabins show diagonally-laid roofing of some sort. The latter is also built upon, or surrounded with, tall battered horizontally-coursed walls.






Five years later, in the desert, he drew square units tilted a full 45 degrees, at the Young house project.

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Meisolus



Joined: 06 Jun 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR - As always, you make a fine point. Let's try and explore this further. I started putting the Fir Tree cabin into AutoCAD. Once that's done, it will go into Sketchup. No promises as to how far this will go, and I haven't even mentioned it to David yet, so it may or may not ever be much more than a rough model, but it could be fun to try and figure out some of the finer points.

The floor plan helpfully has a scale next to it. Based on what I'm measuring, all the doors seem to be 2'-6". Is that normal for Wright or should they really be 3'-0" or something else?
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18150
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, now. There is a lot to see in that plan drawing. There's a series of numbers -- or letters -- running all the way around the perimeter of the sheet. Then there's a very faint grid to be seen at the left side of the house,
and a scale (perhaps) drawn vertically there as well. Something might be made of that, in homing in on dimensions. What could that vertical scale be -- a beginning of vertical building layout ? The dashed portion is typical of,
say, a visual scale marker with a ten-foot span broken up into single feet.

Interior doors, like those to the twin rhomboid bathrooms, would more likely be 2'-6" than 3' -- but they might even be smaller; remember that with Wright smaller is more likely.

The plan is unusual, perhaps Wright's only octagonal form constructed with 30 and 60-degree angles ? The red lines are the roof, I guess. Are the twin loggias flanking the kitchen outdoor spaces ?

Schemes I and II are differentiated only by the shape of the terrace prow ?

I assume you'll use the elevation drawing in conjunction with the plan. The heights of doors -- derivable even though partially obscured by the deck parapet -- could be as useful as the door widths in plan
to establish scale . . .

SDR
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Meisolus



Joined: 06 Jun 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been following the grids you mentioned, especially the scale at the side. While the resolution of these photos is good, it isn't great and what is confusing me is that the scale seems to say "10 - 20 - 20". I'm assuming the last 20 is actually a 30 but it really looks like 20 to me.

Part of the problem with "tracing" over a plan like this is that the sheet as photographed doesn't really lay flat. And when you add in the fact that pencil marks have thicknesses, it can get a bit screwy. But what I'm drawing seems to match overall, certainly enough for my purposes.

By the way, would a wall thickness of 4" be about right for this? I'm using the E.A. Smith house as a reference.
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18150
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If outside in is attending, he might be the best authority on how Wright houses of various vintages were constructed. I don't know if Mr Wright might have
made interior partitions -- or, heaven help us, exterior walls (in summer houses) -- using 2x3 studs. Even then (assuming a full dimension to the lumber),
to achieve a four-inch overall wall thickness, the lath and plaster would have to total no more than one half of an inch -- not impossible, I suppose.

So, to use the more conventional 2x4 stud, the wall would have to be at least five inches thick. As far as I know, the three-ply wood wall of 2 1/2" that
typifies the Usonian partition/exterior wall, was just over a decade away, at this time . . .

SDR
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Rood



Joined: 30 Oct 2010
Posts: 1076
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SDR ... Save for the Lake Tahoe structures, none of the examples of battered walled buildings you mentioned were designed for cold climates, where freezing water could possibly threaten the integrity of exposed concrete block walls.

Certainly Mr. Wright could easily allow the warp and weft of his concrete block structures to express various elaborations of the idea ... but why would he design a wall with projecting, slanted striations, while deliberately subsuming the horizontal joint ... if not for a practical purpose?

And yet, maybe you are correct, and those striations were merely a passing whim, because the Phi Delta Fraternity House for Madison, Wisconsin, designed just a year later, and meant to be constructed of concrete blocks ... employed inward slanting walls that expose the horizontal joints.

As Whitman wrote: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I'm large. I contain multitudes."
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 18150
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to think that, like any responsible architect, Mr Wright would conscientiously and consistently pay attention to detailing his structures in
ways that would contribute to their longevity. And I'm sure that there are many instances where he and his boys made those efforts. But I believe,
after perusing many many of the construction drawings prepared for houses in the Usonian era, that this kind of thing was not uppermost in Wright's
mind. There are simply too many instances of "wishful thinking" to be found on those sheets -- and in the structures that were built from them.



William Cronon's essay was given pride of place in the 1994 publication that accompanied the Wright exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York of that year. Titled "Inconstant Unity: the Passion of Frank Lloyd Wright," it
begins by quoting Emerson in a passage that echoes the words of Walt Whitman quoted above. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." And, "With
consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do."

After enumerating some of the many ways in which Mr Wright, while preaching consistency as a vital element in architecture, demonstrated his willingness to dispense with consistency in his practice and in relationships
both personal and professional, Cronon turns to the romantic idealism which he believes underpinned the work. "Wright shared with his nineteenth-century contemporaries a deep conviction that the chief task of science and
art was to discover underlying principles of order . . . which would reveal the hidden unity of humanity and nature." Then, "Emerson . . . gave license to Wright's fiercely defended conception of himself as iconoclast, individualist,
genius. The architect's self-centeredness and willful refusal to march to anyone else's beat had powerful roots in his family's psychodrama, but also conformed to Emersonian notions of personal integrity. The elaborate myth
that Wright constructed in his autobiography of a lone genius fighting against great odds and nearly universal opprobrium to defend his architecture against intellectual philistines . . . in Emersonian terms could serve as proofs
of the independence, originality, and integrity that revealed true genius."

"For Wright, the purpose of art and architecture was not slavishly to copy external nature, but to use it in the way Emerson recommended, as the occasion for exploring inner nature and thereby expressing universal spirit."

Beyond Emerson -- and in addition to the formal lessons gained from the early exposure to the Froebel "Gifts"-- Ruskin, Viollet-le-Duc, and Owen Jones provided Wright with ideas and object lessons that would be useful in
his work. After exploring these and other influences on Wright -- the Wisconsin landscape, Louis Sullivan, the Ho-o-den -- Cronon eventually returns to the subject he touched upon earlier, the apparent indifference to
architectural convention. "One great legacy of the World's Columbian Exposition for Wright was the lesson that every building, no matter how humble or small, could enjoy the freedom of the folly and also [could] profoundly
influence the structures of architects working far in the future.

The buildings of the Exposition had achieved a unique playfulness and freedom by pretending that time did not exist, and they did so in a way as to affect the course of American architecture for the next thirty years. Like all follies . . .
the fair gave its builders the chance to try experimental ideas, explore extreme effects, and express their most exuberant visions in ways that would not have been possible under any other circumstances." "Wright
himself experienced the pleasures of folly architecture when, less than three years after the fair, he erected the Romeo and Juliet Windmill. Although he intended the structure to be permanent and it held up reasonably well over
the years -- albeit with significant restoration and eventual reconstruction -- it shared with the buildings of the fair a clear sense that its utilitarian function was merely an excuse for its extravagantly elegant, playful . . .
form." Cronon then lists some of Wright's "fantasies" which got built, and others which didn't. "Broadacre City and the Usonian houses were more constrained in their impulses, but they too sought to serve as visionary
templates transmitting a Wrightian legacy to the landscapes and memories of the future . . . [serving] as demonstration buildings whose purpose was to leave Wright's unmistakably personal mark on all who would follow in his
footsteps."

"Above all, Wright sought the freedom to express his own creative genius as an artist. During his years at Oak Park, when he was still trying to uphold a conservative suburban lifestyle . . . Wright for the most part reined in his
more playful side. He built structures that for all their originality still upheld . . . traditional family values, still conformed to many ordinary expectations about domestic architecture, still managed to be built more or less within his
clients' budgets. After fleeing the staid environs of Oak Park, however, Wright's impulse toward more exuberant structures began to play a greater role in his work. The possibilities . . . increasingly encouraged him to explore
the endlessly plastic manipulations of geometry and form that were the core of his idealism. If we wish to answer the riddle of his leaky roofs, it is here, to the folly and the imperatives of romantic individualism, that we must
finally turn."

"As I suggested at the outset, the riddle is more profound than it first seems. The practical failings of Wright's buildings are so numerous that one cannot hope to catalog them in an essay of this size." Cronon then
enumerates some familiar difficulties at Wingspread, at Beth Shalom, and at the Greek Orthodox Church. He extends the discussion of roof leaks to the Prairie and other houses with low-pitched roofs -- which tend to retain their
snow loads for longer periods -- and the elimination of the attic with its ability to "contain the extreme swings of temperature and moisture that occur at the tops of most buildings. . ." "Wright was for some reason not
always attentive to the importance of vapor barriers and ventilation" in the outer shells of his houses.

"Roofs were not the only places where these sorts of design problems could occur. Wright's frequent wish to make his buildings appear to defy gravity produced a life-long love affair with the cantilever, which he often extended
farther from its structural supports than conservative engineering practice advised. Although he loved to boast that he knew more about such matters than the engineers, and although few of his cantilevers have actually failed,
deflections have been common and occasionally severe."

"Wright's game of chicken with the force of gravity was matched by other refusals to accommodate the surrounding environment. These seem especially perplexing when one considers his reputation as an "organic"
architect whose higher goal was to design buildings that would be "naturally" suited to their sites. On the one hand, Wright could display extraordinary environmental sensitivity to the siting of his buildings, practicing passive
solar architecture before it even had a name. On the other hand . . ." and the author fills the next couple of pages with examples of the various difficulties his clients suffered at his hands, difficulties architectural and
financial, the latter having to do both with initial expense and with the ongoing costs of maintenance and, ultimately, restoration.

"Romantic genius, artistic iconoclast, heroic individualist: these are the labels Wright attached to himself, these the standards against which he measured his own behavior. When he told clients to throw away their
belongings or when he cajoled them into spending far more than they had ever intended on their houses, he was serving his vision of an ideal truth. Given his own perennial indifference to money, one can almost imagine that
he literally had trouble imagining it as real. Above all else, Wright's vision served beauty. When he quibbled with Sullivan's dictum that 'form follows function,' suggesting instead that 'form and function are one,' he was in fact
revealing that when push came to shove his own true passion was form more than function. What he admired in the Arts and Crafts movement was its commitment to crafting all objects in such a way as to render them
beautiful. What he loved about Japan was the idea of a culture in which every human action and every human object were integrated so as to render them beautiful. In pursuit of beauty, he sought to subordinate all
elements of his architecture to a consistent style that would express their underlying unity. No matter how radically his individual buildings may differ from each other, they all express his struggle for aesthetic consistency . . .
This man who could sometimes seem so inconsistent in his personal and professional life in fact held up consistency as the highest ideal of his architecture . . . 'You must be consistently grammatical,' Wright said, for a
building 'to be considered as a work of Art.' Geometry was the key to grammatical consistency, which was in turn the key to aesthetic unity, which was in turn the key to beauty, which was in turn the key to God."

"But consistency alone was not enough; it was only of value if coupled with the new . . . The proof he demanded of his genius was to go where no architect had ever gone before, and that meant accepting risks that few
others were willing to take. If the cost of gambling on greatness was some leaky roofs, badly heated rooms, sagging cantilevers, and unhappy clients, then Wright was more than willing to pay the price."

"The romantic spirit that Wright brought to all his buildings may point at once to the deepest secret of his buildings and the most profound reason for his leaky roofs. In the end, the leaks and sags did not matter to him.
Although his practical goal was to strive as hard as he could to make the structures conform to the vision in his mind, form mattered more than function to him, and the vision behind the form mattered most of all, far
more than did its physical incarnation. The building itself would invariably fall short, and could only be an approximation of the Platonic ideal that lay behind it . . ."

© 1994 by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and by William Cronon
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Meisolus



Joined: 06 Jun 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Here is my version of the plan I drew up in AutoCAD. The walls are 5" thick. I haven't included the roof lines yet because I'm having a hard time actually getting them to work. It's a surprisingly complicated roof.

Mostly I just drew what I saw as I saw it. I decided for double doors from the bedrooms out onto the terraces as I really like the stepped version in the perspective. I also reversed the side the hinge was on for the doors from the living room out onto the terrace. They would be incredibly awkward if they were built as they are shown on the plan (if you want to argue with me about the purity of Wright's design here, go ahead - this is a very preliminary sketch and would have been further developed along the way). One thing I am not sure of are the two walls from the kitchen looking out over the back terrace. It looks like the kitchen is actually labeled "kitchen court" which almost implies it's an outdoor space. But if it is, where exactly does indoors begin?

I'm still working out the roof. Once I've got a reasonable handle on that, I'll move on to the elevation, drawing it both as it is shown and in such a manner that it matches the plan and perspective. And if I get that far (no promises!) maybe a rough 3D model.

Do you think we could infer a lot of the interior finishes and design from the E.A. Smith house drawings and the Nakoma Clubhouse?
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JChoate



Joined: 04 Feb 2016
Posts: 975
Location: Atlanta

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple of examples of battered CMU walls in northern climes are Boulter (Cincinnati) and Brandes (Seattle).

http://tmsarch.com/historic-preservation/#/boulted-house-restoration/

http://blog.buildllc.com/2012/03/northwest-usonian-part-ii-2/
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