Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Turkel landscaping is a major upgrade from what it was when I saw it in 1989. The current owners have done a terrific job on both house and lot.


SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

"The National Register of Historic Places states that the Pappas House was constructed by its owners; Dwell states that Taliesin Associated Architects carried out the project." The two statements are not contradictory: as the house was constructed after Wright's death, the architect who finalized the design and oversaw its construction would have to be TAA. They would not be the builders; construction was in fact finished by Theodore and Bette Pappas, after "the prime contractor (Harvey Spigle, who had studied at Taliesin, then Wallace Kimbell) left off, with the walls only partly completed" according to W A Storrer.

Mr Wright spoke of the Usonian Automatic system in his 1954 "The Natural House," using illustrations of the earlier Textile Block and later Usonian Automatic block construction in the same short chapter. He did not mention the name Textile Block at this late date, when his few Usonian Automatic houses were in design and being built. So, the Pappas house should not be referred to as "Textile Block"---even though the construction of both versions of the technique and system are similar, differing mainly in the shape and decoration of the concrete unit. In the postwar period, "Usonian Automatic" was the name Wright wished to use for these new houses.

Textile Block:
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Usonian Automatic
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Roderick Grant
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by Roderick Grant »

Textile Block, Usonian Automatic, Frick, Frack. The one concrete block house that is neither is La Miniatura, a one-off. Textile Block simply refers to the warp and weft of the structural system; Usonian Automatic is straight out of Madison Avenue.

outside in
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by outside in »

I don't think the illustration showing the textile block system is the same method used on the usonian automatics - they were comprised of a single wythe of 3-1/2 inch thick custom block - which of course is impossible to insulate. Furthermore, the chamfered edges are essentially an invitation for water to enter the joint, which will inevitably start oxidizing the steel rebar, which is only setback 1/2 inch from the front of the mortar.

Unfortunately, system failure is inevitable because of oxidation, especially in the northern climates.

SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

Right you are; my mistake. Here are drawings made for the Tracy residence. Why Mr Wright would not show the like when discussing the Usonian Automatic for publication in 1954 is a question; if "The Natural House" was written before any of the UA houses had been built, there may not yet have been drawings like the ones below in existence ?

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SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

There is much to be said---or asked---about what appears in the drawings immediately above. In the meantime, addressing the previous post, if the second, non-Textile drawing from "The Natural House" is not an illustration of any of the Usonian Automatic houses (built ones, at least), what does it depict ? Is there another project or project, built or unbuilt, for which that isometric view is an accurate or an approximately correct representation ?

I looked at the earliest built Usonian Automatics, thinking that one or both might have been made or at least drawn with a double-wythe wall. In covering the Arthur Pieper house (1952, S.349) Storrer writes that "two three-inch-thick walls, as in earlier Wright textile block designs" was considered, but that "only one thickness of block was completed." The plan of Benjamin Adelman (1951 per Storrer; drawn earlier than Pieper but built later), as reproduced in Monograph 8, p 15, appears at first glance to indicate a double wall---but on closer inspection a note indicates the same sort of interior finish as is seen in the Tracy drawings: furring strips bolted to the inside of the concrete exterior walls, with 3/8" ribbon-stripe Philippine mahogany plywood nailed and glued to the furring.

In addition to those few Usonian Automatic houses built in the 'fifties, I count sixteen more that were presented to clients but not built.

S

SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

"Roderick, what is it that makes La Miniatura a "one-off"---neither Textile Block nor . . . what ?"

Answer: Millard was conceived of and built as a concrete-block building. In some places decorative block is wired to wood structure. Only after construction was underway did Wright come up with the Textile Block system.

See Sweeney, "Wright in Hollywood," pp 27-42.

S

Roderick Grant
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by Roderick Grant »

That is correct. As the story goes, while FLW was working on Millard, Lloyd designed the Henry Bollman House with his usual mix of structural concrete and wood, including trim on a balcony on the street side which had blocks and rebar that were a revelation to the elder Wright. He took it from there to design the other 3 block houses. La Min was built with male and female blocks set back-to-back, with practically no metal at all. It is predominantly a solid concrete mass.

SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

Reading further in Sweeney, we learn that Wright proposed the house to Millard; she had not intended to build. He offered the job for no fee, with only a lien: he would be paid "in the event that the house were sold speculatively for profit." The plans were approved (by the client, or by the city ?) on March 15, 1923. The house was "the first of Wright's designs for concrete block to be constructed."

"The working drawings were completed by Lloyd Wright. They reveal a hybrid of concrete block and standard structural components, but are remarkably inconclusive about specific details of the block system itself. Concrete block is indicated primarily for load-bearing perimeter walls. Interior partitions are wooden studs and plaster; floors are concrete scored to match the block joints, or wood; and ceilings are exposed-frame redwood or plaster. A skeletal concrete frame carries some of the loads. When the blocks are used horizontally as trim on balconies, they are wired to the substructure. The pierced-block screen in the upper west wall of the living room is supported by a concrete beam."

(Zoom your page to inspect drawings)

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© 1994, Robert L Sweeney

Roderick Grant
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by Roderick Grant »

"In the Cause of Architecture," the 1975 book of FLW's articles for Architectural Record in the 20s, on page 40, is a cross section sketch showing how the two layers of blocks fitted together.

(The same drawing also shows the original extent of the lot, with only the NE corner touching Prospect Crescent, necessitating the right of way allowing the original single-car garage to be built on the neighboring property -- which, after the house on it burned, was acquired by Millard sometime after Lloyd built the studio in 1926, which has its back side adjacent to the lot line. This addition allowed room for the second stall of the garage to be built. It was on this lot that Millard intended to have FLW build some rental units.)

SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

Sweeney too presents such a sketch. He also gives us the sole surviving drawing from Wright's patent application; he writes,
". . .although the information it provides is incomplete, it does reveal the evolution that has occurred. The interlocking blocks used
in the Millard house are contrasted with the new blocks, which are cast with semicircular channels around their perimeters . . ."

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Having gone thus far into the story of La Miniatura from Sweeney's account, I might as well present the remainder of his chapter, "The Block System Emerges":

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© 1994 by Robert L Sweeney, by the Architectural History Foundation, and by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

One wonders if, when Mr Wright was readying the final version of this block system for its rebirth as the Usonian Automatic, he might have recalled contractor Parlee's contention, thirty years earlier, that Parlee hadn't been aware of the double-block wall which he then "claimed as an extra" to his costs . . .

S
Last edited by SDR on Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

DRN
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by DRN »

The Pieper thread at this link has some pics I took when the house was being selectively demolished for its addition:
http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewto ... lit=Pieper

The cross section of a single wythe wall is visible.

SDR
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by SDR »

Corrected Sweeney post to restore a block of type.

S

DavidC
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Re: Article: Can the Pappas House become a museum?

Post by DavidC »


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