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I have been an architect for 15 years. I have a passion for the act of design. In practice much of our work has to be delegated in order to meet schedules, etc. I rarely, if ever, delegate the inital design concept. With a building as small, simple, and personal as this I doubt Sullivan would have given away "the fun part" of the work to an employee no matter how talented.
In my first year or two out of school I interned with a small design oriented firm. My boss would often prepare a residential design in sketch form, not to scale, on a scrap of tracing paper. I would then draft the plan to a scale determining dimensions and to some degree proportions, for review and comment. My belief, founded on no facts whatsoever, is that Wright likely drafted or oversaw drafting of Sulivan's bungalow based on a design made by Sullivan to which Wright applied the grid as it was being drafted.
The design is most likely a collaboration of the two.
A bigger question may be which came first: Is Sullivan's bungalow a simplified and less expensive Charnley; or is Charnley a further development of the Sullivan plan?
Louis Sullivan at an early age exhibited a strong belief and commitment in the power of architectural design. His autobiography "The Autobiography of Idea" clearly demonstrates this. As a young architect working in Philadelphia he gravitated toward and worked for Frank Furness. Frank Furness was an avant-gard, innovative architect. He was another great architect who pushed innovative architectural design and rejected mindless, by the book, classicism. As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, I spent countless hours in the Furness Library, a great building by a great architect. "The Autobiography of an Idea" gives strong insights into Sullivans exceptional commitment and enthusiasm for architectural design.
The contributions by art historians to architectural history is significant and important. However some insights into the mindset of an architect can best come from architects. This is particularly true with an overstated claim of authorship for Louis Sullivan's own vacation home by FLW.
A house in Racine published in an architectural journal of the period listed the project as being by Mr. Corwin. The design and construction of the house was well after Wright's departure from Adler and Sullivan. It has been speculated that this design was given to Corwin as some sort of thank you gift from Wright to Corwin for Corwin's agreeing to be the architect of record for the "bootlegged" houses done by Wright during the Adler and Sullivan period.
To characterize this as the eminent Wright graciously providing a design for the hapless Corwin seems to fly in the face of the circumstances of the two during that period. I wonder if people today are so caught up in lionizing Wright that they forget at this time he was about 28 years of age, just starting his own practice, sharing an office with Corwin who was a little older, and not world famous. Wright was talented, but was still finding his own voice. He and Corwin were colleagues, probably seeing one another on a similar level. Wright writes of their long conversations into the wee hours about design and the arts. For Corwin to converse with Wright on this level and to share an office with him over a period of time speaks to Corwin's own aspirations toward design. As close as the two were, it seems natural there would be cross-pollination of design themes, and given the early state of their practices, it is likely each did some drafting/detailing for the other to help with deadlines.
I know, I know THE GRID. The details. Is it so unlikely that this was cross-pollinated as well? It is it inconceivable that Corwin could have used the grid himself, or that Wright may have made suggestions or done some of the drafting/detailing during the process. For all we know some aspects of Wright's work of this period reflect in some way the hand of Corwin.
I just can't get my arms around an architect such as Corwin accepting a design from another Architect as "a gift" and passing it off as his own. To design is why we became architects in the first place. The bootlegged houses were a case of Wright going to his former superior at Silsbee's and asking him to be the Architect of Record so Wright could hide his identity and keep his job. That was not a slight to Corwin's ego, his image as a designer, or the perception of his abilties.
But for Wright and Corwin in this period to be part of some scene out of The Fountainhead where Roark throws a bone to the inept Keating seems unlikely. I would think a situation like that would be a horrible show of disrespect on the part of Wright to a friend and colleague. I personally would be enraged if a colleage showed such a lack of confidence in my abilities. Remember this was a large house; not a city hall, courthouse, or museum; it was a manageable project for an architect of Corwin's age and experience.
I personally question some of these early attributions to Wright. Wright had influence on those around him, and vice versa. To wholesale call this one Wright's with Corwin's role reduced to just screwing up a couple of trim details seems more than I can swallow.
That story about the thank-you present looks like just the sort of thing people make up when the evidence is against them. In this case the evidence is, as Hertzberg (I think) has pointed out, that Wright was in private practice and had no reason to keep his name off a building and no inclination to do so. The current discussions of the Sullivan, Charnley (Mississippi) and Charnley (Chicago) designs are cases in point. Show me some documentation (e.g. a letter from Wright to Corwin) and I'll stand corrected.
If FLW's name is on the drawings, it is not correct to attribute the design to his employee. It is that simple. One can say that the detailing of the project was completed after he went to Europe, etc. However even a statement like that problemmatic. The Robie House was completed after FLW went to Europe. Are we going take credit for that landmark building away from FLW? The FLW Foundation archives carry the Amberg House as a FLW project.
By the way, the current Amberg House owners, Thomas Logan and Anne Gerth Logan, got the wonderful news personally from W. Storrer that he had decided that there house was not a FLW House but a Marion Mahoony House, in the middle of cocktail party that they were hosting for FLW enthusiasts in what they understood to be a FLW house. I bet that put a damper on the Logan's party for the host and hostess.
Please do not misinterpret my criticism of this attribution change by W. Storrer as anything more than intellectual debate. He has made and is making an outstanding contribution to scholarly research on FLW. However as an architect, I question his criteria for attribution of some work to or from FLW. His criteria in some cases flies in the face of conventional standards for the architecture profession. I also think that if he is going to make earth shattering statements that FLW did not design a previously attributed house then he should not issue explicitly vague rational including the detailing wasn't Wright. I suggest that such significant pronouncements receive a more scholarly approach. Pronouncements like that should be handled in a more scientific way so that interested FLW scholars, enthusiasts and architects can review the material to form their own opinion.
Perhaps him signing the little red square is evidence enough? Maybe so, but that would imply Frank occasionally lost creative steam towards the end. After all, he had set quite a standard that even he might find difficult achieving 100% of the time. Being prolific does not necessarily equate to perfection, as his best works indeed were close to.
Anyone know the fate of E. Fay Jones' chapel in Mississipppi?
On Monday. I received an email from Melinda Lyman, the Senior Curator at the arboretum stating that the Pavilion is still standing, but has a hole in its roof caused by a falling tree. The damage is repairable and all at the arboretum are well and safe.
On a similar note, I heard by way of James Schildroth, a former Taliesin apprentice, and Nelson Brackin, a former student of Bruce Goff, that Goff's 1961 Gryder house in Ocean Springs, Mississippi survived the hurricane with minimal damage. This was confirmed by NOAA aerial photos. It is about a mile inland from Sullivan/Charnley and about 20' higher in elevation.
In the recent posts relative to Mr. Storrer's attributions, I detected a note apology in all of the posts that I found interesting. Is there an unspoken fear amongst us of Mr. Storrer? Excuse me while I cross myself, but am I the only one who has detected in some of Mr. Storrer's writings and reviews on his website an embarassing note of boastful superiority, smugness, and belittlement of those who do not share his "unerring" judgement?
I appreciate Mr. Storrer's many years of research and effort in the production of his books, but I sometimes wonder if we are treating him like he was the character on the "Seinfeld" series who was a genius at making soup, but who was also an abrasive personality when he was not given the deference he felt he deserved. Are we afraid of someone shouting "No books for you!"?
He has spent a productive life cataloging and documenting the works. It depends what bar you set. Since I do not know him personally, I tend to tread lightly out of respect and my own ignorances. His persona as discussed here is legendary, and in my opinion, for the most part accurate from my knowledge.
All is fair game here (as I have found out!). I have just as strong views as any one who has taken the time to have interest in the things discussed here. I wish there were more exchanges.
The spirit of the hunt! Afraid, no. Cautious without the scholarly advantage? Maybe.