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The Island Woolen Company Dam Observation Deck (1913)
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
Posts: 1058

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have seen photos of this structure once or twice before, but have never really looked closely at the composition as a whole. It seems out of character with Wright's work at ANY point in his career, so I have to ask the question - do we have definitive proof that the structure was designed by Wright?
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Tom



Joined: 30 Jan 2011
Posts: 1997
Location: Black Mountain, NC

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No proof here, but would you say this project is possible in 1914 in Wisconsin without the architecture of Wright? To me it does seem directly derivative from Wrights work. What particularly interests me in connection with Wright is the engineering - the suspension structure etc.. not so much that the structure is revealed, but the concept. It does seem to me that it is something he would conceive.
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The suspended structure is one of the reasons that I question his involvement - it is a technique that he used on many houses, but for entirely different reasons. The concrete work is extremely crude, and I can't quite make out the shiny objects placed in the low knee walls, but the effect of the entire composition is clunky - perhaps it was Claude and Starck, but they seem to have a better sense of proportion and scale. There is always the possibility that Wright drew up something, and the execution was flawed - who knows. I would be very cautious of attributing this to Wright, or Claude and Stark for that matter.
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Tom



Joined: 30 Jan 2011
Posts: 1997
Location: Black Mountain, NC

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, clunky, I agree.
The shiny objects are embedded abalone shells. There is a guy on Flickr who thinks his uncle's father was responsible for having those installed. Wright would not have let that happen.

What are some of the houses in which Wright used suspension systems? I'd love to look into that.
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This has been discussed previously, but Wright suspended a girder at the living room ceiling of the Bradley House in Kankakee from steel rods hung from a roof truss - the placement of the girder was mid way between the fireplace and bay window to allow for a wide span in the living room plan. He went on to refine this technique at the Willits House and many others. I've often wondered where he picked up this technique and my best guess is that he learned from Sullivan. The "flying" balcony at the top of the Auditorium Building is hung from the roof trusses above.
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Reidy



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
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Location: Northern CA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't know of any houses. In the Autobiography Wright speaks ill of Michelangelo for using a chain suspension system at St. Peter's, yet it sounds like what he had done, on a smaller scale, in his Oak Park drafting room.

The balconies at Fallingwater are held up by cables that pull them back, but this was part of the restoration.
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Rood



Joined: 30 Oct 2010
Posts: 891
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

outside in wrote:
This has been discussed previously, but Wright suspended a girder at the living room ceiling of the Bradley House in Kankakee from steel rods hung from a roof truss - the placement of the girder was mid way between the fireplace and bay window to allow for a wide span in the living room plan. He went on to refine this technique at the Willits House and many others. I've often wondered where he picked up this technique and my best guess is that he learned from Sullivan. The "flying" balcony at the top of the Auditorium Building is hung from the roof trusses above.


If Wright borrowed the idea of suspended structure, it was from Dankmar Adler's example. Adler was the structural genius, not Sullivan. Among other places, Wright used the structural concept for the unbuilt Lake Monona Boathouse from 1893, for the Jacob's Hemicycle and for the Mile-High.
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
Posts: 1058

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it was only a suggestion - and you're right, Adler is rarely given the credit he deserves, but I'm not sure who was responsible for the structural innovation at the Auditorium.

I should point out that a similar condition exists at the Glessner House stable building - hung beams from the roof structure above. Mrs. Glessner once wrote that "several prominent architects" toured her house after completion, so that may be the source as well.

I'm a little baffled by other examples you mentioned - I don't quite see how any of these buildings embrace the concept of structure hung from a central tower, unless you consider cantilevered slabs from a central core (J-Wax tower) to be similar. The only building I can think of offhand is the Baxter Cafeteria by SOM with two masts, based on a concept for an exhibition building by Mies.
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to drawings made by Thomas Heinz when he worked on Willits back in the 80s (seems like antediluvian history, doesn't it?), the steel formed a frame for the entire living room/bedroom wing, from the basement up to the roof structure. What's suspended?
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry, I thought I had already posted this, but the two balconies on the second floor of the Willits House are formed by the location of what were to be two iron rods suspended from a roof truss above, similar to the Bradley House. Wright was trying to improve upon the proportions of the front bedroom by moving the rods to the outside and provide support for two girders that were to run in the ceiling of the living room below. Hence the need for the balconies. Unfortunately something must have happened during construction and two I-beams were installed (with construction nearly complete) to replace the hanging girders.
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

and to my knowledge, Tom Heinz never really worked on the house, he posted a series of articles written about the house that were full of errors, such as his assertion that Willits was to have radiant heat, etc. I should also add that Storrer's assertion that Wright designed this house on a module is fabrication as well. In looking at the dimensions shown on the drawing above - have you ever heard of designing a house on a 3'-3" inch module?
The module that Wright was working with was the size of the window openings, 2'-8", and the structure fell between. This is what Charles White was referring to, not the planning module based on Japanese matts blah blah.
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Tom



Joined: 30 Jan 2011
Posts: 1997
Location: Black Mountain, NC

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Mile High Illinois is defined by floors suspended by cables from a central core. Jacobs house suspends the second floor from rods. I did not know that Monona Terrace relied upon a suspended structural scheme but I'm going to the books right now to check it out.
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outside in



Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

you're right, I forgot about the second Jacobs House and the use of rods to support a suspended deck. However, I think this structural system is quite different from that shown on the dam. A central column with suspension cables is quite a stretch, don't you think?
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RonMcCrea



Joined: 05 Apr 2008
Posts: 313
Location: Madison, Wisconsin

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The dam project also is not included by Wright in his 1914 program for the Chicago Architectural Club show at the Art Institute, and he is throwing everything in there, including toy designs by his sons John and Lloyd. (He says the toy designs were "worked out" by the boys, implying that he was the creator.)
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Tom



Joined: 30 Jan 2011
Posts: 1997
Location: Black Mountain, NC

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I had to bet on this project just from what is presented here in this thread I'd say this was not a Wright project. And I agree that the chain suspended clunky slab at the dam is not like other projects with suspended structures. However, ... the project in question does not seem possible, in my judgement, without the revolutionary work of Wright. It still interests me to know who did it if neither Wright nor Claude and Starck did it. It does strike me as advanced work for the boondocks of southern Wisconsin immediately prior to WW1 on two accounts. First, the structural/engineering concept. Then the "pure" abstraction of the forms in geometry, clumsy compared to Wright of course, but nevertheless I would not think possible without the influence of his work.
I mean what would one expect to be built there by any other architect of the time? So who did this thing ... is kinda interesting. That said, the clunky suspended square concrete slab structure does bear some crude elementary association to the lilly columns at Racine.


Last edited by Tom on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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