Marden House - Washington Life Magazine

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therman7g
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Marden House - Washington Life Magazine

Post by therman7g »

Hemicycles are one of my favorite Wright styles. Is there one considered his best?





Known to Wright's disciples as the Marden House, this hemicycle design set into the rocky hillside was named after Luis and Ethel Marden, the photographer and mathematician couple for whom the home was designed. The Marden's occupied the residence until 2003. Presented with a choice, Kimsey decided to do what any steward of a masterpiece would, and he undertook its restoration to exactly what the artist intended it to be. Kimsey even visited Wright's archivists at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, housed at Taliesin West in Arizona, and in 2004, he began the $1 million-plus restoration. The result is pure F.L.W., a cinderblock work of minimalist genius suspended over a torrent of rapids half a mile south of the Key Bridge.



Full Story:

http://washingtonlife.com/issues/may-2006/inside-homes/

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

Nice photos accompanied by the standard architecturally illiterate

article (captions) . The surprising thing to me is, after the big buck restoration, Kimsey or his advisors chose to use so much non-Wright furniture. I suppose the scandanavian modern coffee table is somewhat in keeping with the Wrightian spirit, but the sofa, Arco lamp and that

awful arm chair 'make my teeth hurt' to quote FLlW.

Still, considering the 'taste' Kimsey exhibited in his own mega-

mansion, mercifully not seen in these photos, I am grateful that

this small gem wasn't just bulldozed into the Potomac!

On second thought, perhaps I am being premature. Could the

Wright furniture still be coming. One can only hope.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The first hemicycle built was Jacobs II, which is one of the top ten designs of the late era. Of the Marden type, a curved south wall of glass in a rectilinear masonry house with a closed north wall, the best by far is Laurent in Rockford, IL. It has better proportions than Marden, Winn or Spencer. The Pearce House, also well proportioned, has large glass doors in the north wall opening onto a tit-shaped terrace, which violates the intent of this type of plan. The sunny south wall contrasted with the solid wintery north wall doesn't make much sense in California, but it is still a nice house.

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

There's an informative discussion of the solar hemicycle designs in

'Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs". In a nutshell

it seems only 4 of the 11 of this type constructed during Wright's life

are properly oriented southward to take advantage of the sun. Even

discounting the George Lewis house in Florida, where the southern

orientation is of no particular benefit, we are left with 6 that are not

oriented in accordance with the design principle involved.

It is stated in the above referenced book that the Marden was reoriented by the owner to maximize a particularly attractive view. The

Meyer was rotated in order to minimize snow drifting into the carport.

I recall that the large windows at the 'back' of the Pearce were added at

the owners request to provide a view of the San Gabriel Mountains. I

believe the Laurent, if it had been faced south would be facing the

street, so it faces northwest. I would guess that the others are

rotated off of south for similar view enhancing or privacy gaining reasons.

Of those I have personally seen (four), I would concur with R Grant that Laurent is the pick of the lot.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

I have to wonder if Wright really wanted the solar hemicycles to all face south.



In most cases, when design requests came to Wright they were in the form of a detailed survey of the lot. He would have known the orientation of the lot along with all the other aspects of the lot itself before choosing a design. If he knew Laurent had to face north west

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

While I certainly can't vouch for the accuracy of what is presented in

'Wrightscapes', I'll quote the authors regarding the Meyer hemicycle.

" Correspondence of record confirms that Lillian and Curtis Meyer requested that their house be rotated to minimize the possibility of snow drifting into the carport, even though the consequence of this change - a

rotation of some 90 degrees- was that the two-story glass facade faced northeast."

As to RJH's larger point," did Wright want all the hemicycles to face south?" Let me throw a few speculations out there. The client came to

Wright having seen and fallen in love with a hemicycle and that's want

he wanted, suitablity on a given site be damned. After all a commission

is a commission, so give the client what he demands. Wright would

ocassionally back down when faced with a strongwilled client. Or say he

was being flexible to the wishes of the client if you perfer.

Second speculation. Wright was certainly not above 'forcing' a given

design either onto a site or onto a client just to get it built. There are

numerous excamples, again in "Wrightscapes" of houses originally

proposed for one site getting built on another with a different orientation

to the sun. If I recalled correctly, Jacobs I was a case in point, as the

original lot proved too small for the design and the owner lucky was

able to purchase a double lot across the street. Wright simply flopped

the plan giving the living room an east exposure rather than a west.

In any event, I highly recommend " Wrightscapes" as an illuminating

look into the way Wright fit his buildings into their natural surroundings.

None of what is presented there diminishes his genius in my eyes.

Perhaps the occassional failures and compromises just make him a

little more human.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

Ed,



That answers a lot of questions. Great job researching the client correspondence!



I agree with your comments about Wright clients coming to him asking for a particular design. Personally, I think it is difficult to match a site perfectly in terms of geography and solar orientation to fit the design properly. But it can be done if one looks long enough for the perfect plot of land.



3 years ago I did have the chance to walk around the Epstein house in the middle of winter. Epstein is next door to Meyer and a short walk away. The snowdrifts were indeed VERY deep. If I recall correctly, Epstein

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Visits to both make the similarity between Sturges and Sanders obvious, but also the difference. Whenever FLW started a line, the early expression was lyric (Sturges, Jacobs I, Jacobs II) followed by classic (Rosenbaum), and if taken too far, could devolve into baroque (Sanders), but thankfully never as far as rococo ... although some of the unbuilt projects pushed the envelope. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with Sanders, but a trip to both makes it obvious that Sanders is just not up to par.



Re: Snowdrifts. Having grown up in Minnesota, albeit the southwest corner where the weather is downright balmy compared to, say International Falls, I have been exposed to snowdrifts and attempts to prevent them from cuddling up to the wrong side of the house. Orientation doesn't always work. Our entrance faced due west in a 'court' 10' x 20'. With 200' of wall space that could easily have accommodated drifts, all the snow eschewed the almost blank north wall in favor of the 'court'! I told them to build on a south-facing lot, but to no avail. They didn't have to shovel it.

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

The point of the solar hemicycle scheme was maximum sun in the winter and maximum shade in the summer. To get this effect (especially in the far-north latitudes where most of them were built), the house ought to face south, with the winter sun in front of it and the summer sun in back.



Peter

dkottum
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Post by dkottum »

Marden is not really a hemicyle at all, in that the window wall is flat. The scheme is clearly derived from the hemicycle type, but does not have the concave or convex window wall that allows direct exposure of a portion of the interior to the winter sun all day long. Note that if the hemicycle is facing south, the concave plan allows the west interior direct sunlight in the morning, but in the convex plan the east interior receives direct morning sun. In the summer, both types have shaded interiors all day long.



Perhaps a greater problem to the north-facing carport is not the snow drifts, but the compacted snow and ice that sits in its shadow at the entrance all winter long. The south-facing carport will see this ice and snow melted away in hours on even the coldest sunny day.



Doug Kottom, Battle Lake, MN

RJH
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Post by RJH »

I have a 2 photos of a 1987 and a 1991 Jack Howe designed houses in the shape of a football. I would be more than happy to post the image here. If someone can help me do it.....in terms of advice.....I would appreciate it? All my efforts have failed.

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

RJH,

Thanks for the compliment, but I don't want to leave the impression out there that I researched any original client architect correspondence.

Just quoting from the Aguar's fine book 'Wrightscapes".

According to the appendix they interviewed the following original owners of Usonians: Rosenbaum, Pope, Pew, Jacobs, M. M. Smith,

Weisblat, McCartney, Brown, Mossberg, Buehler, Brauner, Reisley,

Laurent, Schaberg, Berger, Palmer, Shavin, Kraus, Blair, Elizabeth

Wright, Geo. Lewis, Christian, Fawcett, Tonkins, Tracy, Pappas,

Van Tamelen, Gordon, Kinney, Olfelt and Ablin. Apparently they had access to the correspondence of others, Meyer being one such case.

In my estimation only a small fraction of what they must have learned

from these interviews is actually presented in the book. As it stands the

book still is about 350 pages of informative reading. I don't know if

they published any articles on this subject or if transcripts of the

interviews are available anywhere other than the authors personal

files. Would make fascinating reading I'll bet.

Changing the subject, I'll extend kudos to RJH, Paul Penfield, and

the owners of the Schwartz and Muirhead houses for their efforts in

making the Wright experience available to us all.

Finally, I have no idea why the computer splits my sentences and

paragraphs into such a strange pattern. Perhaps some computer savvy

person out there will take the time to enlighten me.

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