Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

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SDR
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

I hope for a chance to see more of the work. I think I've only been exposed to maybe four houses so far---if that ?

S

SDR
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

April 28, 2009:

In my opinion, Aaron Green was a better architect than one who resorted to breaking the rhythm of the module, or provided insufficient roof overhang.
FLLW designed a number of houses with shed roofs, and to my eye none of them were really as successful as they could have been. I am thinking of the Seth Petersen house, the Lovness look alike, the house for Ina Morris Harper, and the Ward McCartney house at Parkwyn Village, to name but a few. It is immaterial how far one extends a shed roof beyond the walls on the sunny side of a building, it is never going to really do the job for which it is intended. Moreover, it breaks the line established by the lower roof, and presents a difficult detailing problem where the roofs meet. To my knowledge there are no shed roofs at Taliesin East, FLLW always provided a ridge and a small ‘eyebrow’.


When I was being raised we were so poor that despite the fact that my mother worked very hard her earnings were such that there were times when there no food to put on the table, and certainly not enough for me to have spending money. I made a life without it, haunting the public libraries, and engaging in pastimes that did not require the expenditure of cash. As a consequence, money has never interested me, whereas doing the best possible job has.

ShannonBattisson
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by ShannonBattisson »

Hi All,
I am very new here and found your wonderful conversations when searching for some specific information about Laurie Virr. Laurie was my mentor, and I have been asked to write an obituary for the Australian Institute of Architects after his sad passing.

Reading your conversation has lifted my spirits, thank you.

DRN
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by DRN »

A link to the Canberra Memorial Parks website which notes the time and place of Laurie's funeral:
https://canberramemorialparks.com.au/

Virr, Lawrence 10.30 am Friday, 24 September 2021
Gungahlin Cemetery, Portion 23

SDR
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

Thanks, Dan. For what it's worth, a couple of items in Laurie's listing, there, are unique to him---on that page.

Numbers of American's and others will wish that they could be there for the ceremony.

S

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

Again in April 28:


Oak Park Kindergarten:

I have a book with the title ‘In The Cause Of Architecture’, which comprises the essays FLLW wrote for the Architectural Record between 1908 and 1952. Commencing on page 223 is an essay titled The Terms. On succeeding pages you will find the ground plan, a perspective, and a couple of elevations from which it is possible to derive some of the roof plans. Also, there is a different perspective in The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright, 50 years of Living Architecture. The appropriate Monograph states that there were six variants, but I have only been able to find four. Considering the scale of the achievement it is incomprehensible that Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer did not recognize it for what it is, and devoted very little space to the design.

Upon discovering it, I made a drawing of the ground plan, before superimposing sheets of tracing paper over it, and plotting the lines of the different roofing solutions. I am full of admiration for FLLW’s achievement, because I hold that Architecture is primarily manifest in the roof planes and fascias of a building, and Taliesin East is a symphony in that regard, as the kindergartens would have been also.

A building should not only be shelter, but should look like it also: the roof a broad brimmed hat pulled low over the eyes. Restricting the entry of sunlight during the hottest months of the year is just as important as furnishing protection from wind, rain and snow. Wide eaves can establish the scale of a building much more fittingly than the lids favored by the International School. My preference is for a building that has a brooding, mystical quality about it thru’out, rather than one that is like a goldfish bowl. Every building should have both the characteristics of the cave and the prairie, we desire both at various times.

I am not sure when the steeply pitched shed roof first made its appearance on the drafting boards at Taliesin, but I cannot recall its use on any building prior to 1950. I wonder what contribution FLLW made, if any, to the design of most of the houses of that era. Obviously, the Palmer house had his full attention, but I have the gravest doubts that the Richard Smith house at Jefferson, Wisconsin, for example, had any at all. The Howard Anthony house at Benton Harbor, Michigan, is attributed to FLLW, but was designed by Curtis Besinger, whilst the Seth Petersen house has all the appearance of a designer with the hand of a blacksmith, and surely has to be the work of William Wesley Peters. Did FLLW really design the Schaberg house?

Paul Ringstrom
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BIOGRAPHY: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect

Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond

jay
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by jay »

ShannonBattisson wrote:
Wed Sep 22, 2021 11:47 pm
Hi All,
I am very new here and found your wonderful conversations when searching for some specific information about Laurie Virr. Laurie was my mentor, and I have been asked to write an obituary for the Australian Institute of Architects after his sad passing.

Reading your conversation has lifted my spirits, thank you.
Ms. Battisson, I hope you'll share your obituary with us when it's completed, I'm sure many here would love to read it.
"...because I hold that Architecture is primarily manifest in the roof planes and fascias of a building..."
Such thought-provoking stuff!

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

I remember him being particularly interested in the multiple roof alternatives for that kindergarten project. I never did seek to gather the various versions of the design in one place, for display and discussion.

S

BBuck
Posts: 236
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Location: Fort Worth

Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by BBuck »

Welcome to Wright Chat, Shannon!

Thank you for your personal email.

Something that Laurie especially enjoyed doing is watching various marathons, twice. Once for the race and once again to view the architecture. Laurie was quite the runner in his day. Legs and lungs.

Now to find something to do for my late afternoon Saturdays...

Bill

Roderick Grant
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by Roderick Grant »

I never met Laurie in person, but his passing has saddened me. His contributions to Wright Chat were always brilliant and insightful, and when he stopped for some reason, we lost one of our best contributors.

ShannonBattisson
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Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2021 11:42 pm

Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by ShannonBattisson »

Thank you all for the warm welcome. Just another gift that Laurie gave me, connecting with like minded people around the world. I will be sure to share my obituary once I am finished and have Mary's support.

Bill, I thought the same thing about finding something to occupy my time on Sunday afternoons, not that they won't be spent over a cup of tea in the study at Rivendell.

SDR
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

April 17, 2009:

With matters of design, Mac is interested in the idea, not the details. When working in his studio there would be little information on his concept drawings to indicate his intentions with regard to finishes. Queries were usually met with, 'just draw a few lines fairly close together on the cross sections, and we will sort it out with the builder on site'. The 'onion house', earth sheltered, of which he drew a perspective and a cross section, has never had a ground plan, despite the fact that he received numerous inquiries from prospective clients when it was first published. He was astounded that I could set up a mechanical perspective: he always drew what he hoped a building would look like, and so was frequently disappointed when construction was complete. Nevertheless his drawings, especially his perspectives were very persuasive, and produced at astonishing speed. His contributions towards a more sympathetic environment, a truly Organic Architecture, have had few rivals over the last 50 years.


The mastery of Frank Lloyd Wright is no better exemplified than in the design of the Oak Park Kindergartens. To my mind, the roof of a building is the most important element, and it is often that which distinguishes an architect's design from those of tract houses. Walter Gropius avoided the problems associated with integrating pitched roofs over an irregular ground plan by placing a flat lid over it. FLLW, to his everlasting credit found at least four, and perhaps as many as six ways to roof the same kindergarten plan, an impressive achievement when there are many so called architects who have difficulty in determining one.

Mies van der Rohe. Was his work Architecture, or was it sculpture? Those here in Aus. who are still under his influence, including Glenn Murcutt, Richard Leplastrier and Peter Stutchbury design Architecture which is primarily sculpture, and then expect their clients to change their way of life to accommodate it. Perhaps it is unfair to compare the construction of Crown Hall, with the elegance of the Palmer or the Zimmerman houses because of the different scale, but what I saw at the former was glass steel, and 50 mm of bumpy black mastic where they joined. FLLW designed houses to fit the site and suit the climate, as witnessed by the Slater house for Rhode Island and the Grandma house for the Price family in Arizona for example, or Taliesin East and West. To all intents and purposes Mies designed the same house regardless of its location, changing only the size of the air conditioning plant.


I follow the submissions to Wright Chat, especially those related to the Nusonian house and the Taliesin School of Architecture prefab. Regarding those aspects of the original Usonians that it is considered could be deleted, there appear to me to be some technical aspects that have been ignored. Scoring the floor on the module lines serves 2 purposes. Not only does it tie the whole design together, and make it comprehensible in 3 dimensions, but the scoring, by reducing the thickness of the floor slab slightly and hence making it weaker, assists in controlling any cracking that may occur. When the slab is the finished floor that is an important consideration.

The prefab. is very sad. If that is Architecture, then I hope I am never involved in any.

Timber ceilings are very nice, and all the houses I designed early in my career had them. No matter how pale the timber when first fixed, the ultra-violet light soon transformed it to a yellow color. It looks fine, to my taste, for built in furniture, but on the ceiling I find it kills the light. Not that I advocate white painted plaster: my choice is a color referred to in Aus. as 'Real Bamboo'.

SDR
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by SDR »

June 7:

I find this: "His architecture is not in the current of the present regime any more that Walt Whitman's writings were in the current of the Gilded Age; hence his value is not that he has dominated the scene and made it over in his image, but that he has kept the way open for a type of architecture which can come into existence only in a much more humanized and socially adept generation than our own." Lewis Mumford, 1929

Apparently Mumford was a bit ahead of Hitchcock, at the time, in his appreciation of Mr Wrght !

I suppose I must be an existentialist, though I haven't read what I should of modern philosophy: I'm not sure I can agree that there's any "reason" for living or dying (though both are surely natural) -- but I do agree that "the commissioning and production of works of art and more are sufficient reason to live." All the more so, for someone committed to little else ?

Our disposable architecture is a crime and a shame. Your earlier explication of the homogenous hill town was so apt; expanded to all of man's building, it would be a revelation, no ?

I have never seen a Wes Peters building so I remain blissfully ignorant of his skills there. Perhaps his son was wrong in urging him -- unsuccessfully -- to decamp and try it on his own. . .

Hypocrisy seems (ironically) to be associated with self-deception; we criticize most strongly what we have been most guilty of ourselves.

I have also not read what I could of Wright, having so often bought books for the sustenance they could give me in visual images. The above quote is found at the beginning of H A Brooks' "Writings on Wright." I can find there what Gordon Chadwick recalls of Taliesin and Wright, and pair that with the recollections of his future partner, George Nelson, which appear in Tafel.
My own shelves have yet to be fully mined -- a good thing, as my book budget has now given way to more prosaic needs.



As to those last thoughts, I can certainly concur; I've been guilty of the same habit !

S

BBuck
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Re: Laurie Virr, Organic Architect and friend.

Post by BBuck »

Hello all,

I wanted to share this email to me from Mary. I think it captures Laurie's commitment to his principles, with her permission.

"Alexander and I laid Laurie to rest today a very beautiful place.

There are Covid restrictions relating to the number of people allowed to attend a funeral so we decided there would just be the two of us and we will have a big gathering here, at home, when restrictions have been lifted ( Possibly not until next year.)

Laurie and I had discussed natural burial some time ago and agreed that is what we wanted. The casket is made of a biodegradable material, almost like a heavy weight cardboard, the body has only garments made of natural materials, there are no headstones, just the natural vegetation. We were very pleased with the site; near an ornamental lake, on a gentle slope , with many eucalyptus trees…slender grey trunks, grey green leaves. In the distance there is a bank of wattle trees (Acacias) in full golden bloom.I spoke about my love for Laurie, the wonderful life we had had together, the travel we had done…especially our trip in1964 all across USA from one Wright building to the next…his success as an architect and the beautiful house we had shared for so long. And his great love of our wonderful son and his family.The coffin was then lowered into the grave and we left. We both felt it was exactly as Laurie would have wanted.

Bill if you would like any of Laurie’s books please let me know..

I hope you know how much his relationship with you meant to him; he really loved those long chats you had each week.


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