Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

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Tom
Posts: 3312
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

Post by Tom »

Bear with me.
Bought The Lost Years several months ago and started reading it this week. I got frustrated around chapters 4 & 5 so skipped to the end and read the several last pages which put things into perspective so that I was able to go back to where I left off and proceed without torment. This is an intense and detailed book which attempts to put Wright's artistic and conceptual development from 1910 to 1920 into an understandable framework. It's worth the effort. I am not unaware of what was going on in Europe during this time but Alofsin presents things and names I'd never heard of like: Lauweriks and Worringer for starters.

Though not finished with that book I downloaded Wright in New York on Kindle. So far it is more a biographical and human interest story. I was surprised because he has an entire chapter and more on the St Mark Bowery Towers. I thought he would have gone into a detailed design analysis given the focus of The Lost Years but he does nothing like that.

On the human interest side however, in an early chapter he states circumstances about the Robie House that really surprised me. I knew that Robie was designed and built on the cusp of Wright and Mamah's trip to Europe. ...and I am sure that I thought that Wright slept on the site at night to catch construction crews in the morning in order to make corrections. I read somewhere that he did that often during the Oak Park days. However, Alofsin states he left the Robie commission with Hermann von Host after having "done but a few sketches for it before leaving for Europe." (Yet he states that when Wright left- only the foundations were in place - which does not make a whole lot of sense if Wright had only done "but a few sketches.") Alofsin states that Wright was not there during the entire construction period and that Marion Mahoney moved into von Host's office executed the design development of Robie and supervised construction while Niedecken fitted out the house.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

Post by SDR »

That description of events fits the Irving commission much better than it does Robie. (The name is von Holst, not Host.)

Working drawings for Robie were complete by March, 1909 (Hoffmann, p 21.)

S

Tom
Posts: 3312
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Re: Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

Post by Tom »

"While the precise date of their sailing has not been determined, they [Wright and Mamah] arrived in Berlin in late October or the very beginning of November 1909." The Lost Years p.30


"The Robie House in Chicago proved immediately problematic. Although the building was eventually referred to as his masterwork, Wright had done but a few sketches for it before leaving for Europe. With only the buildings foundations in place he handed it's development and construction over to Hermann von Holst, a little known local architect. Marion Mahony, who had worked in Wright's office and had made the brilliant Japanesque perspectives of many designs, moved to von Holts' office and was largely responsible for developing the Robie house designs and overseeing it's construction. G.M.Niedecken, who had built much of Wright's Prairie period furniture assisted in fitting out the house. Wright had no hand in the project during most of the construction (he was in Europe the whole time) ..."
Wright in New York p.29
Last edited by Tom on Wed Jul 14, 2021 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

Post by SDR »

For whatever reason, Alofsin misstates the record as to the state of the drawings for the house; Hoffmann (whose book is, admittedly, now 37 years old) is clear about the date that the client signed the completed working drawings, March 1909---seven or eight months before Wright's departure.

It is always wise to consult more than one reference before drawing conclusions about historic fact. Hoffman seems far less interested, in his writing about Wright's work, in reaching for novel connections than does Mr Alofsin. I have not yet seen the New York book; I have waded through much of "The Lost Years."

S

Roderick Grant
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Re: Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

Post by Roderick Grant »

To assert that Mahoney had much of anything to do with the design of Robie is ridiculous on the face of it. A glance at the work she did that is indisputably her own shows she lacked the ability to produce such a work. H. Allen Brooks, a better historian than Alofsin, avers that Mahoney designed Adolph Mueller, had a lot to do with Robert Mueller and a little to do with Irving. Her design for Henry Ford was a mishmash of her ineptitude and her husband's attempt to bring about a sense of order to it.

An indisputable source is Frederick Robie, himself. He was interviewed by his son in 1958, published in Architectural Forum in October, and reprinted in "Two Chicago Architects and Their Clients" by Leonard K. Eaton (pp. 126-133). Robie approached FLW in October 1906, and over the next 3 years, FLW worked on the house, which was nearing completion by FLW's departure.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: Alofsin, The Lost Years, Wright in New York

Post by SDR »

I have to believe that Alofsin allowed text written about other late-Prairie commissions to appear in a chapter or section about Robie---and if so, that the error wasn't caught by his editor. (Editing is a publisher's function that seems to be disappearing; many books I've read recently ought to have been provided with an errata slip . . .)

S


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