Written by Ivan V.
My own illustration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Lillian and Curtis Meyer Home.
Happy 2010 from Boise, where it currently feels like a crisp 19 degrees. The Boise Architecture Project is fresh from winter break and ready to get back into the swing of things – and I’m first up!
After studying architecture for a few years, I’ve found that I’m extremely interested in modernism. I recently took a trip to Chicago, where I was introduced to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. I’d like to use my first-ever blog post to talk about some of my favorite Wright buildings.
Frank Lloyd Wright is, of course, one of the most well-know architects in the world. He’s also someone I now deeply admire. While reading up on him, I was surprised by his extensive body of work, especially the residential projects. I learned that, after he completed one of his most famous works, Fallingwater, Wright’s popularity grew across the country. The result? Commissions to design more and more buildings.
Most of those new projects ended up being residential homes, and most became part of what Wright coined the Usonian movement – a new and unique American style that brought with it more modest floor plans. While not all of them are immediately recognizable as Wright homes, his simple aesthetic, his use of natural forms, and his modern designs of interlacing wood, brick, and steel are always there.
In my opinion, his houses that were built during the 1950’s are especially elegant examples of his work, and they can easily be mistaken for homes built within the past 15 years. Regardless, it still stuns me just how many homes he built during his career – I counted 154 within one of the books I recently read about his life.
Many of his homes – especially the Craftsman-style ones – are constructed of brick and incorporate cantilevered roofs/ balconies. They feature simple, repeating designs, and all have unique motifs and layouts. The interiors of the Usonian- and Prairie-style homes are always rich examples of stone and woodwork coming together. Many have a solid wall opposed by a large wall of windows. The solid wall often has a row of long windows at the top to bring in light. These can be long rectangles or repeating motifs. Also, great attention is given to the furniture and carpeting, all of which were designed specifically to fit each home. Regardless, the spaces are quite comfortable looking – perhaps a little too comfortable!
A house not classified as a Usonian (though it incorporates many of the same design principles) but nonetheless quite modern is the Gloria Bachman and Abraham Wilson Home. Its windows are decorative on the street-facing side and high against the roof to provide privacy but still bring in light. The interior is extremely clean and well designed.
Along with the Usonians, Wright designed several hemicycle-shaped homes, or buildings that incorporate a half-circle structure that is often the living area with windows being part of an arc. His first example of this is the Wilbur Pearce Home, which was built in 1950. The Lillian and Curtis Meyer Home is probably my favorite. Its roof and windows are a rich brown color that is perfectly offset by simple white siding. I still can’t believe it was built so long ago!
If you want to do some Wright reading, I recommend “Frank Lloyd Wright Mid-Century Modern,” as it's the book that inspired this post. Another good (and shorter) reference is “The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog.”
In this post, I’ve included several pictures that I took while in Chicago, as well as my own drawing of Wright’s Lillian and Curtis Meyer Home. In the illustration, notice the octagonal theme; using geometric units and/or shapes is common in many of Wright’s projects. You’ll also see a picture of two figures called “The Boulders.” These were designed by Richard Bock and are meant to convey the struggle of the oppressed. I thought they were pretty cool.
Please stay tuned for future posts about modernism – I don’t plan to stop here!
Ivan V. is a student at Boise’s Timberline High School and is participating in the Boise Architecture Project. You can follow the students here on the PreservationNation blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, get daily updates from their teacher, Doug StanWiens, on Twitter.
Are you an educator interested in teaching preservation in your classroom? Visit PreservationNation.org for resources, tips, and ideas to enhance your curriculum with lessons that will teach your students to recognize and appreciate the rich history that surrounds them.
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