architecture [link] is
highly condition-dependent. This fact can be seen
throughout history and it
has been consistent for all formal, as well as, vernacular
architecture of great quality. Architecture is the
expression of its society and it can be no other
conditions at any given time can be appropriate for
the flowering of one kind of architecture and not
others. In focus here is the question if the appropriate
conditions exist today for the creation - at some
significant scale - of affordable, sustainable
for living, work and recreation, that the average
working family can procure and maintain.
standard by which I measure success in this venture
is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Houses predominately
built in the 1930s and 40s with some
examples in the 1950s. I consider these houses to
be the state-of-the-art of their kind and
one of the greatest architectural achievements of
The purpose of the postUsonian Project is
to restate and recreate this architecture in a way
that is appropriate
[link] to the 21st century and its conditions.
book that beautifully captures the spirit of these
houses and the principles behind them is Wright-Sized
Houses by Diane Maddex with photos by Christian
Korab, Robert L. Wiser, Pedro E. Guerero, Tim Street-Porter
and Michael Freeman. If you have an interest in this
subject, this is a must-have for your bookshelf.
It walks you through Wright’s and several of
response to the challenge of designing and living
in small, eloquent, affordable
his Oak Park days throughout his career
and afterwad with some of the work carried
on by Taliesin Associated Architects.
Houses is a simply laid out book, full of
beautiful photos (some samples to the left) and
text that carefully
explains what made Wright’s approach to the small
house so effective. Not since The Natural House,
written by Wright, published in the 1950s and now
out of print, has someone spelled it out so completely.
Diane Hadden is an author who not only understands
- she also has a deep feeling for her subject.
scope, the book covers the entire length of Wright’s
career from the Oak Park days to the Usonians and
on to his last work. Because the book is of modest
size and sticks to its theme, this presentation makes
it possible to see not only the continuity and
consistency of Wright’s approach but also his development
as he pursued the ideal of the American home.
an overview, the book takes one concept and attribute
of Wright’s work at a time, explains it and shows
it with copious photos and plans. It then features
a few Wright houses as examples. This book is an
easy read. It also will reward returning to it
time and again for careful study. I have bee studying
Mr. Wright and his work for almost half a century
and found many new tidbits of information and insights.
found the treatment of the post Wright works by
sss and sss Lockhard and xxx, Fllw’s archivist, particularly
appropriate. Wright-Sized Houses sets a
good context for the many books now being published
by and about owners of Usonian Houses [link].
Houses is a guide, a manual and a reminder
of how architecture can fit hand and glove with
a way of living very much missing, today, from
the modern experience.
Roberst House - 1908
cover photograph by Christon Korab
Jacobs House - 1936
House - 1939
House - 1939
photograph by Michael freeman
House - 1951
House - 1955
central question if there is a market today for this
approach rests not on an esthetic judgment nor even
on the mechanics of designing and building - as important
as these are. It rests on the answer to the question
if people want to live the way a home of this this
requires. This was Mrs. Pew’s struggle when
she first moved into her Usonian [link].
The fact that the Usonians, and the several other
variants of small,
affordable modern architecture, faded away after
the 1950s was not so much a failure of design. It
a change in the home owner’s mind regarding
the concept HOME.
are several conditions that make up this modern life
that work for the return of the Usonian concept,
work against it and some that tend to work both ways.
An example of the latter is the general affluence
of our society. On one hand, this increases the number
who can afford a home. On the other, this affluence
is based on a set of social behaviors and norms that
work to exclude the kind of individualistic
and hands-on approach a Usonian requires. You just
do not go
out and buy this kind of house, superficially decorate
it with an eye on its future market value, live
in it a few years then sell it like a commodity having
“made” a lot of money [link].
Building codes and loan standards still remain a
major obstacle to “unusual” architecture although
there are signs that the lending market is beginning
to wake up. Like the Usonian, postUsonian houses
are likely to be built in a widely dispersed geographic
pattern. Code and loans tend to be local if not in
fact, in interpretation. interests that will resist
change of this sort are definitely local. The postUsonian
Project will have to project support broadly over
a thinly populated opportunity terrain. This is always
a difficult campaign.
the mix of pluses and minuses, the major issue will
be that of attitude. A home like this does not come
shrink nor do you put it in the social dumpster
when you are finished with it. In a curious way,
one thing that made the Usonians great was the effort
it took to realize them. This acted as a significant
filter. The filters are largely gone but many of
the conditions remain.
To postUsonian Index
To post Usonian Prototypes
April 21, 2004
voice of this document:
VISION PHILOSOPHY PROGRAM
April 21, 2004
may 15, 2004
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