Architectural Record recently featured one of Frank Lloyd Wright's lesser-known Usonian designs: The Louis Fredrick Residence in Barrington Hills, IL. As mentioned in the article: "In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright said about an impossible client, 'There can be but one Louis Fredrick . . . He does not know what he wants, nor what he does not want. He has cost us more pains in time and money . . . than he can ever repay. If ever he gets a house, he will be the architect—and God help both him and the house.' Oddly, Wright was addressing that complaint to the client himself.
And, even more surprisingly, the following year, Wright actually built a home for Fredrick and his family, in Barrington Hills, Illinois, an affluent area 40 miles northwest of Chicago. It’s not clear, however, that the Hungarian-born contract-interiors designer and onetime boxer became less of a nightmare client. For the same site, he’d already had Wright develop two entirely different, construction-ready house designs (including a textile-block scheme)—and rejected both. Then he switched to another architect before circling back to Wright, who completed the Lewis B. Fredrick House for move-in in 1958. In the process, funds ran short, leaving most of Wright’s custom furniture unrealized. And, when the architect died a year later, his fee remained partially unpaid. So, that history—combined with Fredrick’s sense of privacy—may explain why this striking project never got published. But now it’s emerged from extensive renovations by Chicago-based Eifler & Associates (E&A), commissioned by an owner who wanted to include many of the previously unexecuted elements and is willing to share the results more widely." Read more about this gem here.
Nathan Cooper reminds us that the Dana-Thomas House is one of the must-see landmarks in Springfield, Illinois. Designed in 1902, this house was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most well-funded commissions. Because of this, Wright was able to design the place with the largest collection of site-specific glass and furniture of any of his other buildings. These art glass and furniture pieces are the focus of one of the specialty tours “Of Glass and Wood.” On the first Saturday of every month at 1:15 p.m., visitors can have a special tour that focuses on these items specifically, rather than a broad tour of the entire building. There are over 450 art glass windows to be appreciated, and this tour allows people to gain a greater appreciation of such intricate pieces.
Another specialty tour at the Dana-Thomas House is “Wright Concepts.” This tour occurs on the first Friday of every month, and it focuses on “Prairie School” architecture. By touring the Dana-Thomas house, guests can walk through one of the best examples of the Prairie movement and a case study in architectural history.
Tours at the Dana-Thomas house in Springfield happen every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. More about the house and info to plan your trip here.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy is happy to announce that it now holds a preservation easement on the Hoffman House in Rye, New York. The house was sold in mid-March, and the previous owner encouraged the new owner to donate an easement to the Conservancy as a part of the sales agreement. We thank both parties and look forward to a positive relationship with the new owner.
Also of note, since October 2017, the Conservancy has been working with the family that is selling the Booth Cottage in Glencoe, Illinois, after 60 years of ownership. Built in 1913 as temporary housing for the Booth family while their permanent home was built nearby, the cottage is an early example of Wright’s efforts to develop a low-cost house. The house was moved from its original location shortly after the Booths moved into their permanent house.
The Conservancy has assisted the owner in marketing the house for the last year and a half, in hopes that a buyer could be found to preserve the structure on its current site. This has not been successful and land costs in the vicinity are such that the lot’s use for a relatively small house like the cottage appears to be extremely unlikely. The Conservancy is working on two different approaches with the owner, by developing massing models of possible additions to the property that would leave the Cottage in place, as well as exploring more actively the option of moving the house as an alternative to demolition. The house presents an excellent opportunity for a preservation-minded individual to restore and breathe new life into this special Wright-designed structure that exemplifies early design ideas for low-cost housing.
Read all the FLWBC news here.
The Whirling Arrow has an article about a little known project that Frank Lloyd Wright participated in. Around the late 1950s, Wright experimented with inflatable architecture when he created Fiberthin Airhouses, an innovative, affordable living space made from a durable nylon material. Like many of Wright’s designs, the Fiberthin Airhouses were seen as a thing of the future. Read about this interesting architectural experiment here.
Included in a feature on Los Angeles homes and gardens, was the question: "Did you know that the stunning design of the Sydney Opera House in Australia, was inspired by L.A. architect Harry Gesner and his Wave House in Malibu?" The 94-year-old Gesner gets inspiration from the wind, the sun, the view, and all the things that are associated with the particular environment on which he's building. Although his homes are true design masterpieces, he's never formally studied architecture! As a young designer, Frank Lloyd Wright invited him to live and study at his home school Taliesin, but Gesner declined the invitation opting to learn by doing. His work was so acclaimed that the California Board of Architecture finally just sent him an architectural license. Gesner's fascinating life is chronicled in the book Houses of the Sundown Sea where he recalls life as a surfer, a war hero, and his most personal creation—the home he built for the love of his life, actress Nan Martin. See the news piece here.
SC Johnson is announcing its intention to use geothermal energy to power its Racine headquarters, a move that will greatly reduce the company's environmental footprint and positions the company as a leader in the private sector in the transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources. The company plans to install a GeoExchange system at its iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus to provide sustainable heating and cooling throughout the facilities, using the constant temperature of the Earth. The project – which is pending city and state approvals – is expected to reduce energy usage by an estimated 42 percent. Read more about it here.
Frank Lloyd Wright famously said, “Our imagination is our only limitation.” Executive director Robert Bohlmann referenced this quote in the opening of the new Educational Center Lab at the Frank Lloyd Wright B. Harley Bradley House. The new lab provides students exposure to science, technology, engineering, art/architecture and math within the walls of the home designed by Wright. While the lab will be open to third- through eighth-graders, it is geared toward fourth- thorough sixth-grade students.
“The new lab provides an opportunity to expose children to design, structures, drafting and the arts through an experience at Wright’s first Prairie School designed house,” Bohlmann said. “The students will participate in a STEM like environment along with elements of arts and architecture. Students will be able to draft, design, build and learn about the professions and trades that create and build our environment.” During tours, children will spend 30 minutes drafting and designing in an area replicating Wright’s Taliesin West studios. Seated at drafting tables, students will draft, engineer and draw while also working on communication, collaboration and cooperation skills. Read more on this interesting educational experience here.
Wright in Wisconsin brings their annual Wright and Like™ house tour to northeastern Wisconsin as they invite people to go “Along the Shore” to Oostburg, Manitowoc, and Two Rivers. This is the organization's first visit to the area and they are excited to introduce regional “Like” architects John Bloodgood Schuster and Earl F. Miller. You may not be familiar with these names, but Schuster spent many years working closely with Russell Barr Williamson, a close associate of Frank Lloyd Wright, and you will see their influence in Schuster's designs. Miller was a Chicago-School trained architect at the turn of the 20th century with his own distinctive style. From a Prairie Style house in a recently designated historic district to mid-century modern gems, this tour is sure to delight. Be sure to get your tickets here.