The next issue of the Journal of Orgnaic Architecture + Design has not come back from the printer yet, but anticipation is already building for what is sure to be another landmark issue! Titled "Frank Lloyd Wright's Freeman House" and written by the notable Wright historian and author Kathryn Smith, this double-sized issue is a must-have for architecture aficionados.
In 1923, Frank Lloyd Wright invented the textile block system in Los Angeles. Yet by 1925, he had completed only three residences in Hollywood utilizing the 16-inch square concrete blocks. The least known, the Samuel and Harriet Freeman House, is, perhaps, the most important of the three as it exhibits innovations Wright re-introduced in the mid-1930s to revive his career. This issue explores the clients, the design and construction, the furniture, and all aspects of the hillside setting, which proves the Freeman House is the missing link between two World Heritage sites, Taliesin (1911) and Fallingwater (1936).
Also included is new information about Wright’s year in Hollywood, vintage photographs, plans, and diagrams. A color portfolio of unpublished exteriors and interiors of the house in 1972 (when the Freemans were in residence) by professional photographer Dan Soderberg is featured. Kathryn Smith is a recognized authority on Wright’s work in Los Angeles as well as that of architects, Lloyd Wright and R.M. Schindler, both of whom contributed to the Freeman House, in significant ways.
OA+D is a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor the past, celebrate the present, and encourage the future of creative organic architecture and design. This is done through conservation of original design materials, publications, education, and exhibition. The primary means of achieving this goal is through the publication of the Journal of Organic Architecture + Design and to actively advocate for the acquisition, retention, preservation and conservation of the archives of design professionals whose work is/was based upon the philosophy of organic architecture and design. Learn more about the organization here.
If you're not already a subscriber, be sure to renew your subscription or pre-order a copy of the Freeman issue to ensure you get one as soon as it's hot of the presses at the end of the month. Get yours here.
Tim Samuelson, the city’s first and only cultural historian, quietly retired this week, leaving a deep and enduring contribution to the city’s cultural landscape.
Samuelson, 69, worked for the city since 2002. Lois Weisberg, the former commissioner of cultural affairs, got him to leave the Chicago History Museum with the promise that he would be allowed to do “whatever you do” as the city’s cultural historian.
For almost two decades, Samuelson did exactly that, assisting fellow historians, reporters, businesses, architects and foreign delegations as a combination spokesman, consultant, historian and storyteller.
He often showed them exhibits, many of which he acquired on his own, and enthralled them with his enthusiastic storytelling, often while taking visitors outside on his own walking tours.
Back inside his one-man office on the fifth floor office in the Cultural Center, visitors often felt like they were inside a mini Chicago history museum, with artifacts like a pair of handcuffs that belonged to famous G-man Eliot Ness, ancient floor arrows decommissioned from the Marquette Building, a full-size player piano with original song scrolls, a microphone used on the WLS-AM’s “National Barn Dance” show, and the doorknob of Al Capone’s office in his Lexington Hotel Headquarters.
Samuelson has been credited with helping save many buildings that would have been lost otherwise, including the old Chess Records headquarters and several spots in Bronzeville vital to Jazz and Black history.
Along the way, Samuelson was repeatedly recognized for his work, most notably in 2015 when nonprofit preservation group Landmarks Illinois designated Samuelson himself a “Legendary Landmark.”
“We bestow that honor on just a few people every year who have made an incredible civic achievement or have contributed to our city, our civic environment and cultural community and we were so proud to do that in 2015 for Tim. It was long overdue,” said Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois. Read more here.
Many people have walked by the curious red door on the 1700 block of Wells Street in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, but very few have ever gotten a chance to see what’s behind it. Glasner Studio, a private apartment completed in 1932 is considered architect Edgar Miller’s masterwork. A new virtual tour by the young nonprofit Edgar Miller Legacy, which does not own but has exclusive access to the space, allows anyone to step inside, and learn more about its enigmatic creator.
“Miller’s little-known today because he was ahead of his time,” says Marin Sullivan, an independent curator who was involved in the creation of the virtual tour. “He worked much like contemporary artists do today, crossing disciplines, audiences and pursuits. He was a fine artist as well as an architect and a graphic designer. But, because he didn’t fit into just one category, he got dropped out of history.”
Born in 1899, Miller had a talent for drawing from an early age, which led him to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He dropped out after a couple of years and, in 1919, became an apprentice to Alfonso Iannelli, who was well known as a sculptor, commercial designer and metalworker. Iannelli had created concrete sculptures for the Midway Gardens, a three-acre music pavilion on Chicago’s South Side that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Miller spent five years at Iannelli’s studio, where he became skilled in sculpture, stone cutting, mural painting, casting and woodcarving. In 1923, an advertisement titled “The Parade of Chicago Artists” described Miller: “the blond boy Michelangelo sculpts, paints, batiks, decorates china, makes drawing, woodcuts, etching, lithographs.”
While he was working on his many commercial projects in the 1920s, Miller was also making art independently, and he was part of a rich community of bohemian artists. One of them was his friend Sol Kogen, who hatched a plan to create a new artists’ colony in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, where rents were low. Kogen had the money to buy old buildings, and his idea was to have artists rehab them in exchange for rent. The first such complex is now known as the Carl Street Studios, at 155 West Burton.The Carl Street Studios were Miller’s first chance to achieve his vision, and he threw himself into it with the feverish intensity with which he approached all his projects.
The wealthy industrialist R.W. Glasner, who had been following Miller’s career, commissioned him to make one of the nine apartments into space where he could entertain. “Finally, Miller had the budget to do everything that he wanted, and Glasner gave him free reign,” Bleicher says. Over several years, Miller packed the four-story, 3,000-square-foot studio with stained glass windows, wood carvings, tilework and bas-reliefs.
“Glasner Studio is like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” says Richard Cahan, co-author, with Michael Williams, of Edgar Miller and The Handmade Home. “It shows how Miller had an encyclopedic mind, for architecture, humanity and life itself. He did everything in a completely spontaneous manner, and he had fun, unlike most architects. It’s impossible to place him in the pantheon of Chicago architecture, because he was an original.”
The virtual tour allows viewers to explore a 3D rendering of the space and click on various elements to read text, listen to audio clips and watch videos about them. Walking in the door, one can see up to the second level, and a two-story stained glass window. Above the door is a white plaster bas-relief that depicts five muses: dance, music, drama, art and, in the center, architecture. “Miller believed architecture was the highest art form, where science and technology blend with artistic expression and produce harmonious living environments,” Sullivan says in the tour audio.
Edgar Miller Legacy created the virtual tour when Covid-19 made it impossible for people to tour the space in person. Glasner Studio has been closed for public tours since March. The nonprofit hopes the tour will raise awareness of Miller’s work, and encourage preservation of the spaces and more scholarship on the artist. Read the entire article and see the photos here.
Two homes claiming to be the first and the last of Frank Lloyd Wright's signature prairie style still stand in the Midwest, though hundreds of miles apart in Wichita, Kansas, and Kankakee, Illinois.
Kankakee’s B. Harley Bradley House was designed by Wright in 1900 and claims to be the first of his prairie-style period, though some students of Wright’s work disagree. They point to the Ward W. Willits House, dating from 1901 in Highland Park, Illinois, as his first mature prairie-style work. Robert G. Bohlmann, executive director of the owner of the Bradley House, the nonprofit Wright in Kankakee, stands firm: “We have copies of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original drawings for the house, and they are dated June 1900.”
In 2005, new owners began restoring the house, and in 2010 Wright in Kankakee acquired it and opened it for tours and events.
The house is massive: 6,000 square feet on two floors, plus a basement and a two-story, 3,000-square-foot stable. The plaster and dark wood exterior with a low, flared gable roof. The Bradley House was the first in which Wright had total control over the interior, including carpets and furnishings. He designed 90 art glass windows, some weighing 550 pounds, in geometric patterns inspired by natural plant forms.
Newspaper owner Henry J. Allen and his wife, Elsie, hired Wright to build their home. By the time Wright designed the Allen House in Wichita, automobiles had come into vogue. Instead of a stable, he created a two-car attached garage and made it fireproof because early vehicles had a tendency to go up in flames. Designed in 1915, it was Wright’s last true prairie-style residence. The Allens moved in in 1918 then left for Topeka where Allen served as governor of Kansas from 1919 to 1923. They returned and remained in the house until 1947, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The Allen House was years ahead of its time, resembling homes built in the 1950s and 1960s, said Burt Brungardt, guide for the Allen House Foundation, which owns the home. It has about 4,012 square feet of living space plus a basement. The living and dining rooms wrap around a sunken garden with a koi pond accessed through glass doors opening onto a quarry-tile terrace. On tours, Brungardt points out Japanese influences in the design and furnishings, including Japanese screens and light fixtures. Wright was working on the Imperial Hotel in Japan at the time, traveling between Wichita and Tokyo.
Much of Allen House is original, including its art glass windows and 40 pieces of furniture designed by Wright and George Mann Niedecken, with whom Wright collaborated on a dozen projects. A ribbon of gray Carthage marble runs along the base of the exterior of the house. It transitions to brick in tan and ocher hues with horizontal mortar joints gilded in gold, as Wright had done on the Imperial Hotel. Second-floor windows in a circulation gallery overlook the terrace and a garden house. The red tile roof emphasizes the design’s horizontal lines. Read more here.
In last few issues of the Wright Society Newsletter for 2020 we're going to highlight some of the Wright-related organizations that you might want to consider donating to with your end-of-year gift giving. Last issue we highlighted the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. This issue we shine the light on another extremely important non-profit in the Wright world: The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.
The Trust was established in 1974 as the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, to acquire and preserve Wright's Home and Studio in Oak Park as the place where Wright formulated the architectural principles he retained throughout his career. In 1975, the Home and Studio became a co-stewardship property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Home and Studio Foundation embarked on its mission to restore and operate the building as a historic house museum.
In 1976, the Home and Studio was declared a National Historic Landmark. The ensuing $3+ million restoration was completed in 1987, at which time it received the American Institute of Architects' prestigious National Honor Award.
In February 1997, the Home and Studio Foundation, by invitation of University of Chicago entered into an agreement to assume sole responsibility for the management, operation and restoration of Wright's Robie House, located on the University of Chicago campus. In 2000, the Home and Studio Foundation changed its name to the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to better reflect the dual stewardship of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and Wright’s Robie House.
In December 2013, the organization's name became Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, while the mission remains unchanged.
Today the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has 50 employees and 650 volunteers who serve an audience of 150,000 site visitors and 1 million virtual visitors from around the world each year. Trust activities include tours, workshops, teacher training, student internships, school outreach, family activities, multi-media programs, a restoration resource center, library/archive, a membership program, a travel program, and multi-channel merchandising operated by the Trust and the Trust in alliance with its Chicago area partner organizations. The Trust is governed by a Board of Directors to whom the President and CEO reports. The Trust receives donations and grants from local, national and international individuals, foundations and corporations. become a member yourself and help support the mission of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust today. Learn more here.