Wright's Eppstein House Exudes Small Scale Architectural Artistry
A couple buy a Frank Lloyd Wright original in Galesburg, Mich. for $368,000, and spend that much and more fixing it up. That architecture has been restored to perfection by Marika Broere and Tony Hillebrandt, two sixty-something FLW-aficionados born in the Netherlands but who now call Cambridge, Ont., home.
In most of the rooms in the house that Samuel and Dorothy Eppstein started to build in the late 1940s, sunlight strikes custom-made, terracotta-coloured, 12- by 16-inch concrete blocks that Wright designed for the couple (mostly Doris) to manufacture with molds the couple made themselves; this took three years for the more than 3,000 regular blocks (plus corner blocks and perforated blocks) and delayed the move into the house to 1953.
And those blocks, thanks to Ms. Broere and Mr. Hillebrandt, will last at least until the 2070s.
“We got in master painters that treated the blocks inside and out,” Ms. Broere says, “and we had Sherwin-Williams, the company, help us come up with a very, very special liquid so that the blocks wouldn’t look any different, but they would be protected for 50 years to come. … That cost an absolute fortune, we could’ve bought a very nice car for that.”
Ms. Broere and Mr. Hillebrandt spent other small fortunes – a partial list of big ticket items includes part of the “Cherokee Red” concrete floor, new windows, a ductless heating/cooling system and repairing the sagging principle bedroom ceiling – since, when they first saw the house in 2016, it hadn’t been lived in for 18 years. Read the entire article and see the photos here.
Adelaide’s Adventures With Mid-Century Modernism
Modernism first came to Australia in the early 20th century through migrants, expatriates, exhibitions, newspapers, magazines, and books. The theory and practice of modernist architecture was developed in North America by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, then taken up even more passionately in Europe by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. A common theme was the rejection of the traditional in favor of the practical. Interpreted differently at different phases of the movement’s lifetime, the mantra “form follows function” saw technology-enhanced minimalism replace historic stylism and decorative design.
These ideas found their way to Adelaide when Melbourne architect Jack Hobbs McConnell arrived in the late 1930s,. McConnell led younger South Australian architects to embrace the “aesthetic of the unadorned”. John S Chappel, Jack Cheesman, George Lawson, Maurice Doley, Robert Dickson and Newell Platten were among those who started designing houses suited to function and climate, in harmony with their occupants and the South Australian environment.
A new exhibition at the State Library brings to life a previously overlooked archive of Adelaide’s 20th-century architectural gems. As architectural correspondent for The Advertiser from 1956 until 1990, John Chappel is central to this recent exhibition celebrating Adelaide’s embrace of modernism – Lust for lifestyle: Modern Adelaide Homes 1950-1965 is based on the State Library’s extensive collection of his photographs and papers.
In tune with Robin Boyd and others in the Australian modernist movement, Chappel used his position in the media to advocate for a new Australian architecture “not borrowed from another land, but which belongs to our own country, conditions and time”. He was also adept at securing clients to support that vision. Read more about the Adelaide Mid-Century Modern Architectural movement here.
Chicago’s Fine Arts Building, Still a Haven for Creatives, Undergoes Updates
The building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., opened as the Studebaker Building in 1885 as a showroom and assembly plant for carriages. Thirteen years later, it was remodeled and repurposed as the Fine Arts Building. Frank Lloyd Wright had an office in the building—and designed several interiors for the Fine Arts Building as described in the most recent Journal OA+D—and it was where Poetry Magazine first published. Early women’s rights groups were also welcomed into the space. Though there has been many changes over the last 125 years, it remains dedicated to artists and freethinkers. “We are in the process of remodeling it and revitalizing it to reopen this spring, and we are in the renovation process right now updating all of the audio/video infrastructure, making it a more production-friendly and audience-friendly venue,” said Jacob Harvey, the theater’s managing artistic director. Read and watch more here.
Martin House Executive To Retire
Mary Roberts, who began at Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House as a volunteer in 1996 and has served as executive director since 2006, is retiring at the end of the year.
During Roberts' tenure, the Prairie era Martin House in North Buffalo completed a 25-year, $52 million restoration in 2019 – one of the biggest restorations of a Frank Lloyd Wright property in the world. Richard Moe, former president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called the Martin House "the finest restored Wright site in the U.S."
Roberts called her work at the Martin House a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"I've been honored to lead the charge on one of the most amazing restorations of one of the most iconic pieces of American architecture," Roberts said.
Roberts, who grew up in the Town of Tonawanda, has led the restoration, fundraising and operation of the six-structure Martin House estate, a National Historic Landmark considered one of Wright's finest residential works.
She said she has "enjoyed the work immensely," and singled out the "wonderful collection of individuals, organizations, supporters, volunteers, board members and staff" who "cared enough to make it happen."
The current and former Martin House Restoration Corp. board presidents praised Roberts for her leadership through the years.
“On behalf of the entire board of directors, we want to recognize and thank Mary for her extraordinary personal commitment and passion for the Martin House,” said Donna L. DeCarolis, the current president.
“Mary has made a permanent imprint on our museum and raised it to international prominence through creativity, inclusion, community and telling an inspiring story that resonates with generations of visitors from all walks of life, and from locations far and wide,” DeCarolis said. More here.
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