New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings. The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public. “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.” The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit. Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically. Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable. While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique. The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance. Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
Posts tagged with "Usonian":
For the second time in less than two years, a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building is facing the wrecking ball. This time, the owners of the Wright-designed Booth Cottage in Glencoe, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, filed for a demolition permit, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (FLWBC). The 1,755-square-foot cottage at 239 Franklin Road was originally built for attorney Sherman Booth in 1913 as a temporary home, while Booth helped develop the nearby Wright-designed Ravine Bluffs neighborhood in 1915—which included Booth’s permanent home. As the Chicago Tribune reported, 239 Franklin LLC purchased the modest, single-story, three-bedroom cottage in mid-May for $550,000, almost half of what was originally asked when the home went on the market in October 2017. The building sits on a much larger plot of land, and the FLWBC wrote that it expected the new owner wants to demolish the cottage so that they can build a larger home on the site. As the Tribune noted, while the Booth Cottage may seem unassuming, it bears Wright’s signature leaded windows and provided a template for the low-cost Usonian and model homes later in his career. The demolition permit application is reportedly incomplete at the time of writing, but once finished, there will likely be a 180-day review period triggered by the home’s historic status. While the home was declared a local landmark in 1996 by the Village of Glencoe, that doesn’t afford any protection against its demolition. If the cottage is torn down, it would follow the loss of the Lockridge Medical Clinic building in Whitefish, Montana, which was razed in January of last year for a three-story mixed-use complex. The loss of the Booth Cottage would also represent the first demolition of a Wright-designed residential building since 2004, when the W.S. Carr cottage in Grand Beach, Michigan, was torn down. On May 1, the nonprofit Landmarks Illinois had listed the Booth Cottage on their 2019 list of most endangered historic places in Illinois.
Already the home of work by Eliel Saarinen, Albert Kahn and Stephen Holl, Metro Detroit’s Cranbrook has acquired the Melvyn Maxwell and Sarah Stein Smith House, a 1950 Usonian home in Bloomfield Hills designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for two Detroit public school teachers. The home comes to Cranbrook via a donation from the Towbes Foundation and provides the institution with ownership of the Smith House as an educational resource. The Smith house has been preserved exactly as it was when the Smiths lived in it. While studying at the City College of Detroit, now Wayne State University, Melvyn Maxwell Smith saw an image of Fallingwater during a slide presentation and was instantly hooked on Wright. With equal financial backing from his wife Sarah Stein Smith, the couple travelled to Taliesin, where they asked Wright to design a home for $5,000. Wright negotiated $8,000 and waited for the couple to save up to purchase a suitable piece of property. Deeply occupied by his work on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Wright communicated regularly with the Smiths once he delivered the design for the home and urged Melvyn Maxwell Smith to work as his own general contractor to keep costs down, and one that would allow Smith to control the quality of work. Smith gathered a team of contractors, journeymen and friends to work on the house, including those that agreed to work for a reduced rate in exchange for the privilege of being a part of the project. With the Smiths paying as they went, construction moved slowly. As the house was nearing completion, the Smiths found themselves without funds to purchase the windows. Real estate investor Al Taubman, another FLW super fan, found himself visiting the construction site just as Melvyn Maxwell Smith was boarding up the window openings with plywood. After listening to Smith lament that he was down to his last $500, and worrying that inclement weather would damage the house, Taubman had installers from the Pittsburg Plate Glass Window Company arrive the next day to measure and install the windows and sent the Smiths a bill for exactly $500. Over time, the Smiths filled the house with sculptures and designed objects by artists associated with Cranbrook. Melvyn Maxwell Smith lived in the house until his death in 1984. Sarah Stein Smith stayed until moving to California in 1991. The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is responsible for stewarding the Smith House and is also undertaking an oral history project to collect stories from artists and contractors that worked on the project.
Despite the best efforts of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (FLWBC), the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Lockridge Medical Clinic building in Whitefish, Montana, was demolished late last night. The building, designed in 1958 and only realized in 1959 after Wright’s death, was unmistakably Usonian. The single-story, horizontally-oriented clinic building featured a generous overhang with a sculpted edge, interior and exterior brick, and a central hearth. The FLWBC notes that this is the first viable, or mostly un-altered, Wright building to be torn down in 40 years, and that it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the site had originally been purchased by developer Mick Ruis in 2016 and listed for sale last year, public interest in preserving the clinic grew once Ruis announced that if the building wasn’t sold by January 10th, it would be razed. The Montana Preservation Alliance and the FLWBC had been working together for over a year to raise the $1.7 million that Ruis was requesting, and allege that the demolition had moved forward despite putting in a realistic offer. The FLWBC claims that the offer submitted through 341 Central LLC, which was formed to purchase the building, was rebuked, as were their conditions to examine, or salvage, the remaining architectural elements. Ruis’ legal counsel, Ryan Purdy, told The Daily Beast that Ruis had already delayed the demolition timeline to give preservation groups more time to scrape together an offer. “The building has been for sale for over a year,” said Purdy. “It’s a little bit frustrating that there are all these people are rushing to get things done when we’ve had it posted for sale and we’ve been talking with interested parties for over a year.” Real estate prices in Whitefish have increased dramatically in recent years, and the town has been developing at a rapid pace to increase its density. A three-story, mixed-use building will be replacing the Lockridge Clinic, which in recent years had served as a clinic, bank, and finally, a lawyer’s office. With the Lockridge Clinic gone, the only remaining Wright buildings in Montana are the Writer’s Cabin and Farmhouse on the Alpine Meadows Ranch near the town of Darby. Both buildings, now used as luxury vacation rental homes, were designed in 1905 and come from the very beginning of Wright’s career. A video of the demolition can be viewed here.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman Wilson House, built in 1956 in Millstone, New Jersey, opened to the public on November 11th in Bentonville, Arkansas. The house was disassembled on the original site and transported to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, for preservation and public display. In 2013, when museum leaders visited the house, recent homeowners, Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, proposed relocation. The Tarantinos’ land had been prone to flooding and therefore required numerous restorations to the home. To preserve the house properly, they knew relocation was necessary. The museum agreed, the structure was disassembled, and every component labeled. Two trucks transported the parts 1,235 miles to the Arkansas. The house is now situated near the museum’s south entrance, overlooking the woodlands and Crystal Spring. The reconstruction team also consisted of Scott Eccleston (Crystal Bridges’ Director of Operations), Ron Shelby (lead architect with Hight Jackson Associates), and Bill Faber (chief contractor with Bill Faber Construction). The team strove to reconstruct the house as close to the original as possible, reusing most of the mahogany, and recreating the concrete block walls and floors to Wright’s specifications. To further preserve the original structure, efficiencies were added to the re-construction. For example, a climate control system was installed to protect the mahogany, without having to change the interior floor design. Wright’s Bachman Wilson House is named after the original owners Abe and Gloria Wilson and Gloria’s brother Marvin Bachman, an apprentice to Wright. The house is an example of Wright’s middle-income family residences, in his “Usonian” period. Wright's Usonian Houses were normally small, single story, and consisted of native materials, flat roofs, and cantilevered overhangs–visually uniting the interior and exterior spaces. Tickets became available to the public on November 2nd, and, as of November 11th, the house became available to the public during Museum hours, for no cost. Because of the house’s limited space, tickets must be reserved in advance. Visitors have two options: General Admission, which is a self-guided tour, available each day except Tuesday, or Guided Tours, which are one-hour in length, offered any day except Tuesday or Friday. Regardless, anyone, with or without tickets can wander the surrounding grounds or hike the Crystal Springs and Tulip Tree Trails, which offer views of the house. Now that the Tarantino family, museum, and reconstruction team have successfully given Wright’s home a safe environment for preservation, generations to come can experience Wright's magnificent piece of work. For further information, or to reserve tickets, visit the Crystal Bridges' website.
Decades before the Americans With Disabilities Act, Frank Lloyd Wright designed an accessible home for a World War II veteran. Now Wright’s only home designed for a person with a disability will open to the public. Wright’s Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois opens for tours on June 6, two days before what would have been its architect’s 147th birthday. When Phyllis Laurent in 1948 urged her husband, who used a wheelchair, to contact Wright about designing a home for him, the architect reportedly responded, “Dear Laurent: We are interested but don’t guarantee costs. Who knows what they are today - ?” The brick and cypress structure’s design is a celebrated example of Wright’s “Usonian” single-story homes. It features an overhang sheltering a carport and a “solar hemicycle” shape typical of the style. The State of Illinois bought the house in 2012 and added it to the National Register of Historic Places. Wright himself referred to it as a “little gem.” Several other Wright buildings have opened to the public lately, including the Emil Bach House in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, the SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin, and the architect's home studio in Oak Park, Illinois.