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Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920s and 1930s

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Title: Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920s and 1930s


1
Frank Lloyd Wright in the1920s and 1930s
2
During the 1920s, Wright began experimenting with
a new technique that he called textile block
construction. Similar to construction in normal
concrete block, in this process, the blocks were
cast on site and were ornamental as well as
structural. Although he used this technique in
various locations, several of the textile block
houses are in Los Angeles. These houses carried
some of the principles of the Prairie House that
Wright had formulated in his residential
architecture in the Chicago area and elsewhere
from the 1890s up to 1914 but they also began to
reveal an interest in the energies found in
non-European architecture, including the
architecture of Japan and the pre-Columbian
Americas. This interest had already emerged
strongly in the 1917 design for the Barnsdall
(Hollyhock) house in Los Angeles.
3
Charles Ennis House, Los Angeles, CA, 1923
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The Ennis House uses a composition of masses that
recalls Mayan temples from Mexico without
specifically reproducing any forms from them.
The slightly canted walls along with the sense of
weight that is reinforced by mostly small windows
leaves the Mayan impression.
6
The Barnsdall House in Los Angeles (1917-20) had
already used canted walls over a fairly thick
base and had also explored a geometrically
interpreted plant motif for ornament
(Hollyhocks). The construction here is in
reinforced concrete.
7
Exterior of the Barnsdall House with views of the
hollyhock ornament.
8
The Samuel Freeman House, Los Angeles (1924) as
seen in a drawing of 1923. This house explores
the textile block technique without canted walls
and with a more conventional (for Wright, at
least) kind of load-bearing wall carrying
extended flat roof planes.
9
Note the steel, industrially inspired windows
that appear here.
10
The textile block construction is also clearly
visible on the interior and part of its
aesthetic, too. The system required various
kinds of reinforcing steel, from steel wires
mortared into corners to steel beams supporting
coursework as in this picture. No arcuation was
involved.
11
Taliesin East, Spring Green WI, 1925ff
12
From 1911 to 1925, Wright rebuilt and enlarged
his home and studio on the family land near
Spring Green, Wisconsin. The house became the
summer home of the Taliesin Fellowship, the group
of people who worked in Wrights studio and
followed his ideas in the manner of disciples.
The Taliesin Fellowship eventually located in
Scotsdale, Arizona, for the winter and its home
there is called Taliesin West. It is now the
location of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of
Architecture. The architecture of Taliesin East
is clearly an extension of the Prairie Style that
Wright had formulated in the decades of the 1890s
and 1900-10s. However, it is executed in natural
stone and wood with some copper details. Some of
the wood is stained, some is painted. The house
is tied very closely to nature, both in its
general massing and composition and in its
interaction with the landscape and site.
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The textures and colors exude a warmth not found
in the Robie House or even the textile block
houses let alone in Bauhaus modernism.
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The change in Wrights approach to the residence
is striking in the expansion of Taliesin East.
The combination of natural materials with
handcrafted textiles and architectural details is
akin to the attitudes exhibited by Eliel Saarinen
in his design of Cranbrook Academy in 1925ff and
the interweaving of the arts is similar to both
the Cranbrook philosophy and that of the Bauhaus
(new building in Dessau 1925-6), by Walter
Gropius.
24
In response to the Great Depression (stock market
crash in November 1929), Wright considered the
notion of a new kind of community that would be
economically viable as well as related directly
to the land. He called the concept Broadacre
City.
25
Broadacre City was not really a city in the
conventional sense but a kind of ex-urban system
of self-sufficiency. Each person/family would
have one acre of land on which to build a house
and which could then be used for gardening. Each
resident would become self-sufficient by growing
food and by trading unused food at regional
markets for other produce and goods. It was not
envisioned as a barter system at all levels, but
as an interwoven community of people who could
support and enhance each others lives. The
drawing shows that there would be towers dotting
the landscape--perhaps for business or other
institutional purposes. (These seem to
foreshadow the radio towers that currently dot
our landscape in order to support cellular
communication.) He also envisioned a kind of
personal flight vehicle that would allow
individuals to dart about from place to place in
craft perhaps powered or stabilized by gyroscopes.
26
On the other hand, Wright was also interested in
the skyscraper as a building typology and worked
with it in a project of 1931 in which he
envisioned a tower and its relationship to a
larger urban fabric with many new taller and
lower buildings. No specific site is noted for
the tower but it was likely envisioned for New
York, a city that Wright loved but which seemed
to offer him few commissions.
27
Skyscrapers in appropriate relationship to the
street--a fanciful rendering of an imaginary
urban environment.
28
Given the imaginative eye of Wright, it is easy
to understand that he was surprised and angered
by the short shrift he got in the famous show at
the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1932.
Hitchcock and Johnson essentially wrote him off
as a fore-runner of modern architecture but not
truly an example of what was the best at that
time. In part, this was probably due to Wrights
age. He was in his 60s in 1932 no one could
have known that he would live to be 90 and that
he would be an active practitioner until his
death in 1959. Two of Wrights projects in the
1930s seem to respond to the criticism leveled at
him directly and/or indirectly by the MoMA show.
These two projects the Kaufmann House
Fallingwater) near Bear Run, Pennsylvania, and
the Johnson Wax Adminstration Building in Racine,
Wisconsin, were built in the second half of the
decade and seem to suggest that Wright intended
to beat the international style at its own game.
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The Johnson Wax Administration Building, Racine,
WI
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