No chichi: 1. What makes Wright right.

Comparing the wood frame house left to the more imposing stucco home next door. Click on the image to contrast structure.

The little house on the left has two windows on its side, they are positioned on a diagonal, obviously one at the foot the other at the top of the staircase. The face of the house not particularly interesting. Three windows on the upper. The overhang wide, with a decorative support, perhaps faux, which neither enhances the design, nor explains the architecture much. The roof appears to be flat.

Now look at the Wright gray stucco. Where is the stairway? The exteriors of Wright houses, do not always explain the interiors. The window treatments, especially the four glass casements jump out. Subdued detail, look at the planter treatments and light fixtures (in the other houses and details). Way ahead of the curve. Look at the overhangs. The structure of his houses creates the details, the details are not just ornamental. Although certain ornamentation like leaded windows and carving grows out of the structure. In a way, not unlike some of the Gothic, Notre-Dame for one.

The 1906 Hills-DeCaro House keeps subtle use of planes, restrained window treatment

Woodwork disappears forever.

Even as a dumbo art student a century ago, I knew that Wright was a power to be reckoned with. (Right now, I’m in awe over Otto Wagner in Vienna, but another page.) While I admire space and engineering, I am a little too dumb to truly appreciate Johnson, van der Rohe, Gaudí or Wright. Or to write about them succinctly. Natural to design and with a feel for the sculptural, I can grasp their use of  space composition and architectural structure. Oak Park in Chicago becomes the perfect playground to walk around and genuflect, just as parts of Ghost Ranch explain O’Keeffe, or as coastal Maine is to certain Hoppers.

The Frank W. Thomas House, 1901

I love the details of this one more. The large porch on the left, the walled walkway, the rounded doorway which is part of the exterior wall, the beautiful windows especially on the right. This is quite different from even today’s houses as many tricks are in play, including the appearance of a false bottom on the area on the right and the front wall. The fine details are so precise, yet comfortable. It is hard to think of this design as over 100 years old.

I thought the support in the photo on the right is quite interesting.

A hundred years plus, and Wright still speaks to us with an unabashed directness on how spaces should be structured. Remember the nuclear family has been restructured and the way we live is somewhat different. Yet we still eat, sleep and interact both within and outside the places we call home.

The Moore-Dugal Residence is from 1898 and is even a stranger assemblage of characteristics. It is like all these details you want to try out in one project, which doesn’t exactly add up to a perfect unity. Luckily a few stories burnt out in the 20s and Wright had a second crack.

Take a look at all the details. The porch is famous, and the floating chalet type tudor type is really trying to defy standard gravity.

I remember that during the late 50s and very early 60s the use of light colored brick made a big comeback both in schools and industrial buildings. Here, a hundred years later, and with that elongated flat brick so typical of Wright, it gives a modernness next to dark brown woodwork of non standard windows and doors. The fine leaded glass detail, is already signature for Wright.

Arthur B. Heurtley House is the most satisfying representation with brick. I love what he does with simple brick and his use of colored mortars. Wikipedia says the house has been altered, but the outside seems to be in keeping with the other homes.

This series of Prairie homes are some of the most satisfying exterior designs of Wright.  I love the proportions of the vertical to the horizontal, and the pitch of the roof reminds me more of older Florida houses from the 50s through the 70s. His use of planters are always interesting and different for each of the homes.

I was never in any of these houses, so I don’t know what to expect. My contact of interior Wright is limited, including the Guggenheim, which I hate for function.

There are more, but these sit in a three block area on one street. Imagine that, one of the world’s most famous architect’s had his own playground neighborhood! How wonderful these houses are, reminding me of those ugly houses up New York way, which have no windows on the sides of houses, as if to make the presence of your neighbors nonexistent. Especially when you build side by side. This lack of windows would be sacrilege in the muggy South, where light protects us from mold!

A little further off is the Unity Temple, built around 1905. Another one of those beautiful Wright structures where, planes become everything, with the most subtle of details. Look at the upper photo and the beautiful posts between windows. This is all plane, against plane. Interacting beautifully with shadow, Cezanne could not have done it better. I was too cheap to pay to go inside, opting to walk on to the residential neighborhood homes.

It’s easy to access this neighborhood by car. With some walking, you can also visit the home and the neighborhood which Wright practiced his craft on. I rode up on the Green Line, saddened over many of the blue collar neighborhood which had come across hard times, especially the closed factories. But Oak Park remains a planet of its own, a very livable one. Check the other two blogs, 2. (which explores the Wright House/Studio complex) and 3. (the Forest Avenue general neighborhood).


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One Response to “No chichi: 1. What makes Wright right.”

  1. Amedar Says:

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