Three online gems
We recently found an amazing collection of 3D virtual tours of Frank Lloyd Wright Houses which we loved exploring and wanted to share. Although travel is getting easier, it is still not easy to jet around the world as we might once have done, so it is brilliant to be able to ‘visit’ some architectural gems online!
Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, and undoubtably an American hero. He is usually referred to as the American counterpart to the European Le Corbusier, which is, of course, a massive simplification of these two great architects, but a useful one to compare the two continents in a crucial period of their design evolution.
Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright
For this conversation, suffice to say that the European, Le Corbusier, was a futurist and visual artist who loved density, cities, machines and aeroplanes, he lived in Paris and wore his stylish thick round glasses. In comparison the American, FLW, loved nature, the boundless American prairie and desert landscapes, and was well known for his personal style of wearing a large hat.
Le Corbusier focused his life on solving the housing problem in the dense, impoverished and efficiency-obsessed post-WWI Europe. FLW predominantly designed houses for families, his idea of the future city was called Broadacre: a horizontal, very sparse settlement connected by a grid of motorways, for social housing FLW idea was a very efficient detached single-family house for the growing American middle class. He called these houses Usonian, and Usonia was his Utopia (United States -onia, for some reason, the word did not stick.) Now, and finally, to the point, we have found links to virtually visit two of these houses alongside a FLW summer office in Arizona, Taliesin West.
FLW's houses always featured interplay between connection and expansion where, for example, tiny entrances led to vast open plan living areas. As you would imagine, he was a master in connecting interiors and exteriors and in enhancing the relationship to the landscape: the houses developed horizontally as if naturally extending from the ground, there was always a lot of glass installed and the corridor to the bedrooms were often designed as a glazed gallery through nature.
Art Nouveau and Japan: FLW was equally influenced by the ‘Arts and Crafts’ and ‘Art Nouveau’ movements brought to the US by his expat teachers, as well as the Japanese way of life and aesthetics. The latter is such a powerful influence on modern architecture that it deserves an article of its own. Some of the later houses by FLW, from the '40s and '50s, show very innovative layouts, with kitchens more and more open to the living area: a sign of the comparatively early emancipation of the American housewife. It is our personal favourite version of the kitchen-living relationship (another topic we will write about in a separate note).
Now for the study of the plans, we hope you'll like the experience as much as we have. Take your time to really appreciate the details, it is worth it as I have loved every moment.
The Smith House in Bloomfield Hills is an excellent example of Wright’s Usonian ideal, which aimed to build quality houses for the American middle class. Use this link to enjoy an amazing 3D virtual tour of the home.
Laurent House in Rockford Illinois, is another Usonian house example. This home was commissioned by Kenneth Laurent, a disabled war veteran, and is the only FLW building specifically designed for a client with a physical disability. Notice the kitchen dining alcove and the massive corridors, intended for greater accessibility. The link takes you to an impressive 3D virtual tour of the home.
Taliesin West was the winter home of FLW and his design school, set within the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona. A series of low-slung buildings, gardens and pools are created from local materials, fitting perfectly within the surroundings of the desert. Interestingly the building was continually altered, each winter as FLW & his students returned they would make changes and alterations to the rooms which must have been a lot of fun. Use the link to visit online.