The skies cleared and the sun came out for all of us today in Grand Rapids, MI—just in time for us to enjoy the second full day of tours in Galesburg and Kalamazoo, MI as part of the 2013 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Annual Conference. Get the details and more pics after the jump...
This morning's lectures were extremely interesting, thanks to a range of topics from Wright's ideas of total art, American System Built Homes, art glass, restoring the Hollyhock House, and perforated board designs.
The first lecture was given by Jack Quinan, Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Visual Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Senior Curator at the Martin House Restoration Corporation. Jack delivered a fantastic overview of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Period Gesamtkunstwerk (the German word for "total work of art") using the D.D. Martin House, The Willits House, and other important Prairie period works as examples of Wright's search for creating the complete and ideal architectural work and the realities that often stood in the way of reaching that goal.
The next lecture was given by Virginia Terry Boyd, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the topic of "Constructing Interiors from Unbuilt Designs: American System-Built Homes Model B-1 Milwaukee, Wisconsin." Terry provided insights into the wonderful efforts undertaken by the Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin organization to secure, restore, and make publicly accessible this unique block of Wright-designed buildings in Milwaukee. It was especially interesting to see the work underway to implement a complete interior for the B-1 Model with un-executed furnishings designed by Wright for the American System-Built commissions.
Next up was Jeffrey Herr, Curator for Hollyhock House, who gave a fantastic presentation on the exciting restoration work being undertaken at Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, CA. I was especially intrigued with the numerous surprise discoveries that Jeffrey's team uncovered during the process of restoring the interiors at the house, including original color schemes, window sizes, and what the original furniture's finishes looked like. I can't wait to see this house again when it is open to the public again next year.
Julie Sloan, author and stained glass expert, gave a really great overview of the origins, principles, and various design types found in Frank Lloyd Wright's art glass windows. It's a very broad topic, but Julie was able to succinctly sum-up the underlying types of design motifs that categorize Wright's window types. I f you have not read Julie's book, Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright, I would highly suggest getting a copy and enjoying her studies for yourself.
In the final lecture, Palli Davis Holubar presented her studies and finding to date for the Taliesin Perforated Board Design Project. Palli's infectious excitement for this often overlooked aspect of Wright's design work helped build some buzz around this project. Palli provide some background on the possible origins and inspiration of Wright's perforated boards and has identified around 120 perf designs so far as part of the project. I really hope that Palli can parlay her work into a book so that everyone can enjoy studying this important topic further.
With the morning lectures finished, we gathered our things and boarded the tour buses to head towards Kalamazoo. Our first destination was actually in Galesburg, MI just outside Kalamazoo, where The Acres, a co-operative community Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1947-49 for a group of scientists working at the Upjohn Company is located.
The first house we saw in the community was the Pat and Eric Pratt Residence (1948) by Frank Lloyd Wright:
This house was only viewable from the exterior, but has undergone an extensive restoration and looks really fantastic. I was especially taken with the beautiful mahogany woodwork along the roof line and the "sunburst" pierced block design that lets light into the kitchen area.
The next house we saw was the Dorothy and Samuel Eppstein Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright (1948):
The Eppstein House is apparently in the midst of a major stabilization project and it appears that time and the elements have not been kind to this once proud home. Even though the home needs quite a bit of TLC to bring it back to its former glory, it has some really remarkable spaces within it and quite a bit of original furniture and built-ins still with it. There is a lot of potential here and I could see that it will someday soon be a great space to live in. If only I had the money!
The next house we saw was the Lillian and Curtis Meyer Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright (1948):
This stunning solar hemicycle design is one of my personal favorites. The coziness of the home is instantly felt when you enter, and sitting in the main living area and looking out to the yard through the two story glass wall is a really memorable experience. The current owner is a real champion for the home and The Acres community and I applaud his labor of love in restoring this remarkable home. Be sure to check out the home's website here.
Our final home to tour was the Christine and David Weisblat Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright (1948):
The first house to be built in the community, the Weisblat Residence is a long, concrete block home that hugs the brow of its hilltop site. The original Wright design was added onto in 1961 by John H. Howe and William Wesley Peters, with the flat-roofed addition intersecting the bedroom wing at a 120˚ angle.
Having finished our tours of The Acres, we loaded back onto the bus and headed into Kalamazoo to see the five homes that awaited us in the Parkwyn Village community. The origin of this community has ties to the Galesburg group, in that the Parkwyn Village residents used to be apart of the original Galesburg co-op effort, but wanted something closer to their Kalamazoo jobs. So they split off and hired Wright to design homes for them for the 47-acre Parkwyn Village co-op.
The first house we toured was the Helen and Ward McCartney House by Frank Lloyd Wright (1949):
The McCartney House is undergoing a loving restoration by its current owners, whose care for the home and attention to detail is evident everywhere in the house. The complex angled design shares similarities to the Anthony Residence design that we saw the previous afternoon in Benton Harbor. I will be eager to see this home in coming years again to enjoy the progress the current owners are making in restoring this gem.
The next house we toured was the Anne and Eric Brown Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright (1949):
Just like the Curtis Meyer Residence was my favorite in The Acres, the Eric Brown Residence was far and away my favorite house in Parkwyn Village. This home also hugs the ground in its long low profile, but walk inside and the Honduran mahagonay ceiling soars above your head and compliments the earthy concrete blocks that form the grid of the walls. With a beautiful view of the lake it faces, this immaculately kept home is one I could move right into and enjoy the daily wonders of living in a Wright home.
Our next stop was the Rae and Robert Levin Residence by Frank Lloyd Wirght (1948):
This home was the first and largest of the four Wright-designed homes to be built in Parkwyn Village. The home has a soaring light-filled living room and plenty of perforated tawny-colored concrete textile blocks. Like the Weisblat Residence in The Acres, the Levin Residence also features a Jack Howe addition that was built in 1960.
Our next tour stop was the Ruth and Lawrence Strong Residence (1950) Frank Lloyd Wright/(1965) Norman Carver, Jr.:
The Strong Residence has an interesting pedigree in that Frank Lloyd Wright was originally commissioned for the home's design in 1950, but the Strongs had to relocate to Richmond, IN in 1952. That meant that final construction of the house deviated significantly from Wright's original design to the point that it is often not referred to as a true Wright design. Be that as it may, the home still has many Wrightian features found in the other Parkwyn Village block homes and is an engaging Usonian design.
Our final home toured for the day was the Winifred and Robert Winn Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright (1950):
The Winn Residence was the last of the four Wright-designed homes to be built and is very similar in its curved design to the Kenneth Laurent Residence in Rockford, IL. The home is in the midst of a complete restoration by noted restoration architect John Eifler (who is also consulting on the Curtis Meyer Residence). Like a few of the other homes on the tour, I will be eager to see this wonderful design when it's gone through its restoration metamorphosis.
All-in-all an extremely jam-packed day of memorable Usonian house tours. Even though there were several similarities among all of the home designs (especially the use of concrete block) each home stood alone in its individuality and had a special character unto itself. It was a reminder of Wright's genius that he could create so many permutations among his home designs—each one as unique as the clients and sites they were created for.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow's morning lectures and the tours that await us. Tune it to read and see more from the day's events.
Second Curtis Meyer House photo copyright John Clouse/All other photos copyright PrairieMod