13 April 2009

03 April 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright's Kraus House

Lecture: Anthony Alofsin
Date: Friday 3 April 3 2009 at 7pm.
Location: Saint Louis Art Museum Auditorium

Anthony Alofsin will speak about "Frank Lloyd Wright, St. Louis and Organic Architecture."

Dr. Alofsin is internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and as an expert on modern architecture. In 2006, Alofsin received the Wright Spirit Award from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. The highest honor given by the Conservancy, the award recognized Dr. Alofsin’s significant contributions to the study of Frank Lloyd Wright as a scholar, educator, author and curator.

The lecture is sponsored by The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Below are additional photographs of the house by this blog's author Andrew Raimist, AIA. Clicking on the image will take you to the Flickr page with a larger image.

Light streaming into the house through the glass doors created by Mr. Russell Kraus. The hexagonal tables and stools can be moved at will and used independently or joined in various combinations. The interior furnishings were created by Kraus following Frank Lloyd Wright plans.

The interior details, furnishings, joints in the red concrete floor all work with the angular nature of the entire house. Few true right angles exist in the composition. Where they occur it seems that they have insisted upon themselves to the chagrin of the architect who seems to imagine a new conception of spatial experience by using such an unusual geometry. The character of the house is particularly strongly evident because the limited floor space of contained makes it impossible to get much distance from the walls, steps, shelves, and other elements that make up the planes and surfaces defining those spaces.

The floor plan reveals the manner in which Wright used the parallelogram as the basis for his spatial grid. This geometry was carried through the house design down into its details including beds, showers, cabinets, and furnishings. It creates some wonderful and perplexing moments. At times however, the practicality and logic of such adherence to this acute angle must be questioned. The reddish tone on the plan (added by Raimist) indicates the actual interior spaces; Wright made extensive use of outdoor space, integrating it into the composition in a powerful manner and providing a clear distinction between "the house" and "nature". While inside and outside may blur through the continuity of form and material, the fortress-like nature of the overall plan sharply defines the defensive perimeter.

The house presents a fortress-like facade to visitors arriving by car or on foot. While on a relatively steep incline, you look upward through the stand of trees at this large solid brick wall with its angular protrusions. For some, it might bring to mind the defensive walls of a Medieval fortress.

The apex of one of the brick masonry retaining walls are a distinctive feature of the house. The final brick at the tip of the apex corresponds to the geometry of the 40 degree parallelogram on which the house plan was based.

A closer view of the brick wall reveals one of Wright's trademark details: raking the horizontal joints to emphasize the horizontality of the overall composition and grounding these walls in the landscape with a sense of mass and weight. In this case, the mortar was selected to match the brick, creating a monolithic effect somewhat different from his earlier designs for the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield and the Robie House in Chicago. In each of these cases, the horizontal mortar joints are continuous and the vertical joints are colored to blend with the bricks themselves resulting in a striking graphic presence.

The sharp point of the roof overhang along with the butt-glazed miter detail in the window emphasizes the extent of the cantilever and creates the sense of a look-out point set high up in the wall. From the interior, the view is expansive and open in a way hard to foresee from its exterior composition.

Photographs by Andrew Raimist, AIA. Floor plan derived from image on the EbsworthPark.org website.