Men’s Club: Architecture

The Men’s Club is starting our annual scholarship award process. Applications must be submitted no later than April 28, 2017 (See details below).
On February 7, our guest speaker was Alan Hess, an architect and historian who has written nineteen books on modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century. He gave a spellbinding discussion of the subject of his 2012 book, Frank Lloyd Wright: Natural Design, Organic Architecture: Lessons for Building Green from an American Original. Alan describes Frank Lloyd Wright as the greatest architect in the 20th century and notes that, in his life (1869-1959), he “revitalized” his career at least 4 to 5 times. Wright started in Chicago in the 1890’s and introduced the concept of a long horizontal house with wide eaves, a design that captured the practical need for solar efficiency, allowing sunshine in during winter and shade in summer. His early influence on commercial buildings can be seen in the Larkin building in Buffalo, NY which has been described as “a monument, if not to Mr. Wright’s creative imagination, to the inventiveness of American design.”
Act one of his career ended in 1909 with the scandal of his love affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of his client who commissioned the Cheney house. Wright moved to rural Wisconsin and built “Taliesin”, a secluded house in the country, for his lover and new family. While he was away designing the Tokyo Imperial Hotel, tragedy struck when a deranged servant burned Taliesin, killing Mamah and her children.
In the 1920s Wright moved to Los Angeles, opening another “act” in his career. He reinvented himself again, emphasizing building with natural materials and concrete blocks, keeping natural detail and designs in the structure. The Freeman and Ennis houses are notable examples. Another new phase in Wright’s career began with a move to the desert. Wright realized the demographic shift to the Sunbelt was coming and wanted to influence the movement.
In the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, he created Taliesin West, a winter camp and desert laboratory that became a school for teaching younger architects his concepts.
1935 marked another phase that many of us associate with Wright, exemplified by the Fallingwater house design in Pennsylvania. In addition, the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, and the Herbert Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin—brought him back into prominence in the architectural community. In the 1950’s the Walker house in Carmel featured Wright’s concept of blending the structure with nature, a design that even the Coastal Commission would love. Wright’s far sighted designs have also had a major influence on our commercial landscape. Norm’s and Bob’s Big Boy, as well as the Rodeo Drive Shopping Center, reflect Wright’s influence on architectural vision.
—Jerry Allen

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