Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Did Wright copy Schindler?

Did Frank Lloyd Wright really copy Rudolph Schindler’s design concept to create his most prolific style of housing? Wright was undoubtedly a great architect, but it certainly appears that he copied (and improved) his one-time employee’s design concept to create his Usonian houses.

Schindler emigrated from Austria to the US in 1914 and worked for Wright between 1919 and 1931. During this time he also engaged in the design of several private commissions. The Kings Road House and the Lovell Beach House are among Schindler’s most well know works.

When you look at the design of the Kings Road House, it is strikingly similar to the majority of Wright’s Usonian houses, yet was built at least 12 years before the first Usonian. The basic construction techniques and layout are similar in many ways. Watch this video to see how the Kings Road House was built: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljvdgyu8_QQ

Both modern designs used a concrete slab floor instead of the more traditional footings and crawlspace to reduce costs. Wright scored the finished concrete into a grid pattern to control cracking and added radiant heating. Both designs utilized masonry walls to support the roof structure. Schindler’s design utilized tilt-up concrete walls for the majority of the exterior walls while Wright utilized a light weight board and batten configuration. Two other similarities are the use of large sections of windows to open the designs to the outdoors and the use of flat roofs with clerestory windows.

While there are some differences between the two designs, their similarities are much stronger and more obvious. Wright’s designs were more varied and well-appointed with high quality finishes and probably more design artistry. But it appears that Mr. Wright, though he would never admit it, recognized the qualities of Schindler’s design and made it his own. Below are a couple pictures of the Kings Road House.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

John Lautner

John Lautner probably designed some of the most spectacular modern homes of the 20th century yet he remains relatively unknown to the general public. Although he spent time as an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, he did not have Wright’s flair for self-promotion. Another contributing factor to Lautner’s anonymity is that most of his designs were for private homes and not open to the public. This greatly limited his exposure. Lautner was probably Wright’s most successful apprentice. It is interesting to note that Lautner’s design style was completely different from Wright’s as so many of the apprentices simply emulated Wright’s style.

However, if you enjoy architecture, chances are you have seen pictures of some of Lautner’s designs without realizing it. Lautner’s Elrod house in Palm Springs appears in the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever. It is in the scene where Bambi and Thumper bounced on Bond.

Here is a link to a YouTube trailer for a film about Lautner’s works called Infinite Space, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvjtHWSLgls.

You can find out more about Lautner as well as purchase the DVD for the film at http://www.johnlautner.org/ You can also see many images of Luatner’s designs by searching Google Images.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eby1 project update

I received an updated picture from a customer yesterday. Below is a picture of the front of the finished Eby1 project in Whitehorse, Canada. This design originated as the JC-65 stock plan: http://www.clemdesign.com/DesignPages/Modern/JC-65.html. Because of the long winters in northern Canada, the customer wanted a sloped roof instead of a flat roof. So, we modified the design by adding a shed roof. We also modified the floor plan, adding more space to the master suite and the third bedroom and enlarged the main floor slightly to accommodate a larger kitchen.

I really like how the home turned out. I think the contrast between the dark colored lap siding with the natural trim and the natural board-and-batten siding on the living room looks great. You can see more pictures from this project here: http://www.clemdesign.com/ProjectPages/Eby1/Eby1project.htm.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Are TVs Ugly?

I guess my basic question is; Are TVs ugly? And by ugly, I am asking if they add to the esthetics of a room or are they simply a device that we use often and need? We have 4 TVs in our home, most of which get used for several hours every day (yes, my kids watch too much TV). But they are also an important source of news and educational information, as well as a form of entertainment (I saw a wonderful program about Green Building on PBS the other evening).

We have a TV in the living room, office, bedroom and family room. The most often used is in the living room and the least used is in the bedroom. The TV in the living room is set in a large wall nook and can be covered up with a large painting when we choose. But, because it is so frequently used, it is rarely hidden from view. I arranged the living room television in the wall nook for a couple of reasons, mainly to reduce glare created by light through the windows. But, this also made it easy to hide the TV. I had originally planned to build a mechanical lift that would raise the TV out of view and replace it with a bookcase. But, hanging a picture over it was a much simpler and cheaper option. I want a TV when needed, but I pretty much don’t want to see them otherwise.

It’s not that I don’t like TVs or utilize them; I just don’t think they add to a room. One of the things that I have to consider with every design is what will be the focal point of the main room, typically the living room. Today, that focal point is always an entertainment center of some type with maybe a fireplace taking second place. Some people place a flat screen TV over the fireplace, but I really dislike this arrangement. It just detracts from the beauty of the fireplace. Placing the TV adjacent to the fireplace and preferably in combination with a built-in cabinet with doors to hide it is a much better option.

The TV in the bedroom poses just as much of a problem. It’s just kind of big and ugly, yet I use it for a little while almost every evening. I recently saw a very nifty dresser advertised where a medium sized TV would raise and lower from within the dresser when needed. Very, cool, but I have no idea what the cost is. I have also seen beds where a TV raises up out of the footboard. Again this is cool, but I am not sure I would really like this option too much.

Another option would be to setup the living room TV to display a slow slideshow of paintings and photographs. While that would certainly add some wonderful visual interest, I just can’t bring myself to waste the energy. So, I am not sure if there is any better option than to design a home so that the TV can be hidden in a nook, built-in cabinet or entertainment center. It typically does not take much effort to do so and it does give you the option of not having to look at an ugly TV.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stock or Custom House Plans

If you are going to build a new home, you will typically need a set of plans or construction documents to give to your builder as well as to your local building authority.

There are basically two types of residential plans you can choose from: stock house plans or custom house plans.

Stock house plans are those that have been previously created and readied for sale whereas custom house plans are created specifically for you and your needs. You can acquire stock house plans from plan books or from internet based plan providers. Some stock plan providers will make minor modifications to their stock plans as part of their purchase agreement or for an additional fee.
Stock plans are pretty straightforward; they are what they are and have not been specifically designed for the needs of your family or your building site. But, they cost less than having custom plans created and they are typically available immediately. And, there are thousands of these pre-configured designs available today. The cost of stock house plans typically ranges from a low of $500 to as high as $5000 with the majority costing around $1000.

Custom home plans on the other hand are created specifically for you and your needs. With custom plan, you will typically spend time with the designer discussing what you want, what your budget is, where you will be building and many, many other details. Your designer can then begin to create a custom plan based on your needs and desires. This takes time and typically costs more than purchasing stock house plans. Typical custom house plans range from around $1000 or $2000 to $5000 or more. Some designers or architects may offer to create the plans and oversee construction of the home for a percentage of the total cost.

My main focus is modernist home plans. You can see my stock plan offerings on my web site: http://www.clemdesign.com/.

There are a number of other designers and architects that offer modern, stock house plans. Some of these will customize their stock plans or design custom house plans. Each has their own unique style as well as price range. Below are links to some other modern design providers, Enjoy.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do you want a modern style home?

There are many people who love modern or modernist homes. But most of us who see new modern homes in magazines or on the web realize that we will never be able to afford these. They are simply too big and too high-end for the average person. But, the average person can afford a modern style home, just maybe not such an elaborate one.

An average person with an average income can have a beautiful modernist home if they stay realistic about what they want. Like with most things, making a few compromises can increase your options. A key aspect is to reduce the square footage of the home to what you really need. Keeping the footprint of the home in line frees up funds that may be needed elsewhere. Secondly, you might not be able to have all those high-end surfaces and fixtures in your home, at least initially. Opting for other, less expensive items when you build your home can greatly reduce your construction costs. Then at a later date, you can upgrade and change things as money allows.

Beyond the size of the home and the finishes, finding the right contractor is very important. Contractors and builders need to stay profitable like any other business. Since modern is most likely different from what they typically build, there is a very good chance that your contractor is going to increase his fees to ensure he can make a profit. Two ways that you can avoid paying too much is to find a contractor who is familiar with building modernist homes or one who will work on a cost plus basis. With cost plus, your contractor is ensured of making a specific profit margin over the actual cost of the home.

These are just a few things you can do to help attain your dream of a modern home. With planning, effort and perseverance, you can have the home you want and not settle for something less.