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.

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