Usonia 1

Roman Mars:
This is 99% invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
If I asked you to think of the most famous architect in American history, even if you don’t think you know anything at all about architecture, I bet you could take a guess and I bet your guess would be Wright.

Archive Tapes:
“Frank Lloyd Wright.”
“Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the greatest architect of the 20th century.”
“The genius with a T square has been called a pacesetter of modern-day architecture.”
“One of the most extraordinary men of our time.”
“He has literally established the pace for innovations and new ideas in the field of architecture.”

Avery Trufelman:
Frank Lloyd Wright left a legacy of some of the most iconic and gorgeous buildings in the United States, like the spiraling Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania, which straddles a waterfall and the futuristic Marin Civic Center, which is the backdrop for Gattaca, which is an awesome movie.

Roman Mars:
And that is producer Avery Trufelman.

Avery Trufelman:
By the end of his career, Wright was on a level of celebrity usually reserved for actors and rock stars. He was a household name and he was on late-night talk shows.

Interviewer:
“Some quarters have denounced Wright as an impractical visionary and a pompous windbag.”

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“Yeah.”

Interviewer:
“How, how do you feel about that criticism, Mr. Wright?”

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“It doesn’t affect me particularly.”

Interviewer:
“It doesn’t bother you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“Not a bit.”

Roman Mars:
So Wright wasn’t just known for being a genius architect, he made headlines because he was a character. He often wore this outfit that included a flowy cape and a hat and cane. He wrote manifestos, launched insults at other architects and loudly critique politicians, religion and society. He declared himself the greatest architect who ever lived. He was unashamed.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“You see, earlier in life, I had to choose between honest arrogance and a hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and I’ve seen no occasion to change now.”

Avery Trufelman:
And Frank Lloyd Wright had this wildly scandalous private life.

Archive Tape:
“There were suits against him, property seized, jail. Finally, divorce: the raw material for big, spicy headlines. Frank Lloyd Wright was the darling of a sensational press.”

Avery Trufelman:
But this bombastic character ultimately changed the field of architecture and introduced a new philosophy of building.

Roman Mars:
Before many of Wright’s iconic and famous structures were completed, before Fallingwater, before the Guggenheim, before the Marin Civic Center, his most significant contribution to our everyday lives was something much more modest. A small, sturdy, inexpensive, and most importantly, very beautiful house, designed with the American working class in mind. And it all started with a journalist from Milwaukee.

Avery Trufelman:
In 1934, a Milwaukee journal reporter named Herbert Jacobs was assigned to take a drive over to Spring Green, in central Wisconsin. He was told to write about Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio.

Roman Mars:
Jacobs didn’t really know anything about architecture, and at that particular time he wasn’t really interested in learning anything about it.

Avery Trufelman:
Because Herbert Jacobs had other things on his mind. In that November of 1934, his wife was very, very pregnant. The night before his reporting trip, he had brought her to the hospital and he stayed up with her until dawn. The nurses assured Herbert that he could go on his reporting trip without missing the birth, and so he set out that morning alone, bleary-eyed completely unprepared.

Roman Mars:
He drove 120 miles through the chill gray Wisconsin countryside for his assignment to meet with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Avery Trufelman:
Wright who was 67 in 1934, couldn’t have cared less about his appointment with Herbert Jacobs of the Milwaukee Journal. Actually, Wright forgot all about it, which wasn’t unusual. He was known to blow off journalists.

Roman Mars:
When Jacobs arrived at Frank Lloyd Wright’s compound, completely distracted by thoughts of his wife and their baby. He learned that the architect was actually on his way out the door. They got to talk for just over 10 minutes, before right left abruptly saying, “Some of the boys will talk to you now.”

Avery Trufelman:
The boys were Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices. They’d come to him from all over the world and they were part of a fellowship program that Wright established at his home and studio, a campus he called Taliesin.

Archive Tape:
Taliesin, a Welsh word, meaning shining brow.

Roman Mars:
Welsh because it was built on land settled by his family who were farmers from Wales, but the shining brow also has to do with Wright’s building philosophy.

Floyd Hamblin:
“So Taliesin actually is built kind of on the brow, just like your brow of your head.”

Avery Trufelman:
The main Taliesin building curls around the side of a hill, almost like a crown.

Floyd Hamblin:
“He felt that you should never build on top of a hill because that destroyed the integrity of the hill.”

Avery Trufelman:
This is Floyd Hamlin. He’s an architect at Taliesin…

Floyd Hamblin:
“… also, part of the faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. And I’d been here since starting as a apprentice back in 1987.”

Roman Mars:
Hamlin works and lives at Taliesin full-time, here on Frank Lloyd Wright’s family land where Wright used to play as a boy.

Avery Trufelman:
“So yeah, where are we now?”

Floyd Hamblin:
“So, where are we? We are … This is just outside of Spring Green, Wisconsin. It’s a very beautiful green valley with rolling hills. So he spent a lot of his summers working this land. So he was very familiar with the landscape.”

Avery Trufelman:
And this connection with the outdoors was really formative for Wright. He thought that architecture should help people live harmoniously with their environment rather than shield them from it. The house could become part of nature if it was made with local materials and had big windows and was oriented for just the right amount of sunlight.

Floyd Hamblin:
“You orient the house just right so that you take advantage of what nature has to offer and you’re living with nature rather than trying to fight against it.”

Avery Trufelman:
You know, living on the brow of the hill, not top of it. This is all folded into a concept Frank Lloyd Wright called ‘organic architecture’. He wanted to spread this gospel to the next generation, which is why he returned to the valley he knew as a boy and established the ‘Taliesin Fellowship’.

Roman Mars:
The fellowship was the thing that the Milwaukee Journal wanted Herbert Jacobs to cover in his article. When Jacobs drove into Taliesin that morning in 1934, the fellowship had been going on for two years and it was hard for the public to wrap their minds around it, including this NBC announcer.

NBC Announcer:
“The Taliesin Fellowship, just what is it? A school and yet not a school, a colony of devoted men and women, a principality whose king is Frank Lloyd Wright. Apprentices, they’re called, not students. They are, says Mr. Wright, ‘as the fingers of my hand’.”

Roman Mars:
The apprentices had to pay $1,100 a year to attend the Taliesin Fellowship, nearly 20 grand today. And it wasn’t like an accredited institution or anything. Students had to do a lot of grunt work like bailing hay, plowing fields and making meals, but they got to learn Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of architecture and live with him and work with him, even though oftentimes this meant serving as an unpaid labor force.

Avery Trufelman:
When Jacobs was getting his tour of Taliesin, he described the apprentices as rather long-haired, smiling and polite young men, who tried their best to explain to him what organic architecture means.

Floyd Hamblin:
“Organic architecture is architecture of its time and of its place. You’re not trying to make it look like something that it’s not.”

Roman Mars:
Wright thought that there should be no wallpaper to cover things up. No paint, no plaster, wood should look like wood, stone should look like stone, concrete should look like concrete.

Floyd Hamblin:
“When Frank Lloyd Wright worked with plywood, he liked to leave the edge of the plywood exposed so that you saw those layers in there and that became part of the almost ornament or detail.”

Avery Trufelman:
Which was different from frilly, traditional European-style architecture, with rococo gold ornaments and clawfoot chairs and parlors full of knick-knacks. Just think of Victorian houses stuffed with lots of tiny rooms and covered in bright paint and lacy curtains.

Roman Mars:
This idea of organic architecture wasn’t just a break from these traditions, it was a break from new trends in modern architecture too. Cities all over the world were building huge boxy glass and steel structures, designed to be hyper sleek machines for living and working. Wright explains that these were simply not comfortable for human animals.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“They are like goldfish in a globe. And these houses that are so classified as they now are, they’re not sensible. It’s an abuse of privilege and an abuse of material.”

Roman Mars:
Frank Lloyd Wright took the traditional old materials and put them into sleek, modern forms. His organic architecture was a new style, born in the United States.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“An organic architecture, a new sense of what constitutes humanity under harmonious conditions, a harmonious place in which to live in a harmonious way to live in it.”

Avery Trufelman:
But Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t explain this grand philosophy to the journalist Herbert Jacobs, because Wright wasn’t there. The apprentices did the best they could, but again, Jacobs was very distracted and was only thinking of his wife in the hospital. He thanked the two young men who showed him around Taliesin and got back in his car.

Roman Mars:
Jacobs later wrote, “Finally I started back to Milwaukee, learning on the way through a telephone call to the hospital that I had become a father at about 11 o’clock that morning. At the very moment when I was interviewing, Wright.”

Avery Trufelman:
Herbert Jacobs, his wife Katherine and their new daughter lived in Milwaukee for two more years on his reporter’s salary of $20 a week.

Roman Mars:
This was in the mid-thirties, the Great Depression. So when Herbert Jacobs was offered a slightly higher paying job with a paper in the state Capital of Madison, the family moved right away.

Herbert Jacobs:
“When we got to Madison and I couldn’t find anything within our price range – in our newspaper man’s price range – for what we figured would be nice to live in.”

Avery Trufelman:
This is the voice of Herbert Jacobs himself, from a 1956 NBC interview. When he and Katherine moved to Madison, they didn’t see any houses they liked or that they could afford.

Herbert Jacobs:
“So a cousin of my wife’s had been out at Taliesin with Mr. Wright, and suggested that we have Mr. Wright do something for us.”

Roman Mars:
Jacobs didn’t really remember much about his first visit to Taliesin two years before and he murmured something along the lines of, ‘very interesting’. Which his wife’s cousin took as a yes.

Herbert Jacobs:
“But he made an appointment for us to go out there and we went along with that idea. Then, on the way out, we were – my wife and I – were trying to think, what is it that we can tell this great man, the architect of rich clients. What can we say to him that would interest him in our very small case?”

Avery Trufelman:
In the past, when Frank Lloyd Wright had designed private homes, they had not been for people like Herbert and Katherine Jacobs. Wright had designed gorgeous, wide homes with broad roofs and expansive living rooms, for wealthy people. His constructions were masterpieces, they were works of art and they were expensive.

Herbert Jacobs:
“So we put it as a sort of challenge. What the country needs is a decent $5,000 house, can you build one?”

Roman Mars:
In today’s money, $5,000 is about $85,000, that’s a pretty reasonably priced house in most real estate markets.

Herbert Jacobs:
“Mr. Wright told us that we were the first clients that ever asked him to build a low-cost house. He said for 20 years he’d been wanting to build one, but no one ever asked him to.”

Roman Mars:
Now Wright had long wanted to make a more democratic form of housing, even early in his career. He had been playing around with inexpensive methods of building and other structures and he had a lot of concepts, that he had been scheming around urban planning,

Avery Trufelman:
But now, Wright had the chance to make some of his concepts a reality, he had the willing clients and he had time on his hands. In 1936, he was in a bit of a slump in his career, people couldn’t afford fancy big new homes. Again, it was the depression and a number of big projects had been canceled and also Wright had already been practicing for decades and he was slowly getting written off as a has-been.

Roman Mars:
And then in comes this young, open-minded couple. Wright, could tell them his philosophy and teach them how to live well through good architecture.

Herbert Jacobs:
“Then he said, do you really want a $5,000 house? He said most people want a $10,000 house for $5,000. Are you willing to give up the things that you have to give up?”

Avery Trufelman:
Mr. Wright made a list of the things that the Jacobs would have to do without, if they really wanted a $5,000 house.

Herbert Jacobs:
“Tile bathrooms, extra trim finish, and things like that. Are you willing to give those up? We didn’t know anything about it, and we said, sure, it’s okay with us.”

Avery Trufelman:
Herbert and Katherine Jacobs didn’t know it at the time, but that modest little house that Frank Lloyd Wright was to build for them, would be the most practical expression of his ideology.

Roman Mars:
The Jacobs would own the first house in a movement that Wright called Usonia.

Archive Tape:
“The house that Herbert Jacobs built was the first of the Usonian houses. Usonian, a Wright word meaning the United States as it ought to be at its democratic zenith.”

Avery Trufelman:
Usonia was Frank Lloyd Wright’s name for the United States of North America. In Wright’s vision, Usonia would be a country full of modest, well-made, beautiful, comfortable little houses that the working class could afford. These Usonian homes would inspire, educate and, Wright believed, create a new culture for all Americans.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“I believe now, people are going to know what constitutes good architecture and of course good living has to go with it. Good conduct also, good dressing too, because you wouldn’t dress in a loud and vulgar way in a quiet and beautiful room. All these good things are dependent more or less one on the other and add up to something that we call culture. It’s only by a natural growth, that you can attain culture.”

Roman Mars:
Wright believed the way to build a better American culture was not en masse, not in apartment buildings or cookie-cutter developments. It was to be catered to the individual.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“Culture is not for the crowd. Culture is an individual thing and that’s what our forefathers struck when they declared that the individual is sovereign.”

Avery Trufelman:
Which to Frank Lloyd Wright meant that the masses should be unmasked. It should spread out, away from the city.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“Well, the city of course, is a thing of the past. There was a time during the middle ages, when it was the only source of culture. There was no way of acquiring this thing we call culture, except by direct contact, you see.”

Roman Mars:
But for Wright, that wasn’t true anymore. People were connected to culture through radio and telephones and automobiles.

Frank Lloyd Wright:
“They have transportation speed, listening – this – to we’re using now, it’s no longer essential for people to crowd together, anywhere.”

Avery Trufelman:
These were all parts of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for America and this would start to become reality in 1936, with the Jacobs House, which would come to be known as Jacobs One, or you Usonia 1.

Bill Martinelli:
“Jacobs House was one of the first ones built, this was just a wide-open farmland when it was built out here.”

Avery Trufelman:
This is Bill Martinelli, manager of Usonia 1. It’s in a suburban street outside of Madison, now lined with little suburban houses, but Usonia 1 really stands out. Even if you don’t know what it is and you’re just driving by because from a street it almost just looks like a beautiful wooden wall. The house turns its back on the road.

Bill Martinelli:
“Well, when we get inside or if we go around back, you’ll see that whole back of the house is all glass, it’s all open to the back and he, you know, he did that intentionally to kind of close it off to the street and then open it up to the back.”

Avery Trufelman:
As Wright saw it, the point of the house was not to have a big facade to show off to your neighbors, with a useless and wasteful patch of lawn in the front and a grand entryway. No, the house should be built for residents, not onlookers.

Roman Mars:
Also, from the street you can see that there’s no garage. A car is parked under a wooden awning, just a little flat roof with no sidewalls. This is the carport, a term that Frank Lloyd Wright coined.

Bill Martinelli:
“Well, this was the carport of the house, this is considered the first named carport. It was a term that Wright came up with.”

Roman Mars:
This was one of the many tiny ways Wright kept costs down and also the carport was an education in lifestyle. Without a garage, the Jacobs wouldn’t have space to store their junk. They’d have to simply minimize their possessions and toss what they didn’t need. But the carport isn’t purely utilitarian, the woodwork on the car port roof has this lovely geometric pattern.

Avery Trufelman:
“There is like these wood kind of stripes in the ceiling.”

Bill Martinelli:
“Details.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Yeah. It’s funny, when I’d seen … When I’d heard about the carport and like seeing pictures of it, I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful and like it’s really nice.”

Bill Martinelli:
“Well, that’s the thing, in this house, the more you look around, the more you see. You know like, with the ceiling here, the carport, you wouldn’t expect that, when you get inside you’ll see the same thing.”

Roman Mars:
Usonia 1 is full of small, elegant detail.

Avery Trufelman:
“Can we go inside?”

Bill Martinelli:
“Sure. Warm in here.” (cat meows)

Avery Trufelman:
“Oh wow.”

Bill Martinelli:
“You can see how the sun comes in.”

Avery Trufelman:
“It’s so red.”

Bill Martinelli:
“Yeah.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Every, like the brick and the wood.”

Bill Martinelli:
“The wood.”

Avery Trufelman:
“And the …”

Bill Martinelli:
“Right, your eye kind of gets drawn in.” (cat meows again)

Roman Mars:
Usonia 1 is one floor and inside it’s pretty much one room, and a loud cat.

Bill Martinelli:
“The space open, no walls between, you know, living room, dining room, kitchen. That was kind of innovative for the time.”

Roman Mars:
The kitchen is an alcove adjacent to the living/dining space, with no door and it’s a very, very tiny area.

Avery Trufelman:
“This is the kitchen. It’s just a little bit wider than the length of my arms I think. Wait.”

Bill Martinelli:
“About eight foot-by-eight foot square probably.”

Avery Trufelman:
There’s a small hallway with tiny bedrooms, but mostly the one main room is the focus. It’s where you’re supposed to eat, relax, read, live, altogether. Again, Herbert Jacobs.

Herbert Jacobs:
“Mr. Wright is an advocate of the open plan in housing. That is the removal of the boxes within boxes sort of thing, so that you don’t have many partitions. The temptation is to be together much more.”

Roman Mars:
The open plan was pretty novel and it was cost-saving to not have many walls. The Usonian house is full of these clever, less expensive solutions. Like the lights on the ceiling.

Bill Martinelli:
“So that’s just a steel channel with the wires just laying in there. And then bare sockets, bare bulbs. So, that’s considered the first track lighting, another first to the house.”

Avery Trufelman:
And now you see track lighting everywhere, wherever you see lights or bulbs, affixed to a single beam. That’s a Usonian invention.

Roman Mars:
Other innovations Usonia popularized, include the use of flat roofs, built-in furniture, and heated floors. Herbert Jacobs loved those heated floors.

Herbert Jacobs:
“Floor heating, now very general, but at that time there were no floor heated residences in this country.”

Avery Trufelman:
All of these innovations were meant to help the family live well and frugally. They saved money while they lived in the house and they had also saved costs in the construction of the house, but Wright used some other cost-saving measures that were kind of cheating. Like he stole some bricks from another building of his, that he was constructing nearby.

Roman Mars:
Well, Wright didn’t steal the bricks himself, he sent a bunch of his apprentices over to Racine, Wisconsin, where his design for the Johnson Wax building was under construction. He told the apprentices to grab as many bricks as they could and bring them back to Madison.

Bill Martinelli:
“I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Johnson Wax building, the corners are curved, so you can see some of these bricks there, convex and some are concave. Well, those would have been like corner bricks.’

Roman Mars:
Another way Wright kept costs down was by taking a huge pay cut himself.

Herbert Jacobs:
“The bill I paid was for $5,500, which included Mr. Wright’s fee of $450.”

Roman Mars:
By hook or by crook, Wright did it. He met his challenge of building a beautiful house that Herbert and Katherine could afford.

Avery Trufelman:
I mean, it wasn’t perfect. It was a total adjustment for the family and the house had problems with rain drainage and little things missing. Like initially, Wright forgot to put screens on the windows.

Roman Mars:
Which were the kinds of complaints Wright got a lot. He mostly focused on aesthetics and principles of building, rather than practicalities.

Avery Trufelman:
And ultimately, the Jacobs house was small. After Herbert and Katherine had two more children, they couldn’t fit into the house anymore. And so, after six years of living in Usonia 1, the Jacobs family would move off to the countryside, where Frank Lloyd Wright would design them a second Usonian house. But Herbert Jacobs thought of their first home very fondly.

Herbert Jacobs:
“Living in that house was fantastically wonderful. I think it’d be nice if a lot more families had that same sort of thing happened to them.”

Roman Mars:
Mr. Wright thought so too.

Bill Martinelli:
“He thought everybody should live in a house designed by him and you know, the dishes and clothes designed by him and all the furniture.”

Avery Trufelman:
He did design a lot of his furniture and in at least one case, he did design a dress for the wife of a client. This was all about changing culture, one home at a time.

Roman Mars:
Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to redesign America and by that token, Americans. Good design, he thought, would make a kinder, more beautiful, more enlightened country.

Archive Tape:
“Nowadays, Usonian houses may be seen in the countrywide. You don’t need a guide book. You’ll know…”

Roman Mars:
By 1939 Wright had built Usonian homes all over the country, including houses in Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, and Virginia. But he wanted to build more.

Avery Trufelman:
He wanted to have a central factory that made prefabricated Usonian parts, modifiable for each client depending on their needs for space and site conditions.

Bill Martinelli:
“And originally the whole idea was, all these walls would be manufactured in a factory. That never really happened, this was all site-built.”

Avery Trufelman:
Frank Lloyd Wright’s factory for Usonian homes never came to pass, and it became increasingly clear to write, that the $5,000 price tag for Usonian homes just wasn’t feasible after the depression.

Roman Mars:
Also, Wright’s career picked up shortly after you Usonia 1. He started building bigger commissions, the ones we all know him for like Fallingwater.

Archive Tape:
“Among the Wright houses, none has been more widely publicized than the Pennsylvania home of Edgar Kaufmann, which straddles a waterfall”

Avery Trufelman:
Wright worked on Usonian homes up until near the very end of his life, but it was a group of his apprentices that would carry on his vision by building an entire community of Usonian houses.

GPS Navigation:
“Turn right onto Usonia Road.”

Roman Mars:
Next time on 99% Invisible, a trip to Usonia, New York to see what became of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision and why these little houses have affected the ways we live.

  1. Ah, finally! I was hoping you would do a story on FLW and glad you focused on the Usonian architecture. Great episode! Got to tour the Gordon house down in Oregon and its interesting how big it feels when you’re inside of the house even though its roughly 2000 sq ft.

  2. JMS

    Umm, Spring Green in not in Central Wisconsin. Your own wikipedia link proves that.

    Wausau, Mosinee, Stevens Point, Marathon, Marshfield, that’s Central Wisconsin.

  3. Scott

    In the early 60s we moved into an Eichler house, 782 Holly Oak Drive, Palo Alto, California. Living in that house was indeed inspiring. Until this podcast I had no idea how much that design derived from Wright. Thank you for this podcast. I can personally attest to the positive effects the Usonian design had on our living experience. It was a cheap tract house. But it was by far the best house I’ve ever lived in. And now we have McMansions. How sad. Design matters.

  4. Guy Stalnaker

    Wright’s Usonian’s remain my most favorite of his works, including Robie, etc. I live in Madison and I’ve made my pilgrimage to Jacob’s 1. It is my near ideal home. The wall of windows/doors, the wall of built-in bookshelving, the built-in desk, the fireplace, the mix of brick and cedar, the ceiling (actually sculptural in design): all elements I would love to have in a home I own. It is “near ideal” because I’d prefer a larger kitchen.

    Thank you for an excellent article!

  5. I listened to the podcast first, so I had no idea what the house looked like. I expected from the descriptions that it would be far more sparse and utilitarian.

    But, wow… the house is gorgeous!

  6. Chuck again

    Architecture-related shows are always welcome! I can see so much of Wright’s vision in some of the mid-century modern homes in 1950s Houston suburbia. Am thinking specifically of this neighborhood, which is slowly being eaten away by tall “McMansions.” A BIG loss for history, but (I must admit) a win for energy savings…

    http://memorialbendarchitecture.com/bend.htm

    1. Chuck again

      Follow up… now the very same neighborhood is quickly being eaten away by demolition, with a few permits a week being granted by the city. Reason: The quiet creek behind the homes, which has generally stayed in its deeply scoured clay banks, overflowed during Hurricane Harvey, filled an 18-acre freeway trough 20 feet or more with floodwaters, deliberately released upstream in the hopes of saving the city from a greater fate. Come back in five or ten years and see how the court decisions go. It should make an interesting story.

  7. amy

    I live in Madison and lived a few blocks away from the Jacobs House and walked by it all the time. I had to laugh when you said that it was in a “suburb” of Madison. I doubt that anyone who lives in that neighborhood considers it a suburb on the edges of Madison. It is a good 2 miles from the edge of Madison in any direction. Yes, it was on the edge of Madison at the time it was built (the house we lived in was built in 1947 on old farmland), but now is considered very much in Madison and not on the outskirts.
    We watched when the house was restored and toured it after. What is not while many of the design elements are elegant (such as the window wall and the heated floors) others are rather impractical. The bedrooms are very tiny and have almost non-existent closets. I now live in a house that was built in 1938, so I know what small closets are, but the ones in the Jacobs house are small even in comparison. Also, as other have noted, the kitchen was not designed by anyone who ever cooked.
    That said, it is a beautiful house from the outside and the restoration was very well done. But if you read on the website what all had to be done, it was extensive.

    1. Josh

      It’s a weird way to phrase it but it’s certainly in the typical suburban-type area. It’s not rural, and certainly not as dense as the urban residential areas you’d find on the Isthmus.

  8. cv01jw

    Lovely house, but I find it interesting that it is referred to as a very small space and wasn’t big enough for a family at 1550 sqft.

    Coming from England, our house is a 3 bed terrace with a total floor area of 740 sqft, so about half the size of Usonia 1.

    To me, Usonia 1 sounds huge!

    1. Robin

      Wow. I didn’t notice that detail. That is huge! (To me, living in a 950 sq ft 1920 bungalow with two kids and a spouse)

  9. Xavi

    Episodes like that are why we love 99pi. Keep the great work! I can’t wait to listen to that second part

  10. Linda Shepherd

    Grew up in a Usonian house designed on Wright’s principles by Edward Dart. Created a very unique aesthetic awareness and extreme sensitivity to the natural world. Ever grateful for being raised to be the kind of person FLlW wanted his design to create. It does!

  11. Blake Cottey

    There is a fully restored and beautiful FLW Usonian home that was relocated to Crystal Bridges art museum in NW Arkansas. It is free and open to the public for tour, which I think is great. When touring one of the biggest surprises to me was feeling the radiant heating found within the floor that also extended outside onto the patio. From what I understand there is a family of raccoons who very much enjoy sleeping on the warm patio during a cold winter night. The house was designed on a 4×4 grid system, clearly the intent was for the owner to contact FLW when they were ready to add on. The size is perfect for a small family and I love the carport cantilever. Check it out if you’re ever in the area. The Bachman-Wilson House. Cheers.

    http://crystalbridges.org/frank-lloyd-wright/

  12. Dave W.

    Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL has the largest concentration of FLW-designed structures, and in 2013, they built a beautiful Usonian house and renamed the street Frank Lloyd Wright Way. I live nearby, but didn’t know the history of the house until now.

    I’ve been told that he hated tall people and often made ceilings low to make them uncomfortable. I’m 6′ 4″, and I imagine him laughing in his grave each time I visit the campus.

  13. Robin Dickinson

    As usual you did an amazing episode… I discovered how amazing when based on your descriptions I realized we live close to a whole neighborhood built on Usonian principals and now protected as a historic district. (http://arapahoeacres.org/architect/usonian.html) That an audio story gave me such great visual information is impressive. I can’t wait to go walk around and get a good look at the houses… In the meantime I’m reading more. Thanks for stimulating my curiosity about something I knew nothing about previously!

  14. Aaron Van Wyk

    Great episode! Now it has me thinking about whether anyone is trying to do this today? The tiny house movement seems to fully embrace many of these ideas – economy, frugality, creative use of space / spaces that serve multiple purposes, living with less. I have a hard time believing that anyone could build a 1,500 sq. foot house that could actually house a small family today for under 100k. Even under 200k here in Colorado or any growing metropolitan area seems nearly impossible. How about in Oakland?

  15. mark

    Anyone ever mention the connection between one of Wrights earlier employee’s, Rudolph Schindler & the close spatial layout of Schindler’s own home in Hollywood from 1921, where Wright actually spent the night i believe. Did he know this space and borrow some of the spatial moves but fit it to a more nuclear family layout?

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