WRIGHT'S SMALL DIAMOND MODULE HOUSES: PATRICK KINNEY HOUSE
The Patrick Kinney House, 1953, Lancaster, Wisconsin
WRIGHT'S SMALLL DIAMOND MODULE DESIGNS: THE PATRICK KINNEY HOUSE
> William Storrer says that the "... Prairie School had died out
> by the early 1920s. In the Prairie era, Wright had created an American
> - some would say only a Midwestern - architecture. He had not,
> however, created a Democratic architecture (1)." Wright's democratic,
> more affordable and compact houses from 1936 to 1959 were called "Usonians."
> The Prairie homes of about 1901 to 1913 are larger than the Usonians, since
> they were designed for the Upper Middle Class. And because there was a
> lingering caste system at that time in America, in part because these
> mansions contained quarters for live-in servants they were larger than
> they might have been. In addition, many of the prairie homes had an extra
> entry for servants and delivery men, while the family and guests entered at
> another door.
> (l) http://www.franklloydwrightinfo.com/wasfllwbio.html
> Wright broke out of the box in steps. Over a period of a few years he
> developed ways of making interior space in his big Prairie houses
> flow in and around jogs in
> walls, into other spaces,and he varied the ceiling heights to structure
> space vertically.
> With its horizontal lines and hip roof, the Malcolm Wiley house (1934) of
> Minneapolis reminds us of the horizontal look of the Prairie houses. But the
> Wiley house can be considered as a direct forerunner of the First Jacobs
> house, known as the first of Wright's Usonians. Like the Jacobs house, the
> Wiley residence is compact and simplified to cut costs and to make it more
> WRIGHT'S WISCONSIN POPULISM
> In his fall 1952 talk at the University of Wisconsin student Union
> auditorium Wright
> said "A Democrat is born hating the government." By Democrat he did
> not mean the Democratic Party. He defined Democratic as the freedom and
> dignity of the individual, an ideology that came out his Wisconsin Populism and
> Progressivism. Progressivism, and Populism before it, had upheld the common
> people and were both critical of the rich - and what we would now call
> the ruling
> elite. The more agrarian populism of the Midwest, Texas and the South, as well
> as Wisconsin Progressivism were also critical of government. Wright's Usonian
> architecture for the common man was inspired by his Progressivism,
> which was influenced
> by the earlier agrarian populism.
> Progressivism taught that the common man
> is capable of improving himself and the whole society might be improved.
> To Wright, the Middle and Lower
> Class people might be raised up to appreciate great art and to develop as
> individuals in a free, democratic culture. His organic architecture, he thought,
> was a major way common people could be elevated. Wright thought
> his architecture would edify the Middle and Lower Middle Classes. He suggested
> to me in the fall of 1957 that I was studying his houses of the
> fifties for "my own edification."
> Progressivism rejected
> Social Darwinism, the position taken by
> many of the rich and powerful figures of the day. Social Darwinism
> was the philosophy which said that the rich deserve to rule over the common
> people because they have proven themselves fit to do so. Populism and
> also opposed corruption in the financial and business
> worlds and in government.
> THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF WRIGHT
> On religion, Wright said:
> " I prefer to say that nature is the only body of God that we shall
> ever see. If we wish to know the truth concerning anything, we'll find
> it in the nature of that thing.(2)
> (2) <http://www.ronaldbrucemeyer.com/rants/0608almanac.htm>>
> Romans 1: 25 points out that many people, like Wright,
> prefer to worship creation rather than the creator. Wright was clearly
> not a Christian. He was not a driver of an avant-garde art
> wrecking machine like most other Masters of Modern art, especially
> the surrealists, who attacked Chjristianity..
> Wright drew inspiration from Taoism, and especially from Lao Tse.
> In his Autobiography, he claimed to have been into Celtic Druidism.
> His last wife,Olgivanna Hinzenberg, was into mysticism, a follower
> of the mystic Gurdjieff, who visited her and Wright at Taliesin.
> In addition, Wright's beloved mistress,
> Mamah Cheney, wife of Edwin H. Cheney, was
> as independent as Wright. She translated feminist books on free
> love, from German
> and Swedish, and promoted the early feminist agenda (3)
> (3) http://www.oprf.com/flw/bio/cheney.html
> In his review of the book,
> The Fellowship, by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman, Storrer says "Mamah
> was a
> translator of the work of Swedenborg, and it is that influence that
> fed Wright's spiritual
> world." Swedenborg was a mystic, and even a gnostic. So two of the
> four women in Wright's life were into mysticism.(4)
> (4) http://www.franklloydwrightinfo.com/
> BY 1915 WRIGHT TURNED TO DESIGNING FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE
> It is easier to see how Wright's Wisconsin Populism and Progressivism
> led him to finally
> turn from his Prairie houses for the Upper Middle Class to finding
> ways to create
> affordable houses for the Middle and Lower Middle Classes which also reached
> the level of art.. Unitarianism, Taoism,.
> Druidism and mysticism are not populist, and neither is gnosticism.
> In fact, to a great extent mysticism comes out of gnosticism in which
> a small elite claimed to
> have the secret knowledge that can enlighten a few of the unenlightened.
> After he stopped designing Prairie houses, and got back from Europe, Wright
> turned his attention to designing homes for the lower middle class.
> His first designs
> were for Arthur l. Richards, using the American System Built home
> process. Four
> duplex apartment units and two bungalows were built in Milwaukee in 1915-1916.
> Lumber was cut at a factory and shipped to the sites to be assembled,
> which reduced
> the cost of the dwellings. Later, during the fifties, Madison builder
> Marshall Erdman
> constructed two versions of Wright's Pre-Fab Plan Number One in Madison. The
> first built was the Eugene Van Tamelen house (1956) on the south edge
> of Madison's
> Crestwood, which was largely surrounded by woods in 1956. This is the
> only Wright house I was in during its construction.
> Five houses were built using the Pre-Fab Design
> Number one. A second pre-fab in Madison, on the South Belt Line, the
> Arnold Jackson
> house, is based on
> the Number One pre-Fab Plan
> but uses stone rather than the masonite of the Van Tamelen house(1956).
> goal was to create houses that the common people could afford, and yet
> would also rise to the level of art. He did not fail in this goal,
> either in his pre-fabs of the middle fifties,
> nor in his Usonian
> square and diamond module houses of the thirties, forties and
> fifties, which did
> not use the pre-fab method of construction to any great extent.
> WRIGHTS CONCRETE BLOCK CALIFORNIA HOUSES OF THE TWENTIES
> In the twenties, a few years after the American System Built homes,
> Wright did his textured concrete black houses
> in California. These are the Millard, Storer, Freedman and Ennis
> houses. In these
> houses textured concrete blocks, many of which have designs on their surface,
> were laid on top of one another rather than staggered as in the conventional
> way of laying blocks. Wright wanted to use this concrete block system in his
> San Marcos In the Desert project which was not built due to the Stock Market
> crash of 1929. However, he did make use of a simplified version of his concrete
> block system - without the designs on the face of the blocks - in some of his
> Usonians of the forties and fifties. For Example, the Ward McCartney (1949)
> house of Parkwyn Village, Michigan, based upon the diamond module, is
> built of concrete blocks laid one on top of another.
> FIRST HERBERT JACOBS HOUSE OF 1936
> About a quarter mile northwest of the Duck Pond parking lot at the edge of
> the Arboretum on Madison's west side sits the First Herbert Jacobs house.
> I was in it in 1956 and drove by it numerous times. In this house Wright laid
> down a large part of his domestic architectural grammar for the Usonians
> to come. The First Jacobs house is based upon a unit system, in this
> case, a two by four foot module. Most of Wright's walls follow the unit lines,
> though a few.walls fall between the lines of the grid system. The
> house has 1,500
> square feet and the reported cost was $5,500 in 1936, including Wright's
> fee of $450.
> In the First Jacobs design the kitchen is small in size but it is at the center
> of the junction of the two wings of the "L" shape. A gap in the wall
> the kitchen from the living area allows easy access from one room to another,
> while another gap allows access to the hall of the bedroom wing. There are two
> larger bedrooms in the bedroom wing
> of the "L" and one smaller one at the end. The "L" shape of the house
> partially encloses a garden rather than the courtyard that a Prairie house might
> open to. Rows of tall French-window doors are found all along the side of the
> livingroom facing the garden, and there are some on the garden side of the
> bedrooms. The house tends to be closed to the street.
> Part of the vocabulary Wright established for his Usonians in this house
> include the poured concrete floor with heating pipes embedded in it,
> and wood sandwich walls which make conventional 2 x 4 studs unnecessary,
> and the cantilivered carport, replacing the garage. He did not always
> use his system of wood sandwich walls, but sometimes substituted
> concrete block or stone.
> First of all, the 1936 Herbert Jacobs house is relatively small and compact,
> which is true of many of his Usonians though some are larger in size.Second,
> he put the bedrooms on the ground floor rather than in a second
> floor.And the entire
> house is made up of only one floor. A short bedroom wing runs off the
> central kitchen area with a hall along one side. The kitchen is
> decreased in size
> and Wright got rid of the Victorian dining room. The kitchen which
> Wright called
> the workspace adjoins the living space. The First jacobs house has a flat
> roof, unlike many later Usonians with hip roofs.
> THE UNIT SYSTEM HELPS CREATE COHERENCE
> The box room is created by four 90 degree angles. So, to began breaking
> out of the box, Wright might have gotten rid of all or many corners that are
> 90 degrees, and replaced them with 120 angle
> corners. The hexagon is a six sided geometrical form with each side having
> 120 degree internal angles. And a octagon is an eight sided form with
> 135 degree internal angles. To find the internal angle of any polygon,
> multiply the number of sides by 180, subtract 360 and divide by the
> number of sides. To find the internal angles of a regular square polygon,
> that is, a box form, 180 times 4 equals 360. Divided by 4, we get
> four angles each of 90 degrees. The same formula worked out for a
> hexagon gives us 120 degree angles and for an octagon it yields
> 135 degree internal angles. Use of 135 or 120 degree internal angles
> breaks away from the strict box form to some extent. The octagon is
> close to being a circle and Wright eventually went to the circle or semicircle
> as his unit of design.
> NONRECTILINEAR AREAS IN THE NAKOMA AND SAN MARCOS
> IN THE DESERT PROJECTS
> Wright experimented with 135 degree angles in his Lake
> Tahoe Summer Colony of Emerald Bay in California in 1923.
> And in his Nakoma Country Club Project for Madison, Wisconsin of
> 1923 he used some nonrectilinear angles, as well as his "Wigwam" steeply
> pitched hip roofs. A central area of the Nakoma Country Club Project
> is an octagon form, with eight sides and internal angles of 135 degrees.
> The Lake Tahoe and Nakoma Country Club designs were never built (5)
> (5) http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/flw/images/flw0062.jpg
> Then in 1928 Wright created an interesting dining room for the hotel
> that was to be part of San Marcos In the Desert. Designed for Alexander
> Chandler, this complex was to be built at the base of the Salt River Mountains
> south of Phoenix. Wright designed the concrete blocks to be used in the
> hotel and in the individual homes.
> Fig One shows the 90 and 120 degree angles of the main part of the hotel
> dining room. He drew lines for the plan which form the double
> equalateral triangles,or diamond shapes, that we find in the smaller
> Robert Berger
> and Patrick Kinney homes of the early fifties. The upper level of the hotel
> also shows his use of the triangle(6)
> Individual homes were to be included in the San Marcos In the Desert complex,
> and Wright designed two of these homes. The Wellington and Ralph Cudney
> project floor plan
> of 1928 shown in Fig Two was also created using the diamond module grid system,
> yielding 120 and 60 degree angles. The Cudney project of 1928 anticipates
> the 120 degree internal angles of the Paul R. Hanna house (1936) of Palo Alto,
> California, based on the hexagon, and the diamond module homes of the fifties.
> THE PAUL R. HANNA HOUSE OF 1936
> Fig Three shows the Hanna house floor plan with the interlocking hexagons drawn
> on the walkways around the house (7).
> (7) Stanford Historical Society Newsletter, Vol 2, No 2/autumn, 1977.
> In the Hanna house, Wright laid out his floor plan based upon the 120
> degree angles of the interlocking hexagons. When a wall turned, it turned
> at a 120 degree angle and after the turn it was parallel to the opposite
> side of the hexagons.
> But by about 1950 and the Robert Berger house, Wright was using his diamond
> module floor plan. He started the plan of this house by drawing lines on
> paper, such that the intersecting lines create many diamond shapes. The
> diamond shapes are two equilateral triangles joined together. The angles
> within each diamond shape - double equilateral triangles - are 120 and 60
> Unlike the Hanna house floor plan in which Wright used all 120 degree
> angles, in the Robert Berger house of 1950 he used some 60 degree
> angles, creating the sharp points of his plan. For example, the "fins"
> coming out of the Berger plan end in a 60 degree angle.
> The Stuart Richardson house of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, designed in 1941
> but built in 1951, is another example of Wright's rare use of the interlocking
> hexagon unit system. This plan makes use of 120 and 60 degree angles.(8)
> (8) <<http://www.savewright.org/house_information/RichardsonHouse.htm
> By the time Wright got his first fully nonrectilinear house built in
> 1936, the Hanna house, he had developed
> a new grammar for American domestic architecture. Even in his Prairie homes
> and later 90 degree angle houses, he had broken out of the box interior space.
> Wright is said to call the architecture of the International Style
> "Flat chested architecture." The buildings of the International Style
> by architects like Mies Van Der Rohe,
> Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier
> had flat surfaces, and box interior space, even though they sometimes
> put a lot of
> windows in their walls.
> In his rectilinear 90 degree angle
> designs, Wright broke up the monotony of the four walls and ceiling which
> create the space of a room as a box. He jogged walls to avoid the
> monotony of long straight lines, created
> partial partitions within spaces, and created partial ceilings so that
> he broke out
> of box space in the vertical dimension. His lighting decks, many times
> decorated with greenery and Sung dynasty vases or contemporary
> pottery, broke space in the vertical and allowed it to flow above the
> deck. A whole wall was sometimes replaced by tall
> french-window doors. . He put rows of windows up under
> the ceilings and eaves to replace the single windows that broke the continuity
> of a wall.. "Rooms" were opened to the next "room" by elimination of
> doors. Wright made space flow in and out and up and down. He created.
> interior space that was ever changing as one moved through it.
> The sculptured external
> form of his buildings are expressions of his interior space. In many designs
> he carried an element of design used to structure interior space to the
> exterior to add to the complexity of the exterior. But he nearly always created
> a basic structure first of all, a theme, and/or a geometric modular system.
> His complexity did not become chaos because it was complexity within
> a system which structured complexity.
> He used the hexagon and later the diamond module system to go farther than
> before in "breaking out of the box." He said something in one of his talks
> about his waging war on the box and having a delightful time of doing
> it. Her added
> that he had become a curiosity in dong so.
> Nonrectilinear module systems - for Wright the 120 degree hexagon, the
> 120 and 60
> degree diamond module and the circular module - became means for creating
> more interesting interior spaces than is possible with the 90 degree angle
> structure. Adding the 120 degree and 60 degree angles to Wright's
> older vocabulary of interior space gave the viewer the possibility of even more
> unexpected unfolding of space before him as he walks in such a house.
> The first secret of the unity of Wright's diamond module houses is their unit
> system. Parallel lines are first drawn on the paper and the floor
> plans are laid
> down on these lines which at their intersections form double equalateral
> triangles, or a diamond shape. Each area of the house is composed of a given
> number of units. The unit system makes it easier to work out
> proportions, and the
> consistent 60 and 120 degree angles add to the unity of the house. On top of this
> unit system, Wright added his genius in integrating the dimensions of
> the floor plan with three dimensional space, and interior space with
> exterior form.
> The Hanna house, called a Usonian, is larger and more complex than the
> compact and smaller Robert berger house of San Anselmo, California,
> designed in 1950. The Berger house is not based upon the interlocking
> hexagon system, but on the simplier diamond module.
> See Fig 4, the Robert Berger house floor plan photographed at Hillside Drafting
> Room in 1958.
> Fig 5 shows the Berger house in 1958, when it was near completion.
> The wall angles of the Berger house are mostly 120 degree angles, except for
> the fins, the lower right hand corner of the shop (above) and the point of
> the terrace walls on the left. Look near the base of the terrace wall above.
> There is a second fin ending in that sharp 60 degree angle. Notice, though,
> that Wright did not use 60 degree angles as corners in the living, kitchen
> or bedroom area, but only for the shop. There is a fin with a 60 degree
> point extending out of the shop area. I believe these fins are open to the
> interior and are used for storage.
> THE PATRICK KINNEY HOUSE OF 1951-1953
> Fig 6 shows the floor plan of the Patrick Kinney house (1951) in Lancaster,
> Wisconsin. The Kinney house can be called a Usonian, and is a descendant of
> the rectilinear module First Jacobs house.
> The First Herbert Jacobs house of 1936 was an L shape, with the living area
> in one wing of the L and the bedroom wing in the other wing. The kitchen
> was located centrally at the junction of the living and bedroom wings.
> But in the
> Robert Berger and Patrick Kinney diamond module houses the kitchen, living room
> and a small bath were in the main hexagonal shaped area, while a bedroom wing
> ran off of this central hexagon, not as an L shape, but in line with
> the living-kiotchen area.
> The Patrick Kinney house, designed in 1951 and completed by 1953, was
> on the north edge of Lancaster, Wisconsin when I visited it in October of 1958.
> Margaret and Patrick Kinney had covered their outdoor plants to protect them
> from the Wisconsin October chill so they would show up better in my photos.
> The main part of the Kinney house is the central hexagonal area. Within this
> hexagon, an almost solid hexagonal
> rock stack rises above the shingled roof line providing a vertical element to
> the more horizontal hip
> roof lines. This stack has within it the kitchen, small bath and
> laundry. Following the modular lines, the living space
> flows on three sides of the central stack. And at the northeast corner
> of the hexagon,
> Wright placed the master bedroom, which connects to the hall that
> flows around the central stack A triangular "fin" with its 60 degree
> angle point, extends out from the
> master bedroom. See Fig 6. Again, following the modular lines, a
> triangular carport is developed out of the east side of the central
> In Fig 7 Kinney house is viewed from the south with the bedroom at the
> end of the bedroom
> wing coming to a sharp 60 degree point. The wider hexagonal main area is
> shown beyond the point of the bedroom wing.
> Moving around to the northwest, Fig 8 shows the central hexagonal stack
> that is open by French Window Doors to the countryside on the west. The
> bedroom wing can be seen to the right. Then Fig. 9 looks directly at
> the northwest
> part of the living area and to the left at the master bedroom part of
> the hexagon.
> Note that the stack that rises above the shingle roof is open in part
> by glass to
> the north. There is something "Indianesque" to me about this view of
> the house, something that reminds me of Wright's "Wigwam" projects of
> the twenties..
> Finally, Fig 10 shows a little of the interior of the Kinney house, especially
> the interior rockwork. The Kinney house has very good Wrightian rock work
> and I wonder if stone masons can now be easily found who can do Wright's type of
> stone laying? Patrick Kinney was the contractor for his own house..
> The Wright photographer Peter Beers reports that in January of 2005 he received
> an E Mail from someone interested in Wright houses saying that at that time
> Patrick and Margaret Kinney were still living in their house (9).
> (9) <http://www.peterbeers.net/interests/flw_rt/Wisconsin/Kinney/Kinney.htm
> However, the Lancaster, Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce told me in a
> Feburary 28, 2007 E Mail that only Margaret Kinney was still living
> in their home.
> THE 1949 WARD MCCARTNEY HOUSE
> The 1949 Ward McCartney house in Parkwyn Village, Michigan belongs to this
> family of small diamond module houses. Wright used his Usonian concrete block
> system in the McCartney house, which also has a central hexagon-like
> central area
> with a bedroom off of it. I photographed the McCartney house when I
> was in Parkwyn
> Village in the summer of 1958 while seeing the Brown and other Wright
> houses there, but I do not have a photo of
> its floor plan. See Fig.11 for a photo of the McCartney exterior.
> RALPH MORELAND PROJECT FOR AUSTIN, TEXAS
> In 1956 Wright drew up plans for a relatively small diamond module
> house for Ralph
> Moreland to be built in the hills west of Austin, Texas, across the
> Colorado River.
> Unfortunately, the bids of the contractors were about twice the $40,000 estimate
> that Wright gave to Moreland and it was not built.
> Fig 12 shows the Ralph Moreland floor plan. Then Fig 12 has Wright's perspective
> drawing for Ralph Moreland. The Moreland project has in common with
> the Robert Berger, Patrick Kinney and Ward McCartney houses a main
> hexagonal living-kitchen area, with the kitchen stack rising above the
> roof line. In all four diamond module designs - of the period of 1949
> to 1956 - Wright ran a bedroom wing off of that main hexagonal area.
> In the floor plan of Fig 12, a large portion of the triangle pointing
> to the right is
> the patio with the rock retaining walls extending out as the main part
> of that triangle. You can barely see where the living area cuts across
> so that there is a perfect triangle left that is the patio area
> open to the interior living area by tall french-window doors. That
> dark structure to the left is the fireplace.
> On the floor plan and perspective drawing there is the kitchen stack
> that rises above the
> roof line, like those of the Berger and Kinney houses.
> There is entry through a narrow way between the fireplace stack and
> the kitchen stack
> that allows space to flow on the other side of the living area. Behind
> the fireplace is a room, probably a bedroom.
> Them to the left of that room there is marked, the master bedroom,
> with a bath in between
> it and the bedroom to its left. There is also a fourth room that might
> be a guest bedroom,
> which points out from the main wall to the left.
> In Fig 13, notice the "prow" of the house which is the terrace wall,
> that looks like a ship sailing on this Texas hill.
> (l) William Storrer on the Prairie Houses. (l)
> (2) Wright's Religion. http://www.ronaldbrucemeyer.com/rants/0608almanac.htm
> (3) Mysticism of Two of Wright's Women: Mamah and Olgivanna.
> (4) Storrer On Mamah's Mysticism. http://www.franklloydwrightinfo.com/
> (5) Nakoma Country Club Project, 1923.
> (6) San Marcos In the Desert Project, 1928.
> (7) Paul Hanna House, 1936. Stanford Historical Society Newsletter,
> Vol 2, No 2/autumn, 1977.
> (8) Stuart Richardson House, 1941.
> (9) Patrick and Margaret Kinney Still In Their House in 2005.
Patrick Kinney House, View From the South
Below: Patrick Kinney House From the Northwest