The Patrick Kinney House, 1953, Lancaster, Wisconsin

Bernard Pyron



> 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

> functional.




> 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

> Progressivism

> also opposed corruption in the financial and business

> worlds and in government.




> 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/




> 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).


> Wright's

> 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.




> 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.




> 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

> separating

> 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 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.





> 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)


> (6)http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/flw/flw06.html


> 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.




> 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.

> <http://histsoc.stanford.edu/pdfST/ST3no2.pdf>


> 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

> degrees.


> 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

> architecture,

> 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.




> 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

> hexagon.


> 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 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.




> 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.


> References:


> (l) William Storrer on the Prairie Houses. (l)

> http://www.franklloydwrightinfo.com/wasfllwbio.html


> (2) Wright's Religion. http://www.ronaldbrucemeyer.com/rants/0608almanac.htm


> (3) Mysticism of Two of Wright's Women: Mamah and Olgivanna.

> <http://www.oprf.com/flw/bio/cheney.html


> (4) Storrer On Mamah's Mysticism. http://www.franklloydwrightinfo.com/


> (5) Nakoma Country Club Project, 1923.

> http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/flw/images/flw0062.jpg


> (6) San Marcos In the Desert Project, 1928.

> http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/flw/flw06.html


> (7) Paul Hanna House, 1936. Stanford Historical Society Newsletter,

> Vol 2, No 2/autumn, 1977.

> <http://histsoc.stanford.edu/pdfST/ST3no2.pdf


> (8) Stuart Richardson House, 1941.

> http://www.savewright.org/house_information/RichardsonHouse.htm


> (9) Patrick and Margaret Kinney Still In Their House in 2005.

> http://www.peterbeers.net/interests/flw_rt/Wisconsin/Kinney/Kinney.htm



Patrick Kinney House, View From the South

Below:  Patrick Kinney House From the Northwest