June 06, 2005
Frank Lloyd Wright Design Comes to Life on a Remote Island
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Welcome to AECWeekly! What would you do if you were given the task of designing a building that is to be built upon a rock protruding into the water on an island, with only five pencil drawings to go by?
Thomas Heinz, AIA, a renowned Frank Lloyd Wright scholar and authority on Frank Lloyd Wright designs, was the architect chosen by the current Owner, Joe Massaro, to model an island home that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright 50 years ago but never built by him. Read all about it in this week's Industry News.
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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Frank Lloyd Wright Design Comes to Life on a Remote Island
By Susan Smith
What would you do if you were given the task of designing a building that is to be built upon a rock protruding into the water on an island, with only five pencil drawings to go by?
Thomas Heinz, AIA, a renowned Frank Lloyd Wright scholar and authority on Frank Lloyd Wright designs, was the architect chosen to model an island home that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright 50 years ago but never built by the original client.
What Heinz had to start with were five pencil sketches done in 1950: floor plans ,three elevations, a section and a perspective, with no materials, no dimensions--no indications of any kind. Unlike other Wright designs of Usonian residences which followed a rectangular/square grid, this home was triangular, had a 60-foot long rock in the middle of the site, and presented specific challenges to the architect and the contractors.
“When an architect designs his own work, he knows every aspect of it, his job is to get it down on paper so he can distribute it to others,” said Heinz. “In plan this building is based on a unit system grid of equilateral triangle which are five feet on a side.
The site itself which is on an island north of New York City, probably the only privately owned island between New York City and Vermont. Lake Mahopac has two islands, the larger is about 20 acres and Mr. Massaro's island is about 11 acres. In 1950 the owner at the time,
, Mr. Chahroudi Frank Lloyd Wright for a house. Frank Lloyd Wright created a wonderful design but Mr. Chahroudi said, 'it's a wonderful design but I can't afford to build it, can you make it smaller for me,' which Frank Lloyd Wright did for the same location. Mr. Chahroudi said he couldn't afford that either, and requested the guest cottage. He built the Guest Cottage in 1952. The first design Frank Lloyd Wright designed went unbuilt.
Heinz has been working with Frank Lloyd Wright buildings for about 30 years. He was the architect on the reconstruction of a house that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City bought. They dismantled it, crated it up and moved it to New York. Ten years later, they hired Heinz to rebuild it inside the museum.
As the author of about 30 books on Frank Lloyd Wright, Heinz has also photographed every Wright-designed single building. Before starting this project, he needed to see the site. “I went out and found a boat to get me out to the island as there's no public access. I finally talked a fisherman into taking me out to the island. No one wants to go there because there are some unfriendly dogs, and word is they'll swim out and jump into your boat,” he laughed.
square foot skylight area above Whale Rock inside.”
land so we could decide on the footing and foundation.”
The concrete, which is the floor of the house inside is also the floor of the cantilever. It is two feet thick, 78 feet out and 35 feet across. “That all had to be done in a single pour, 36 hours long,” said Heinz. “We also had walls that were a foot thick with stone on the boht sides.”
In order to understand the building, Heinz needed to use ArchiCAD to create hundreds of views so he could properly draw the building, so there wouldn't be any surprises. Approvals went very quickly as all parties saw what the building would look like, inside and out, using a virtual model. The Virtual Building Model really reflects the building design that Frank Lloyd Wright intended before it goes to construction, according to Heinz. The added bonus, far removed from those original five pencil drawings, is that the Virtual Building Model shows how the building will look and feel in its environment.
Now the home is under construction.
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