“It is a terrific thing to get a building that has the qualities of greatness in it.” — FLW
Despite the Depression, Wright began to secure important commissions and to make a contribution in the field of low-cost housing. During the early 1930’s, when commissions were few, he turned to writing and lecturing for income. He also developed his plan for Broadacre City, an integrated and self-sufficient community of detached housing with built-in industries. The plan for Broadacre City was never executed, but it did enable Wright to advance his ideas on city planning and to develop the concept of the “garden town” with detached houses within natural surroundings.
The small Malcolm E. Willey House, designed in 1933 and constructed the following year in Minneapolis, marked the beginning of what amounted to a second career for Wright. Modest in size, the Willey House was low and L-shaped with little ornamentation and represented a revolutionary change in domestic planning; i.e., the living room and dining room were completely unified in a single space, and the kitchen (“workspace”) was only separated from the living area by a range of shelves. This house is said to be the “bridge” between the prairie houses and the Usonian houses, the first of which was erected in 1937 near Madison, Wisconsin. With the Usonian houses, Wright achieved his goal of providing a small, modestly priced and easily built house for the average middle-class family that possessed the aesthetic, organic and spatial characteristics of the prairie style house.
Wright’s most important buildings constructed in the 1930’s were Fallingwater (the Edgar J. Kaufmann House) at Bear Run, Pennsylvania and the Administration Building of the S.C. Johnson and Son Company in Racine, Wisconsin. Both were designed in 1935-36 and each makes bold use of concrete, but the two buildings are worlds apart in style and character. Combining features of the prairie houses and the California concrete block houses, Fallingwater has been described as “the apotheosis of the horizontal.” Its cantilevered terraces soar dramatically over a natural waterfall, and the interior of the house blends seamlessly into the surrounding woods. The Johnson Building, resembling a “gigantic and beautiful machine,” is based on the curve rather than the cantilever and turns inward upon itself, ignoring the existence of the outside world.
Links to Photographs and Other Materials
Broadacre City (1932), never built. “Is the world ready for Frank Lloyd Wright’s suburban utopia?” Blog post discussing Wright’s 1932 plan for a utopian, libertarian community he called Broadacre City.
Malcolm E. Willey House, "The Garden Wall" (1933), Minneapolis, Minnesota. The official web site of the Willey House restoration project.
Willey House. Color photographs & discussion.
Edgar J. Kaufmann House, "Fallingwater" (1935), Bear Run, Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.. Official Fallingwater tourism site; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy site includes discussion of house, color photographs, and information about tours.
Fallingwater. Site by PBS.org with photos, drawings and discussion.
Fallingwater. Site by Cristóbal Vila featuring a beautifully-crafted short computer graphic movie featuring the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece with notes about the construction of the house.
Fallingwater. Discussion, color photographs and recommended reading.
Fallingwater: by Fred Gibson. Color photograph and three pencil sketches by Gibson.
Fallingwater. Color photographs of exterior and interior.
Fallingwater. Photo-tour with more than 50 views in color (requires Flash plug-in).
Fallingwater. Color photographs.
Fallingwater. Commentary and sources.
Fallingwater. Information and photos.
Herbert Jacobs House I (1936), Madison, Wisconsin. Usonia I Jacobs House site features historical background and restoration of first Usonian house; with photographs.
Jacobs House I. Power-point type presentation of the Jacobs House I with text, photographs, and video.
Usonian House. Site by PBS.org with drawings, photos and discussion.
Paul R. Hanna Residence “Honeycomb House” (1936), Stanford, California. Color rendering, B/W photograph and floor plan.
Hanna House. Official site for scheduling tours of the Hanna House, includes a few photographs.
S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building. Web site of S. C. Johnson Company; includes brief discussion of building and tour information.
Johnson Building. Digital Archive of American Architecture, color slides.
Herbert F. Johnson Residence “Wingspread” (1937), Wind Point, Wisconsin. Discussion and photographs.
Wingspread. Digital Archives color slides of interior and exterior.
Taliesin West (1937ff), Scottsdale, Arizona. Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation web site with discussion of Taliesin Fellowship’s winter home and a few photos.
Taliesin West. Color photographs of exterior and interior.
Midway Barns (1938). Color photographs.
Auldbrass Plantation (1939), Yemassee, South Carolina. Color photographs and text.
Stanley Rosenbaum House (1939), Florence, Alabama. A Usonian house, the only Wright house constructed in Alabama; color photographs of exterior and interior.
Loren Pope "Pope-Leighey" House (1939), Falls Church, Virginia. Relocated to Mount Vernon, Virginia in 1964, this is the web site of the National Trust Historic Site.
Pope-Leighey House. Official web site of the Pope-Leighey House.
Pope-Leighey House. Color photographs of exterior and interior.
Bernard Schwartz House, “Still Bend” (1939), Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Official site of the Bernard Schwartz house, a Life Magazine Dream House, constructed in the Usonian style. Site includes history, restoration information, photos of interior and exterior, and video.
Goetsch-Winkler House (1939), Okemos, Michigan. Color photographs and discussion.