Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright: A Language of Pattern

These are photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was built in 1908 and reflects Wright’s mature Prairie Style. The pictures were recently taken, just a few days past the Winter Solstice when the low angle of the sun at midday creates very strong shadows on the exterior elevation. This photographic study indicates how Wright utilized natural daylight in order to emphasize the horizontal and vertical compositional stability of his buildings—Wright had a profound sense of order. Photographs by versluis, 2011.

The photographic detail above shows the elaborate symmetrical structural frames and wide moldings that unify and extend the window openings up to the clerestory and onto the ceiling skylights. The effect functions to screen for privacy the open interior living room space. But, metaphorically, as Julie Sloan writes: “In this way, Wright now not only brought the garden inside, but the sky and the sun as well.” [1] 93.

Apparently the casement windows were sized according to the floor-plan grid system. According to Sloan, “there existed a symbiosis between window and plan…” and one of Wright’s Oak Park apprentices, Charles White, remembered in 1904, “All his plans are composed of units grouped in a symmetrical and systematic way. The unit usually employed is the casement window unit…” [2] 96.
  1. Sloan, Julie L. Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2001. 92-96. Print.

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