Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Rosenbaum Floor Plan - Frank Lloyd Wright

To an architect, a floor plan is like a musical score -- all the information is there if you know what to look for, and how to read it.

Frank Lloyd Wright's floor plans were incredibly nuanced, and deceptively complex. The example shown here is from the 1939 Rosenbuam House, one of Wright's forty-odd moderate cost 'Usonian Houses' -- just 143 sqm, but with the soul of a larger house packed in there.

See if you can identify some of the 'tricks' he's used to make the small house appear much larger. Can you spot three of them?


  1. Man, I can't even read floor plans...

    Is there a guide to what is what?

  2. Well, here's one guide.

    As far as this particular plan is concerned, here's what some of the lines and things mean:

    - The thick black lines are double-thickness brick walls -- see if you can spot the two brick fireplaces, one in the lounge and one in the study;
    - The medium-thickness black lines are either timber walls, or timber partitions;
    - The double lines appearing in the outside walls with regularly-spaced dots are banks of windows.
    - each of the quarter-circles with a line attached is a door -- the rows of these things in the outside walls are French Doors.
    - dotted or dashed lines indicate the extent of the roof or pergolas above - you should be able to spot the cantilevered Carport -- and also changes of ceiling height -- spot the change in the Lounge;
    - some furniture and fittings have been drawn on -- look out for beds, baths, kitchen sinks, built-in dining table and chairs, stove etc.
    - external plantings are drawn on in a stylised fashion -- look out for shade trees (two), shrubs and hedging, and external brick planter boxes (such as the two by the Entrance, and the one at the end of the main Terrace - try and spot at least two others);
    - arrows appearing perpendicular to several lines indicate steps or stairs -- you should be able to see at least five of these, indicating three different 'split-levels';
    - thin black lines indicate grid lines scribed in the floor, or in the terrace. To establish which is terrace, and which is interior floor, run your eye a few times around the building and the exterior walls and windows, and the lines of French Doors, and let the shape of the house itself become clear (and note that Wright liked to intentionally 'blur' aspects of the exterior shape of the house for many reasons, one of which is to help make the space larger; another of which is to help integrate house and landscape.

    Once you start to identify what all the lines and shapes mean, try 'walking through' the house in your head -- starting the front door is always a good idea -- and try to imagine what you would be seeing in three dimensions, and where the house seems to be leading you. If you follow the links I included, you should be able to get a few more clues.

    Hope that helps, Berend. :-)

  3. Cool, I think I start to see thinks!

    Are there two baths? (right bottom corner and right top corner)

    Are there four beds? One single, a double, and two singles? (long section on right)? That's the speckled area or not?

    There are lots and lots of doors to the outside?

  4. What's the wood-like line at the top of the building? It's the left section, and it goes from right to left and turns down. It looks like it is wood. Is that a wall or a book case?

    I started reading a bit on this, and the man had some really interesting ideas: "He always felt that maybe [Usonian] was a system, construction system, which the ordinary person could use. They could go to the lumber yard, or the building material yards, pick up the concrete blocks, and they would have a concrete man lay the foundation and a mason set the first course of block. And then after that, they would stack them like building blocks, like a child would."

    That's a smart idea. I've two left hands, but perhaps this is a home I could built :-)

  5. "Are there two baths?" That'd be right.

    "Are there four beds?" Right again - two singles being joined together in one room.

    "There are lots and lots of doors to the outside?" Sure are. :-)

    "What's the wood-like line at the top of the building?"

    Ah, that would be the integral built-in cypress shelving, which does a wonderful job of:
    - stiffening the long wall;
    - reinforcing the horizonbtality of the space (making it seem bigger), and leading the eye into other spaces (making it seem more expansive);
    - giving you somewhere to put your books. :-)

    "That's a smart idea. I've two left hands, but perhaps this is a home I could build."

    That was his idea with the Usonian Automatic. But experience suggested you really needed at least one right hand. :-)


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