Thursday, 20 August 2015

A new Frank Lloyd Wright house … in Ireland!?

Frank Lloyd Wright design comes to Ireland

Yes, it’s true. Out there in Greystones, County Wicklow, is a new (2007) house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

No, neither recently designed, nor designed for Ireland—but owner Marc Coleman fell in love with Wright designs, and when he contacted the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation they told him an unbuilt Wright design for Maryland would be perfect for his own site.

"The drawings sat there until I came along," says Coleman. "Wright's work is site specific and our site was almost identical, topographically speaking."
    This is an important point. As an architect Frank Lloyd Wright didn't work on the 'cookie-cutter' principle banging out endless repetitions of his work without regard to their inhabitants needs or their location and site. Instead, Wright's work is, at least in part, defined by its site specific nature.
    Not only that, but Wright's work is administered by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, a body that is fiercely protective of the architect's work and legacy.
    Happenstance and good fortune played a central role in Coleman's choice of the design for his house. He contacted the foundation and explained that he wanted to build a Frank Lloyd Wright house and discussed the available options. Coleman says the foundation had a total of 380 un-built designs: "They trawled through them and offered us four. Three required extensive modification but this one was a perfect fit."

The double-height living area includes furniture designed by Lloyd Wright. Again, glazing and timber are used to create a modern yet natural ambiance
The double-height living area includes furniture designed by Lloyd Wright.
Glazing and timber are used to create a modern yet natural ambiance

A total of 3,860 square feet, the internal layout of the house is centred on a large living area with a 13 foot 8 inch double-height ceiling. In addition the ground floor features some cellular rooms – a home office and a large bedroom while the first floor houses a further three bedrooms and a large landing area that Coleman uses as an ad-hoc, open-plan study. The kitchen area is located toward the front of the house on the ground floor, behind the main fireplace and chimney in the living area. "Wright was constantly pushing to design the one room house – he wanted to make the private spaces subservient to the main living area."
Wright designed the house around a four foot by four foot grid, proportioning relates the various areas of the house to one-another both vertically and horizontally.
The grid layout is something which Coleman is particularly enthusiastic about: "Everything is a multiple or a division of that grid. Mathematics, if they're got right, create incredible proportions and they also create a very tranquil sense in a building. An untrained eye may not know this or see it but they can feel it, they feel well in the building and that's why."

Of course, climate in Wicklow is not exactly climate in Maryland – although “it has the same amount of rainfall as the Irish east coast, despite its hotter summers and crueller winters”-- and nor are 2007 Irish building regulations like Maryland’s in 1959. Still, “"The internal volume of the building and the exterior heights of the building are identical to what's called-up on Wright's drawings – we were able to build the house in its volumes exactly as Wright intended it to be built."

Coleman spent three years researching the building and what materials would be used in its construction, sourcing materials that included two inch by twelve inch roofing timbers from Finland and three ply Douglas Fir timber from Germany for the internal walls.

The glazing has no corner mullions, instead using mitred glass set at an angle of 45 degrees
The glazing has no corner mullions, instead using mitred glass set at an angle of 45 degrees

Rumour has it that this may be the last Wright building to be built from the archives.

Though known as an architect Frank Lloyd Wright also designed unique furniture for his houses which Coleman has had built  to complement the building
Though known as an architect Frank Lloyd Wright also designed unique furniture for his
houses which Coleman has had built  to complement the building

Cruciform details set into an exterior wall viewed through the virtually invisible living room window
Cruciform details set into an exterior wall viewed through the virtually invisible living room window

[Pics and captions from PassiveHouse +]

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