Rainy Day Post #3 – A Wright Potpourri

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020)

I have promised you one more “rainy day post,” cleaning up pictures that have been waiting on my desktop for the right context to post them in. This is a smattering of photos of Frank Lloyd Wright sites I have visited in one context or another since July 2018. While I shoot literal photos of Wright buildings (“head shots” we called them in the newsroom), I also look for photos of details of Wright’s designs. I am generally not sharing interior photos of private homes. I try to avoid looking at other photographers’ interpretations of Wright buildings before I visit them so that I see the structures through my own eye and lens, rather than possibly copy another photographer’s vision.

The photos are in chronological order, beginning with a wonderful trip to the Detroit area that July two years ago. We were with our good friends Bob and Jeanne Maushammer from Virginia. Jeanne’s exposure to Wright began when she was a teenager, hired to babysit at the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine for Schuyler and Peterkin Seward, stewards of the house between 1957 – 1963. The Maushammers dutifully chronicle their Wright adventures in a well worn copy of William Allin Storrer’s The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I will copy and paste Jeanne’s recollections of the Hardy House from my 2006 book about the house at the end of this blog post.

Our first stop was at the Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills, where Dale Gyure graciously gave us a private tour:

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We were fortunate to next get a private tour of the Melvin Smith House. The light was not as subtle as the architecture in the early afternoon:

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Then we were off to the Turkel House, lovingly restored by our good friends Norm Silk and Dale Morgan. Jeanne has wonderful stories of having seen the then-distressed house ca. 2004 right after a questionable tenant had been evicted. We had bid on a dinner at the house, to benefit the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. Norm went above and beyond shopping for us in a Middle Eastern market, and we had a lovely meal in the garden. The Maushammers, Cindy (Hertzberg), and Norm:

Turkel House Dinner 010.jpgWe planned to stay only a couple of hours and not overstay our welcome, but we were like family enjoying the house in the living room after dinner until past 11 p.m.! The light was harsh when we arrived at 5 p.m., and I wondered how it would change through the evening:

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Our next adventure was when Bob and Jeanne treated us to a stay at the Palmer House in Ann Arbor:

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I was then on tour in familiar territory in Wisconsin, helping lead tours for Road Scholar, first in Racine at SC Johnson and at Wingspread. I have visited and photographed these wonderful spaces umpteen times, and always look for a fresh way to see them:

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I climbed these stairs at Wingspread countless times before seeing this photo:

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I was then taken, again, by the fixtures at the Annunication Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa (suburban Milwaukee):

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After touring Racine and Milwaukee, we take our Road Scholar guests to Madison and Spring Green. First, a detail of the ceiling of Jacobs 1:

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Then, a light well in Anthony Puttnam’s interpretation of Monona Terrace:

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The trip culminates at Taliesin – of course – after seeing the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison and Wyoming Valley School, with lunch at Riverview Terrace. Our introduction to Taliesin is a pause at the dam:

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I finish with Jeanne’s recollection of babysitting at the Hardy House and a “selfie” there:

(From “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House,” written and photographed by Mark Hertzberg, Pomegranate: 2006):

Jeanne (Weins) Maushammer, who baby-sat for the Sewards, recalls growing up nearby. “The house was well-known to everyone in the neighborhood.  People would go to the 14th Street public beach there and see the house just a short distance away.  It did not look like a private residence.  Visitors from outside the area – even across town – would see two openings that could easily be mistaken for bath house entrances, and try to go in to change their clothes.

“Sometimes when you were driving around with out-of-town folks, they would ask ‘What is that?’  They did not recognize it as a house, because it was so different from the other homes around it, and because it was next to the beach.  Neighbors knew what it really was.  The Johnson Wax complex was down the street from us, so the Hardy House seemed to be appropriate.  My folks often told me of their witnessing the construction of the Administration Building and of seeing Frank Lloyd Wright.  The Johnson buildings were understood and accepted by visitors, but not the ‘beach house.’

“My friends and I used to go down to the beach all the time.  We could not get close enough to the property to get a good look at it.  We always had to look through the trees.  We could not see how it blended into the hill side.  That added to the mystery of it.  From the street, all that people could see was just that box.

“I knew it was a Frank Lloyd Wright house before I first went inside.  What I did not realize was how he proportioned houses to his small frame.  I remember thinking when inside for the first time:  ‘I am 5’4” but wow, these doorways are low.’  It was dark and raining that particular day, so I did not get to appreciate the house’s real beauty.  After I had been there several times and had a chance to explore it, to stand in that living room and on the balcony, and to take in the view, I realized it was incredible.

“My husband has never seen the inside of the house, except in photos, but in our wildest dreams we would like to buy it and come back to Racine.”

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Rainy Day Post #2 – Guggenheim Dome Evolution

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020)

Saturday I wrote that it’s like a rainy day, and I am taking time to clean up my desktop and post some things that have been in limbo. There will be a third Rainy Day Frank Lloyd Wright post – the one with what I referred to as a “smattering” of photos from many Wright sites – possibly tomorrow.

I noted in my 2004 book Wright in Racine that Wright’s initial design for the dome of the Guggenheim Museum in 1943 was identical to the one he later used for the dome built over the advertising department in the SC Johnson Administration Building in Racine. That space was added concurrently with the construction of the SC Johnson Research Tower (designed in 1943/44, constructed 1947-1950). (The space is now home to the company’s Global Affairs and related departments)

The Advertising Department’s dramatic glass dome is now an architectural icon of the company. It embodies the design Wright proposed in 1943 for the Guggenheim Museum.
The dome now has a white cover now to lessen the heat from the sun.

Visitors to the 2017 “Unpacking the Archive” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (MoMA) saw the Johnson version of the dome on the Guggenheim model in the exhibit:

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This exhibit was labled: “Tension ring study model for Johnson Wax Research Tower, Racine, Wisconsin  1943-50  Steel.” There was no mention of its similarity to the Guggenheim proposal.

Wright’s final design for the dome has been photographed many times:

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Rainy Day Post #1: Hardy House Roof

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020), except as noted

Hardy Tafel photo.jpgEdgar Tafel, photographer, courtesy of John Clouse

It’s 84 degrees and sunny, but let’s pretend it’s raining out because this is a “rainy day projects” catch-up-on-loose-ends kind of day. I had a smattering of Frank Lloyd Wright files that have been sitting on my desktop in a couple of folders for up to two years, waiting for me to decide in what context to post them. Let’s have at it!

This post is about last year’s project to replace the roof on Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House (1904/05) in Racine. The second Rainy Day Post, in a day or two, will be a smattering (there goes that word again!) of photos from different Wright sites.

Tom and Joan Szymczak are now the stewards of the Hardy House. Their late brother and brother-in-law Gene Szymczak rescued the house in 2012, but fell ill and died unexpectedly in December 2016. They decided to replace the roof last summer. Our scene setter photograph is an undated one by Edgar Tafel, a photo lent to me by fellow Wright photographer John Clouse.

Our only description of the original roof is in a June 1906 article about the house in House Beautiful magazine: “The roof is shingled, with braided hips, and stained a lighter brown.” However, the author of the article clearly relied on descriptions provided to him by Wright and never saw this house. The article describes details, some on drawings by Marion Mahony, which were never executed.

We start with photos of charred timbers found by the roofers. Racine Fire Department records indicate there was a roof fire in the 1930s, put out with just a single fire extinguisher:

image1.jpegPhoto above courtesy of and (c) Tom Szymczak

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The best descritption of the roofing job comes in an article in the May 2020 issue of Roofing Magazine. Note, though, that while they say the fire was in the 1960s, fire department records indicate it was in the 1930s. The article is illustrated with wonderful drone views of the house.

Maybe I was prescient in sitting on my photos of the roofing job from June 6, 2019 because I just knew that Tom was going to send me a link to an article about the work this past week! I would be remiss to not credit John Waters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy for his work with the Szymczaks as they planned the project.

http://www.roofingmagazine.com/tag/thomas-p-hardy-house/

Wright on the Move

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

It was moving day in suburban Glencoe, Illinois for Frank Lloyd Wright’s diminutive Sherman Booth Cottage (1913) on Tuesday July 20. The cottage, built for Sherman Booth, Wright’s attorney, while his larger Wright home was under construction, was threatened with demolition by new owners of its lot. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Glencoe Historical Society worked together for the Society to acquire the home and move it about a tenth of a mile to a park, where they hope to remodel it and turn it into a museum.

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Former Conservancy board president and present board member Tim Quigley walks his dog past the site before the move. He came from Minneapolis to see the action.

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Clearances are checked as the house is moved off its lot.

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Lumber protects the windows on the front of the house.

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Many limbs had to be trimmed as the house moved down the street.

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The move was a spectator’s delight.

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It was also a journalist’s delight.

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The house moves past the Ravine Bluffs marker.

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Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 057.jpgWright luminaries included Ron Scherubel, former Executive Director of the Building Conservancy, and Barbara Gordon, current Executive Director, and Wright restoration architect John Eifler.

Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 060.jpgQuigley, left, chats with  Eifler.

Below, views of the foundation of the house:

 

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What is in your basement?

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

In the case of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theatre at Taliesin, there are some Pyrex-glass window tubes and thousands of roof tiles. The window tubes are thought to be related to the SC Johnson Research Tower, designed in 1943/44 and constructed 1947-1950, according to Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The Tower has 17.5 miles of the tube windows (the Administration Building, designed in 1936 has 43 miles of the window tubes).

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Dockery says there are between 30,000-50,000 clay roof tiles which were made by Ludowici Roof Tiles for the Theatre.

Hillside Theater 2018 016.jpg“They were removed and replaced with the rolled rubber roofing in 1968 after a stack of extra tiles which had been set aside to repair the roof fell over and damaged a truck. The structure of the roof meant that the tiles needed constant maintenance and replacement so plenty of extras were kept on hand.” 

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I unexpectedly got to see these generally unseen artifacts in the basement when I was working with Dockery to photograph the newly-restored curtain in the Hillside Theatre in June. A shortcut to the dining room to photograph the curtain from the dining room balcony took us through the basement.

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SC Johnson Buildings

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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There is something indescribable for me in Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs of the SC Johnson Administration Building (1936) and SC Johnson Research Tower (1943/44) in Racine, Wisconsin. I gaze at them every day during my daily bike ride.

I found the lighting particularly soft and nice the evening of June 16, riding after spending the day photographing the newly restored curtain at Hillside Theatre and the desolate empty drafting room at Hillside (the two previous posts on this website).

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The pictures were taken through the fence at the Golden Rondelle guest relations center which cannot reopen until the COVID-19 crisis passes. This is the first view that visitors have of the buildings, as they come onto campus at 14th Street. LR SC Johnson Admin Building Tower 6.16.20 005.jpg

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I look forward to being able to once again get past the fence and enjoy – and photograph – the wonderful interior spaces again.

 

Hillside’s Restored Theatre Curtain

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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One of the most fascinating things to see at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is the stunning curtain in Hillside Theatre. It is dazzling to see, but it really comes alive when docents like the incomparable Cate Boldt describe its intricacies and symbolism to tour guests. I had the privilege of photographing the newly-restored curtain a week ago, at the request of Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. I worked with Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Foundation, and Ryan Hewson, Director of Preservation. Dockery gets credit for lighting the curtain perfectly for me!

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I photographed the curtain over two hours, seemingly inside and out…even from the rear, a view few people see. I boiled the take down to 119 images, some of which are below. The description of the work is culled from information from Dockery.

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The curtain was designed by Wright in 1952 following the fire which destroyed the first Hillside Theatre and its own Wright-designed curtain. It was restored in early June by a team of three conservators led by Harold Mailand. The work included stabilizing the existing gold lamé and installing new lamé on top of it, restoring the original shimmering appearance while preserving the original material in place.

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The conservators also addressed such issues as detached felt sections, damaged yarn swags, and water stains. The entire curtain was also vacuumed, in front and back to remove built up dust and dirt, restoring its original coloration, which results in it looking much brighter. 

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Original pencil marks by the apprentices who made the curtain are still visible:

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The view from backstage: Some water stains are visible

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Although Wright designed the curtain, he did not know that apprentices were secretly making it. It was unveiled for his birthday in 1956. He made some alterations, most famously being seen atop a ladder dabbing the top of the white canvas with Nescafé instant coffee.  Mailand has worked with the curtain since 1988. Forthcoming restoration work in the theatre, through a Save America’s Treasures matching grant, will help reduce wear on the curtain, particularly on the left side where it has rubbed against the limestone wall on the side of the stage.

I was able to review photos as I shot them with Dockery, left, and Hewson:

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For more information and a video, visit the Foundation’s blog piece:

https://franklloydwright.org/hillside-theatre-curtain-restoration/

Finally, what’s a photo session at Taliesin without a “selfie,” this one in the mirror at the side of the stage?

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Technical information: Nikon D500 camera (crop sensor) with 17 – 55mm lens, and Nikon D850 (full frame) camera with 14 – 24mm and 70 – 200mm lenses.

 

 

Hillside Drafting Room, June 2020

(c) 2020 Mark Hertzberg

Hillside Home School 2018 Bike.jpgA student’s bicycle outside the Hillside Drafting Room, October, 2018

Thousands of words have been written on social media and in architecture journals about the end of the relationship between the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT), which was founded as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The School is moving to a new life on a new campus, and the Foundation is committed to new educational programming, bringing the historic drafting room back to life. In the meantime, it is empty, awaiting its next chapter. I photographed the drafting room June 16, 2020.

This post is visual only. I am not taking sides in the often acrimonious public debate about why the drafting room has no students this summer. I look at it, and miss the quiet intensity of the students I watched working in there. I look at it and think about the many wonderful buildings Wright and his apprentices and colleagues – and subsequent architects and students – designed here. I have photographed many of them. Now, there is silence. I invite you to study the photos, and reflect on the drafting room’s past and future.

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There is one photograph I saw in the drafting room last fall, which today I regret not taking. Remember that I am a photojournalist. While I have been granted (much appreciated) special permission for photography at Taliesin, I was helping lead a Road Scholar tour and the guests were not allowed to photograph the then-busy drafting room. I saw Aaron Betsky, then Dean of SoAT in a meeting in a conference room. The door was open. I had no inkling that in six months there would a split, but it felt like an important photograph to take. Today it would be an important one for this photo essay, but the photo exists only as a memory of something I saw.

The Coda to Penwern’s Rehabilitation

Text and greenhouse construction photos © Mark Hertzberg. Other photos courtesy of and © Emily Smith and Bill Orkild. Historic photos courtesy Betty Schacht, Sue and John Major and John Hime and ©  Frank Lloyd Wright gate lodge drawing: ©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

The final significant stage of the rehabilitation of Penwern is now complete.

Roses will bloom again this summer at the gate lodge greenhouse at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate – Penwern – on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin, perhaps for the first time since Jones’s death in 1933. Jones loved growing roses, so Wright included a commercially built greenhouse for him in his design for the gate lodge. The gate lodge and greenhouse were constructed in 1903, two years after the main house or “cottage.” The greenhouse was tucked between the north side of the gate lodge water tower and a boulder wall:

Avery_FLW_4207_007.jpg©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Avery_FLW_4207_005.jpg©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Jones added a second greenhouse on the west side of the gate lodge at an undetermined date.

Historic_Scan_08a.jpgThe caretakers’ family near the second greenhouse, ca. 1935, courtesy Betty Schacht

The original greenhouse had deteriorated so badly by the 1970s that Terry Robbins Canty, whose parents Burr and Peg Robbins were the second stewards of Penwern, had it torn down and replaced by a carport when she lived in the gate lodge.

Gatehouse Greenhouse Vintage 1.jpgJohn Hime Collection – date unknown

Gatehouse Int. Yard View 004.jpgMark Hertzberg – 2014

20200403_151540.jpgEmily Smith – April 2020

Penwern had been significantly altered by the time John and Sue Major became stewards of most of the estate in 1994. They immediately began what has become a decades-long quest to bring Penwern back to Jones’s and Wright’s vision. They acquired the last piece of the estate – the gate lodge – after Canty’s death in 2000. Canty had also replaced a dining room window overlooking the gate lodge patio with doors when she added a small TV room (right side of exterior photo of the gate lodge, below). The carport, and most of the other alterations to the gate lodge, were undone within the next few years.

Canty Greenhouse Carport .jpegBill Orkild

Canty Gatehouse Porch.jpegBill Orkild

Canty Carport removal.jpegBill Orkild

The space where the original greenhouse stood has been like a missing tooth on a jack o’ lantern for almost 50 years. Could it be replicated? The Majors are not daunted by challenges. “No” is not in their vocabulary when it comes to the rehabilitation of Penwern. Didn’t they remove the large unsightly 1909 and 1910 additions that Jones had put on the main house? Didn’t they successfully fight for permission to rebuild the boathouse which had been destroyed by an arson fire in 1978? Why shouldn’t they rebuild the greenhouse, too?

Although the greenhouse is the most dramatic new addition to the estate, the 2020 summer season will now be remembered for the realization of a number of other projects around the gate lodge as well:

  1. A new stucco chimney, like the original one, replaces the brick chimney that has been atop the structure for years

20200403_142730.jpgBill Orkild – April 2020

20200403_142757.jpgBill Orkild – April 2020

2) The doors leading from the gate lodge dining room to the patio have been replaced by the original window, below right:

Gatehouse 207.jpgMark Hertzberg – 2013

20200311_135721.jpgBill Orkild – April 2020

3) And, finally, but not least, the original semicircular boulder wall east of the water tower has been reconstructed. Architectural designer Robert Hartmann, who had meticulously studied Wright’s drawings, realized that much of the wall was missing. The semicircular design was important because it echoes the trio of semicircular porches at the main house and the great arches at the house and the boathouse.

Avery_FLW_4207_002.jpg© 2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Orkild and Hartmann 001a.jpgHartmann, left, and Orkild look at Wright drawings – Mark Hertzberg -2017

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Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 035.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

20200406_085611.jpgEmily Smith – April 2020

One can easily surmise why the Majors undertook the greenhouse project, but let John Major tell us. “At one level, we rebuilt the greenhouse to complete the last piece of the original design. But, as we got into it, we realized that the greenhouse is a quintessential example of FLW design. Small becomes large; large becomes small; a huge space that minimally impacts the landscape around it. It’s to us, what FLW was all about. We’re expecting that people will be shocked. I know we are as it is coming together.” Shocked? “People were when we showed them the entry leading to the dining room for the first time. This will be more show.”

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 014.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 018.jpgTravis Orient places sklylight panels.  Mark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 021.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 022.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 025.jpgPaul Kenyon seals the panels. Mark Hertzberg – April 2020

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Emily Smith – April 2020

And what about the rest of the work at the gate lodge? “The dining room is now better balanced and the view of the lakeside of the gatehouse is much more balanced as it was intended to be. The doors were put in when the previous owner added a small TV room. When we removed the TV room, we put off replacing the doors.  Once we found the original window, we were ready to complete the work.

“The brick chimney is being replaced with a stucco chimney as the original drawings say it should be [indeed early historic photos show the stucco chimney]. The brick chimney was ugly. The stucco chimney will be much nicer.”

The greenhouse will be a place for the Majors to entertain, which is fitting, because entertaining friends is arguably Penwern’s historic raison d’être. It was important, first to Jones, and then to the subsequent stewards of the estate. A nearly full kitchen will be adjacent, inside the base of the water tower. The walled area will have a patio and roses will bloom there.

Design work for the greenhouse and surrounding boulder wall was by DePietro Design Associates. Bill Orkild, master of most of the work at Penwern since the Majors came to the lake in 1994, rebuilt the wall, did the dining room work, and supervised the other work. The greenhouse was built by Arcadia Glasshouse of Madison, Ohio.

Orkild, who knows the estate more intimately than probably anybody in its history, offers his perspective on the project. “The challenges of this project were no different than many of the projects at Penwern. It is always a challenge to weave together old and new, Wright’s vision and practical use. Hiding new technology from view was another significant obstacle. The physical challenge of outdoor work in the winter, wresting boulders in excess of 200 pounds, and wet clay clinging to boots was a daily battle.

“My greatest takeaway from the project was an overwhelming positive feeling I received from working with so many smart, strong and enthusiastic young people.  It was a pleasure to see there bright eyes and beaming smiles every day.  They were strong enough to make up for my weakness, enthusiastic enough to work through the rain, wind and cold, smart enough to laugh at my jokes.  All is good with the world. The young people have this.”

20200403_140929.jpgPaul Kenyon, left, Jason Janke, and Travis Orient built the greenhouse. Emily Smith – 2020

Visitors to Penwern likely take Orkild’s work for granted. They should not. He is the Wizard of Penwern, and much happens behing the scenes before Orkild work his magic for us to see: “Here’s how I made the greenhouse perfectly plumb and square for a snug glass house fit.  I built a platform on top of the coping stone.  This guaranteed me square without movement and something to stand on.  In my shop, I built a precise end wall form with knee wall height and roof pitch.  Bracing the end wall form to the platform assured me plum.  Then I was able to saw cut, grind and chip out the original tower stone to create a flat channel to accept the end of the glass house.  The process was repeated on the north end to form a concrete ledge.

20200117_134213.jpgBill Orkild – 2020

20200120_125150.jpgBill Orkild – 2020

Bill Orkild -April 2020

Now you know how to do it for your next project,” Orkild writes, certainly with a grin, as he finishes his email message!

School of Architecture at Taliesin Closing

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

The successor to Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1932 Fellowship program, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) will close at the end of the spring semester, it was announced January 28, 2020. There have been efforts the last few years to find ways for the school to be accredited and to remain financially sustainable. Students spent spring and summer at Taliesin, and migrated to Taliesin West in Arizona in fall. This is a selection of related photos from my files.

Taliesin Architecture School Closing 001.jpgThe drafting room at Hillside School (at Taliesin).

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Student work is presented in the drafting room, September 2006.

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Aaron Betsky, President of SoAT, was a guest at the annual Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin. Here, in 2016 with Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

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Aaron Betsky at the 2019 birthday celebration.

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A student’s bicycle rests outside the drafting studio at Hillside School, 2018.

Students presented the birthday cake for Wright at the annual celebration at Taliesin:

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Wright’s portrait hangs in the drafting room at Taliesin West, 2014.