Wednesday, February 13, 2013



I'm about to go to Tampa for a board meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and a visit to Wright's Florida Southern campus in nearby Lakeland. In addition to planning future meetings and events there is certain to be a hearty round of congratulations to our president, Larry Woodin, to Janet Halsted, our Executive Director, and to Neil Levine, Susan Jacobs Lockhart, John Thorpe, and others who played vital roles in the rescue of the David Wright House in Phoenix. 

Coincidently, I have been reading Curtis Besinger's Working With Mr. Wright: What It Was Like (Cambridge University Press, 1995). Besinger joined the Taliesin Fellowship in 1939 and remained with Wright (except for a three year hiatus) -- working on many of his commissions -- until 1955. Besinger's account of the design of the David Wright House remains fresh and imparts something of the importance of the house in Wright's oeuvre:

Aerial view of the David Wright House. The master bedroom is at the left (

"...we also started working drawings for a house for Mr. Wright's son, David and his wife. The design that Mr. Wright had titled "How to live in the Southwest" was, with a few changes, the design of David's house. David was the sales representative in the Phoenix area for the Besser Manufacturing Company, an outfit that produced machinery and equipment for making concrete blocks including molds for the various kinds  and shapes of blocks. One of the constraints in making the drawings for David's house was to use only those blocks that could be produced with Besser molds. We used only one special block, the one with a decorative pattern that forms the edge of the elevated concrete slab on which the house rests..." [p. 222-3]

David Wright House; master bedroom is to the left of the chimney (from

David Wright House. Master bedroom (from
Besinger continues:  This house, supervised by Gordon Chadwick, was very well built. What particularly impressed me was the carpentry work on the ceiling of the master bedroom. The roof of the bedroom wing was another of those that had different pitches on each side. The ridge of the roof was over the partition separating the corridor from the bedrooms. The steeper pitch was on the corridor side. The roof, however, did not terminate in a gable as might be expected. The end wall of the master bedroom was a half circle. The eave of the roof was horizontal and a hipped roof here made a transition between the different slopes of the sides. The ceilings of the bedrooms reflected the external form of the roof. They were made of lapped mahogany boards. But that of the master bedroom was like the construction of a boat. It was a conical surface with boards becoming increasingly narrow in making the transition from their spacing on the shallow side to their spacing on the steeper pitch of the other side.[p. 236-7]

If Besinger's description seems overly complicated it is because the house, despite the stark simplicity of the concrete block, is a work of extraordinary craft and a remarkable achievement for someone in his eighties.

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