Measuring Up Wright
by Susan Smith
What would you do if you were asked to build a house on a rocky island with only five pencil drawings to go by? This was the challenge given to Thomas Heinz, AIA, a renowned Frank Lloyd Wright scholar. The house he was asked to model and execute was designed by Wright in 1950 but never built.
What Heinz had to start with were floor plans, three elevations, a section, and a perspective, with no materials, no dimensions — very few notations at all. Unlike Wright's designs for "Usonian" residences, which followed a rectangular or square grid, this house was to be triangular in plan, based on a grid of equilateral triangles five feet (1.5 meters) on a side.
The design incorporated an existing 60-foot long, 12-foot wide, 12-foot high (18 by 4 by 4 meters), whale-shaped rock extending through the center of the house, and the site presented many other technical challenges for the architect and the builders. "When an architect designs his own work," says Heinz, "he knows every aspect of it; his job is to get it down on paper so he can distribute it to others."
At the time of his assignment, Heinz was "somewhat familiar" with CAD products for architects, but, he says, "I needed a good survey and I needed something that could render this building in an understandable form in three dimensions." >>>
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Digital model of a house designed in 1950 by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Image: Thomas Heinz
The house under construction in 2005.
Photo: Thomas Heinz
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