Page T2.2 . 07 December 2005                     
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    Measuring Up Wright


    Drafting Modern Tools

    "In most buildings built on a rectangular grid," Heinz continues, "you could show the wall and know where it is in space. But with this rock and this site, where the house sits 16 to 18 feet (4.9 to 5.5 meters) off the water, and then another 12 feet (4 meters) above that for the big Whale Rock, I needed to know where all these things were in space so we could fit the building to it. I needed to know where it cantilevers off the land so we could decide on the footing and foundation."

    The site itself is on an 11-acre (4.4-hectare) island in Lake Mahopac, north of New York City, possibly the only privately owned island between New York City and Vermont. The client who owned the island in 1950 ultimately decided he could not afford to build Wright's vision. The current owners, Joe and Barbara Massaro, decided to revive the original design.

    After visiting, photographing, and studying the site, Heinz saw that the huge rock formed some of the interior and exterior walls. "The roof comes over and rests on top of it, and as you walk into the entry, it forms part of the wall on your left as you come through the front door. And then you're squeezed down to a 6-foot (1.8-meter) entry space coming into the building. There is a 1500-square-foot (140-square-meter) skylight area above Whale Rock inside."

    With the rock work on this property and the house intended to extend off the land 78 feet (24 meters) out over the water, Heinz decided the design had to be rendered in 3D. In order to understand the building, Heinz used ArchiCAD from Graphisoft to create hundreds of views so he could properly draw the building and so there wouldn't be any surprises.

    Seeing is Believing

    Approvals went very quickly as all parties saw what the building would look like, inside and out, using the digital model. According to Heinz, the model accurately reflected the building design that Frank Lloyd Wright intended before the house went into construction. The added bonus, far removed from those original five pencil drawings, is that the virtual building model shows how the house will look and feel in its environment.

    "After the drawings were done, we interviewed six to eight contractors. I was not sure if what I had printed out was understandable and I didn't want fudge factors coming in blowing this thing up 20 to 30 million dollars more than budgeted for," remarks Heinz.

    "We talked about design and construction and also how we were going to get materials out to this lake. We figured it was going to require 450 to 500 cubic yards (340 to 380 cubic meters) of concrete. We found this contractor who had a good grasp of what we were trying to do so we hired her to do this."

    The concrete that is the floor of the house inside is also the floor of the cantilever. It is two feet thick, 78 feet long, and 35 feet across (0.6 by 23.8 by 10.7 meters). "That all had to be done in a single pour, 36 hours long," said Heinz. "We also had walls that were a foot (30 centimeters) thick with stone on both sides." Construction is expected to be complete in 2006.

    Heinz has been working with Frank Lloyd Wright buildings for about 30 years. He is the author of about 30 books on Wright, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Field Guide, and has photographed every Wright-designed single building.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Susan Smith is the editor of AECCafe, an online news portal for the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, as well as GISCafe and GISWeekly, an online portal and weekly magazine for the geographic information systems industry. She has been writing about architecture and technology for over ten years and resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    This article first appeared in its original form in AECWeekly, the online publication of AECCafe and is reprinted here with the permission of AECCafe.



    ArchWeek Image

    Digital model of the house designed in 1950 by Frank Lloyd Wright, shown without the roof.
    Image: Thomas Heinz

    ArchWeek Image

    View from the dock to the loggia during construction.
    Photo: Thomas Heinz

    ArchWeek Image

    Floor plan by Frank Lloyd Wright was part of the minimal documentation available to Thomas Heinz, AIA.
    Image: Frank Lloyd Wright

    ArchWeek Image

    Top view, showing topography and large skylight area.
    Image: Thomas Heinz

    ArchWeek Image

    A cantilevered floor juts out over the water.
    Image: Thomas Heinz

    ArchWeek Image

    One of many model views to help architect, owners, and builders understand the design.
    Image: Thomas Heinz

    ArchWeek Image

    View of the back.
    Image: Thomas Heinz

    ArchWeek Image

    One of many model views generated in ArchiCAD.
    Image: Thomas Heinz


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