Frank Lloyd Wright gallery opening


It's a bit off the beaten path, but if you find yourself anywhere near Racine, WI (just a bit south of Milwaukee) you could not do better than to stop at the SC Johnson headquarters, where a new gallery devoted to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright is opening this week. The initial offering - a broad meditation on Wright's most popular Prairie-style work - will run for a year, to be followed by other exhibits focusing on various aspects of the architect and designer's work.

Several buildings at the SC Johnson campus are Wright creations, so you'll want to schedule a tour to see those as well.

Voysey clocks & more

from our friend Christopher Vickers:

Following on from the CFA Voysey Clocks postings here last August [Voysey clocks; Chris Vickers & Voysey], readers may be interested in Christopher Vickers new page featuring many of the period Voysey clocks still known to exist.

Chris would be very interested to receive further information / images of Voysey clocks, or really anything at all designed by Voysey!

Christopher Vickers & CFA Voysey

Wallpaper_advert I first encountered Christopher Vickers' work when a friend showed me photos of a clock he built (he's also reproduced another famous Voysey clock with which you may be more familiar). Based on C. F. A. Voysey's original plans, the clock is built from 7,000-year-old bog oak, and is inlaid with (faux) ivory. The original was built by Voysey in 1921 for a client - the same one for whom Voysey designed the beautiful Holly Mount in Beaconsfield. Voysey was known for his clocks, of course; apparently, he loved the confluence of lettering, machine, and furniture that these tiny and complicated objects represented.

Vickers is a scholar of all things Voysey, and 20th-century British design in general, with quite a bit of background on this great and often overlooked designer / artist / architect on his website; my own love of Voysey's work springs mainly from my interest in typography and Voysey's wonderful and expressive hand-lettering (see the wallpaper advertisement here, taken from Mr. Vickers' site) - so seeing Vickers' exceptional work, and through it his obvious love for the combined subtlety and detail that I've always appreciated in Voysey, really impressed and resonated with me.

My favorite piece of Voysey-designed furniture in Vickers collection is this replica dining chair with arms, originally designed in 1902. Vickers' reproduction sells for £1850, and appears to be completely true to the original.

Other impressive bits of Mr. Vickers' work include unique items of Arts & Crafts lighting; a number of beautiful and useful chests in a variety of sizes and configurations; beautiful and sturdy tables, including some based on Voysey designs for Hollymount and other homes; inlaid wooden boxes; cabinetry and shelving, including several that feature hardware hand-forged by Vickers; and a number of pieces of metalwork, produced in the Gimson-Cotswold tradition in just the way we like it: "by hammer & hand."

Vickers' work is art and craft, and some of the finest contemporary A&C furniture I've seen. If you're interested, you can see pieces on display from September 10 to 24 at the 2nd annual Arts & Crafts Exhibition in Gloucestershire's Prinknash Abbey Park; from September 13 to 28, you can actually visit his workshop in Frome, as it will be open to the public during Somerset Art Weeks. His work will also be included in the Ernest Gimson and the Arts & Crafts Movement exhibit in Leicester, November 8 2008 through March 1 2009.

Kevin O'Connor (This Old House) on Charles & Hudson

Charles & Hudson is one of the few house-issue blogs I read regularly, and today provides another reason why you should too: yesterday, they published a very interesting interview with Kevin O'Connor, host of the television program This Old House.

C&H: What is your take on the growth of online DIY sites especially independent publishers such as ourselves or Do you ever refer to any particular online resources besides

Kevin: The growth in DIY is remarkable. On the one hand I love it because I think it's vindication for all of us house lovers and do-it-yourselfers. There are a lot of great shows and web sites out there that never existed and that's great.

On the other hand there's a lot of crap out there too. I can think of a dozen shows and web sites that wouldn't hold my interest for a nanosecond.

Wow, I sure hope he's not talking about us.

Arts and Crafts Revival Society of Boston

reader Carl Close Jr., an artist blacksmith at Hammersmith Studio, forwards the following notice and hopes that other craftspeople in his area will be interested in forming a latter-day craftsperson's guild:

Are you an artist or craftsperson that works in the Arts and Crafts style? I am a metalworker in the Boston area and want to start a group that fosters the ideals and philosophies of the founders of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston. I thought it might be fun to also have an exhibit called Then and Now, a show that could showcase past masters and what similar artists are doing today to revive the Arts and Crafts Movement. So if you are a wood carver, metalworker, potter, book artist, silversmith, furniture designer, pleinair painter or any other historically-styled craftsperson, and live in the Boston or New England area, please let me know if this would be of any interest. You can contact me off my website,, or write me email.

Thank you - Carl Close, Jr, artist blacksmith

Signature Style in the San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle, for its various failings as a source of unbaised and serious local reporting, has some of the best feature articles on architecture of any regional paper in the country. Especially worth reading are Dave Weinstein's Signature Style columns on local architects and properties - often with a very strong Arts & Crafts bent. Here are several that most closely relate to Arts & Crafts homes and their builders in Northern California:

Obituary: Steven Ballew, Sacramento Preservationist

One of Sacramento's most voiciferous advocates of architectural conservation, Steven Ballew, has died at 63. Thank you, Steven, for helping keep Sacramento's urban neighborhoods beautiful. From the Sacramento Bee:

He was known throughout Sacramento as a committed preservationist. Whether fighting private citizens who wanted to build garages under historic bungalows or forcing Kentucky Fried Chicken to conform to local design guidelines when building a franchise on Alhambra Boulevard, no battle was too big or too small for Mr. Ballew's tireless passion.


The couple married in 1989 and rented a bungalow on 37th Street, which spawned an interest in bungalow history and architecture. Mr. Ballew cringed when he saw similar houses with inappropriate repairs and modifications.

He co-founded the Sacramento Bungalow Heritage Association, whose members gave lectures and organized field trips to teach people how to fix up their historic homes. That morphed into the Sacramento Preservation Round Table, an advocacy group that fights to preserve and restore historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Much of Mr. Ballew's passion for preservation was fueled by his appreciation of aesthetics, Susan Ballew said. His eye for order and perfection extended from his immaculate woodworking shop to the wooden shingles on the side of his home, whose corners he sanded individually so they would be slightly rounded.

Arts and Crafts in Boston

Maureenmeister Architecture Radio is a wonderful online lecture series and covers an enormous range of topics - and I am ashamed to write that I did not know about this terrific resource until today. A relatively recent lecture (mp3; recorded at the Boston Public Library on 05.05, published 09.05) by Maureen Meister, author of Architecture and the Arts & Crafts Movement in Boston: Harvard's H. Langford Warren (the first full-length study of this very important turn-of-the-century architect, educator and movement leader) and editor of H. H. Richardson: The Architect, His Peers and Their Era is devoted to the Arts & Crafts Movement in Boston.

Old House Interiors writes of her book on H. Langford Warren that “(she) makes the point that some architects are influential because they have a lot of clients, while others exert their influence less directly - but more widely - through students… Warren's own blend of Gothic, Georgian, and Colonial forms was perceived as the proper New England style long after his death in 1917. In serving the Society of Arts and Crafts for longer than anyone else, Warren further imprinted area taste.”

Paraphrased the jacket of her most recent book: 'Maureen Meister has taught art history courses at the Art Institute of Boston, Lesley University, Northeastern University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston since 1982. In recent years she has lectured on American architecture at Tufts University.' And she has a very nice voice, too.

Bernard Maybeck Roundup

Maybeckprincipabookcover Some new (and new-to-me) Maybeck-related links:

James Plachek & Berkeley

PlacheklibrarygreenOne of the houses I grew up in is a 1917 wood-shingle quasi-bungalow at the base of the Berkeley Hills, near the Solano tunnel. The house was designed by James Plachek, who was responsible for the art-moderne Berkeley Library, Berkeley's Heywood Building, Epworth Hall, the Grace Congregational,  and a number of other structures throughout the state, including the now-closed UC Theater (also 1917), where I worked on weekends and in the evenings after school in the late 1980s. Plachek built and remodeled a number of theaters between 1915 and 1930, including the Chimes in Oakland and the Lorin (now the Phillips Temple Church) at 3332 Adeline in Berkeley. In the mid 1930s, Plachek was focused primarily on large-scale WPA projects like the immense Moderne Alameda County Courthouse on the shore of Lake Merrit, shown here in Michele Manning's beautiful plein air pastel drawing.

Before my father bought the house, the previous owners hired woodworker and light fixture designer Kip Mesirow, who made a number of alterations and improvements to Chez Panisse (in the same building where, coincidentally, my father lived as a student at UC Berkeley, before it was a restaurant) in the 1970s, and a collaborator of printmaker and illustrator David Lance Goines' - to finish the attic and turn it into a beautiful, raw-redwood-wall master suite, a sort of mixture of rustic cathedral, nordic cabin and Japanese country house.

Mesirow's improvements to both my father's house and Chez Panisse are a bit more Rennie Mackintosh and Wright  than Maybeck, embracing the austere and geometrical forms that Mackintosh loved and Wright emulated; these shapes repeat in much of the Chez Panisse style both in and out of the restaurant itself, most notably Goines' many poster and cookbook designs for the restaurant and the lettering over the restaurant's entrance. Goines even uses the Mackintosh rosette in a few of his own illustrations.

Frank Lloyd Wright newsbites


Bits and pieces of Frank Lloyd Wright ephemera, some new and some only newly brought to my attention:

pictured: Google's special Frank Lloyd Wright logo, made for his birthday (June 8).

Edwin Lutyens


A greatly admired craftsman whose masterworks contrasted - at least in the public imagination of the time - with his somewhat unorthodox public persona and his terrific sense of humor, Edwin Lutyens was an architect, furniture designer, populist and great joke-teller. Often said to be the single person most responsible for the planning and construction of New Delhi's entire city center (and the master plan that was followed in that city well into the 1970s), Lutyens is perhaps best known today for the Viceroy's House, a particularly impressive landmark which is now the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India. Lutyens is also responsible for St. Jude's, one of the prettiest churches in the UK . Dozens of his finest structures still stand today in London and elsewhere. His influence to the Arts & Crafts movement is, unfortunately, often under-reported. His skill at integrating monumental scale and classical motif with the simple and straightforward, and his tremendous respect for the craftspeople who worked under him and a very strong belief in the importance of craft and handwork frequently made its way into the details of his buildings. Candia Lutyens continues the family business with her design firm in London today; she specializes in building many items of furniture designed by her grandfather, work that was shadowed by his more well-known skill as architect.

StoreywindowsBorn in Chicago in 1879, Ellsworth Storey grew up to become one of the most important architects of Seattle. He was influenced very strongly by the Arts & Crafts movement (Frank Lloyd Wright's own Chicago Arts & Crafts Society was instrumental in Storey's early socialization as an architect), but integrated a a wide variety of European and North African styles into his work. The strong influence of the Swiss chalet-style home is especially noticeable in many of the Seattle residences he designed.

Recently, Hillel decided to document his own passion - the Ellsworth Storey house he owns - and his recent hobby, the life and work of the man who built it. If you live in the Northwest, you probably already know about Storey's influence and have seen some of his houses; if not, take a few minutes to visit and learn about a tremendously underappreciated American craftsman.

Wright's Carr Home Destroyed

FlwdemolishOn November 8, an 88-year old Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Grand Rapids, Michigan was demolished to make room for a new single-family home. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy would have preferred to save the home from demolition, but not made aware of the demolition plans until after the building had been torn down. According to Wright scholars and others who examined the property, however, the house was in especially bad shape and restoring it would have been a very serious undertaking. William Allin Storrer, author of The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion, said of the property:

The building deserved to be torn down, and crying over its destruction brings to mind the story of the shepherd boy who cried 'wolf' once too often. We must preserve that of Wright which truly represents his organic architectural principles, and the W.S. Carr house did not even when built, though it had the master's signature on the plan.

photograph: Kevin Byrd / Associated Press / Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy

Continue reading "Wright's Carr Home Destroyed" »

Experience Wright This Fall

When it comes to Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture nothing takes the place of visiting in person and experiencing his environments first hand. I will never forget the first time I visited Fallingwater after years of studying photos and models. It's the scale of the buildings that is most striking. I maintain that any Wright building you have seen in pictures is about 60% the size you think it is.

Continue reading "Experience Wright This Fall" »

Two Tours

GamblefrontdoorWhen I lived in Berkeley, there was a big storm one night. The next day I noticed that a huge branch had fallen off one of my favorite oak trees in a place called Live Oak Park. City workers were cutting up the beautiful piece of wood, which was at least 5 feet in diameter at the widest point, into cross sections using a chainsaw. It seemed a waste of such a great piece of wood. I asked them if I could have a few sections, they said sure, so I loaded a few chunks into my truck.

Continue reading "Two Tours" »

E. Fay Jones

e-f-jonesE. Fay Jones, FAIA died yesterday at his home in Fayetteville, Arkansas at age 83.

Born in 1921, Euine Fay Jones studied architecture at the University of Arkansas and at the University of Houston. He apprenticed under Frank Llloyd Wright in the Taliesin fellowship before starting his own Fayetteville practice. He was the recipient of the AIA Gold Medal in 1990. Jones was probably best known for his elevating chapels assembled out of numerous thin pieces of wood, such as the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and the Pinecote Pavilion at the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippi.

A good biography with links to books and other sites is available in his Wikipedia entry.