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The Solar Radicycle (1969 ~), second iteration, south facing, with a studio on the north side
As I have shared before, I once aspired to become an architect, a vocation toward which I may still be temperamentally disposed, though way too late to consider as a second career. Here, I want to take another risk. Having previously shared a drawing from my exploration of shell forms, from when in my youth I sought to develop as an artist, I would like to offer a glimpse of my very early architectural aspirations.
The drawings I feature above and below very obviously reflect the impact upon me by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The plan above, which I titled the Solar Radicycle, is one that I first conceived in late middle school or in early high school, but then later elaborated. With its reliance upon circular patterns, it is clearly influenced both in name and design by Wright’s second Herbert and Katherine Jacobs house (1944), the 1950 Wilber C. Pearce house, and related designs (the David Wright house, among them).
While in eighth and ninth grade I memorized FLW construction design and building facts in the way that some of my peers memorized baseball card details. Among such were significant aspects of Wright’s remarkable achievement with the columns of the Johnson Wax company building (Racine, WI), and the unexpected and astonishing test-endurance of those structural features.
I have searched in vain for my colored study drawings from the 1970’s of the exterior elevation for the Solar Radicycle plan, showing the proposed domed roof over the central living area. Yet, the isometric drawing of the building (below) may help give an idea of its intended eventual shape.
An isometric view of the Solar Radicycle plan (not showing roofs)
The word ‘solar’ explains itself; the suffix ‘cycle’ implies something circular; and the prefix ‘radi’ comes from the common words radical and radish, and implies ‘of the root.’ Naively, I had the hope to build this house somewhere in rural Vermont or New Hampshire upon my graduation from high school in Massachusetts. Obviously, I was a romantic dreamer. And, of course, it did not happen. But I had thought through a number of key details, neglecting those of financing. Here I was a true follower of Frank Lloyd Wright!
The first iteration of the above design was more simple, with a focus upon the central living, kitchen and dining areas. The first or inner ring of the design depicted above will reflect this. The second, outer ring of structure in the plan, reflects the later iteration, involving a re-conceived master bedroom location, along with the addition of a den, and also a large studio.
I envisioned the walls as being embedded in surrounding earth berms, and using either local stone and or limestone for the vertical structure. I thought that the roofs, both the T-shaped slabs over the bedroom wings and studio, as well as a large dome over the living area – and small domes (or possibly sky-lights) over the kitchen and restrooms – might be cast in pre-stressed concrete. Here again, I may have been too slavishly an FLW follower in not fully considering the roof-leak potential for those roof slabs and the seams between them, especially in New England winters and springs. I might have had a beautiful house, if I could have pulled it off, while yet having to deal with raindrops seeping down and falling onto the side bedrooms.
I am proud of the overall design, but fully acknowledge how this was an adolescent flight of fantasy! Below are a couple of representative examples – among many – of very obviously FL Wright-influenced designs for houses and plans for other structures that I produced in the mid to latter 1970s, just out of high school, while contemplating a vocation in architecture.
To this day, the possibility of what my original plan might have been hovers at the edge of my mind. In God’s Providence, architecture was not to be my professional vocation, though I am so glad for all that my interest in it has brought to me.
Among a huge abundance of books about FLW, a very helpful guide is The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Guide (color photo illustrated), by William Allin Storrer, which includes locations maps for all the buildings included.
Thanks for sharing your interaction with Wright’s work. I am from Wisconsin but couldn’t afford the tourist rates to enter Taleisin. I lived in Milwaukee for a time and saw some of his work there and hung about with friends from Oak Park, Illinois, too. Although I have not even a pretension of a pretension to architectural skills, I still have appreciation and led high school students in studying Wright’s work for a number of years.