Friday, October 29, 2010

Architecture Trivia Answer

The previous blog entry ended with a question: Is the following house a Frank Lloyd Wright design?  Or is it authored by one of Wright's many followers? 
Wright or faux Wright?
Russell Barr Williamson residence.
The house is located at 4800 North Oakland Avenue, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Whitefish Bay is a leafy Milwaukee suburb on the Lake Michigan shore. This is a standout house architecturally, but not unusual for the neighborhood in terms of quality. The north shore suburbs of Milwaukee (Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, Bayside) are affluent; many of the homes here qualify as genuine mansions.

The answer to our trivia question is no, this is not a Wright design. It was built in 1921 by Russell Barr Williamson as his own house. He lived in it for thirty years. This is the same architect who designed the faux Wright design profiled in the previous blog entry.

I was fooled by this one for many years. At some point I read, or was told, that this is a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Perhaps unsupervised, but definitely Wright. Wrong!

Wright was a prolific architect, with hundreds of designs scattered throughout the country. However, there are more Wright look-alikes than one man could ever be responsible for.  Many architects rode the crest of his fame to develop alternate visions of prairie style architecture.  Not all of them produced great work, but many did. Among the more notable, besides Williamson, are Marion Mahoney, Walter Burly Griffin, and the firm of Purcell and Elmslie. All of these architects are worth looking into, either on the internet or, better, by seeking out the many examples of their work.
Detail of porte chochere.
All photographs:  M. Knorr.