Saturday, April 14, 2012

Part III: Architectural Mentors: LaVerne Lantz

LaVerne Lantz was always "clear headed" (his words) about the right (Wright) way to design a home. That meant that design decisions were based on a logical set of principals that wed architecture to nature in a practical and efficient manner. As seen in the previous post, that could result in elegantly simple designs that the average person could afford.
A curvilinear home designed and built by LaVerne Lantz. 
Somewhat surprisingly, such logical goals did not deter Lantz from exploring new building materials and non-rectilinear forms whenever presented by opportunity. Many of his projects were based on hexagonal themes, such as the second home on Moraine End built for the LaVerne and Molly Lantz family. The three-winged composition of thirty degree and sixty degree angles eventually expanded to a hexagonal guest house connected by a low-slung breezeway. The 30-60 geometry is as natural upon the landscape as a honeycomb in a beehive.
Another home was built on the same hill for adventuresome clients. It consisted of curvilinear walls with plexiglas bubble windows and an open plan with no separation between "rooms". The exterior of that project is illustrated here.
Other homes explored non-vertical exterior walls, cantilevered floors, and mitered-glass skylights. Always they used an earth-based color palette and undisguised finish materials.
This willingness to explore and experiment is, perhaps, Lantz's most important architectural legacy. His work encourages a spirit of adventure. Though anchored in the Usonian idealism of Frank Lloyd Wright, his residential designs were always original, inventive, and confident. The confidence came from his belief that "a well designed house [will] fit the site and become an integral part of the landscape as well as give the occupants a feeling of peace and contentment. Homes designed in this manner do not go out of style, but... are forever." (From The Well Designed Home by LaVerne Lantz.)

Illustration: M. Knorr