Dear Mr. Wright
February 13, 2012 2:31 AM   Subscribe

In 1956 a 12-year-old Jim Berger exchanged letters with Frank Lloyd Wright. The result was a Wright designed doghouse.
posted by IvoShandor (24 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Barkingwater!
posted by chavenet at 2:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Heh.
The Bergers didn’t actually construct the hut until 1963, when they made changes to the location of the door and removed the concrete base Wright had planned so as to make the house portable. Unfortunately, neither Eddie nor any of the Berger’s other dogs ever took to it, and the structure was dismantled just 10 years later.
I guess that's not the first time a great architect has designed something that looks just dandy but is turned into something disappointing to those who have to actually live in it.
posted by pracowity at 3:13 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


First thought: "I wonder whether this doghouse avoided FLW's frequent structural faults and leaks."

Last sentence in the article: "Wright’s original leaked."
posted by Skeptic at 3:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, no matter how good it looks, if a building isn't snug against normal storms, it's a bad building.
posted by Malor at 4:18 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was glad to see that there was a photo of the original doghouse with Eddie inside, even though he evidently didn't like to sleep there. I wonder which of the current superstar architects would respond to a child with as much grace and kindness; for all that Wright couldn't build a house that didn't leak, I think he hit this one out of the ballpark from a niceness point of view.
posted by Forktine at 5:01 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


neither Eddie nor any of the Berger’s other dogs ever took to it

You can buy the tail, but you can't buy the wag.
posted by Trurl at 5:35 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like to think this was mostly a gesture of kindness, but I'll bet the thought of a non-matching, pedestrian dog house clashing with his design had something to do with it too. (If he could get a client to foot the bill, Wright would design pretty much everything; light fixtures, furniture, textiles, dinner plates, rugs, etc.)
posted by usonian at 5:36 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Years ago, I went to a "Frank Lloyd Wright in Madison" show at one of the art museums in town. I was half-way through the show when I realized, out of maybe 30 projects on display, about 20 had never been built, and almost all of the remainder had been torn down. So I guess this dog house was on the up side of the curve for Mr. Wright.

And, honestly, dogs are used to getting wet. Getting less wet is a bonus, for a dog.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:43 AM on February 13, 2012


This made me grin. First of all my parents loved FLW and as a child I was dragged to everything you can imagine that was constructed by him. We went to Taliesin West, and pretty much anything built by him. Given the amount of time we spent in California, I'm surprised I haven't seen the dog house.

Also, for what it's worth, pretty much anything FLW built leaked. His ideas didn't match the technology of the day. I believe that the Johnson Wax HQ had glass tubes for a roof and while it looked really cool, he could just not figure out how to insulate them.

When building their own house in Arizona, my folks hired a Taliesin architecht, so all of this stuff is very familiar to me. Very, very familiar.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, for what it's worth, pretty much anything FLW built leaked. His ideas didn't match the technology of the day.
I think that Wright and the contractors who did the actual building often shared the blame for problems that plague many of his buildings; in the case of the Barnsdall House, there was a big setback when the contractors misread the blueprints and built a bunch of window openings the wrong size. In the case of the Ennis House, there are something like 11 different roof levels, and that mode of textile block construction never really got past the experimental stage; it's not too surprising that the building has some problems. (being situated on a mudslide and earthquake-prone Los Angeles hillside doesn't help it either.)
posted by usonian at 5:57 AM on February 13, 2012


I keep reading the previous post as a continuation of this one:

"The result was a Wright designed doghouse. ...

It towers 51 feet high, extending a further 36 feet below ground. "
posted by TreeRooster at 6:56 AM on February 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


I think that Wright and the contractors who did the actual building often shared the blame for problems that plague many of his buildings

I have a few architects in my family, and one thing they agree upon is that a good architect should be aware of Murphy's Law and expect the contractors to misread the blueprints. For that reason, the architect should design so as to prevent such mistakes, and/or ensure enough redundancy that such mistakes are inconsequential.
posted by Skeptic at 7:11 AM on February 13, 2012


Unfortunately, Wright designed the labrador retriever's new home with low ceilings, and proportions appropriate to the much smaller cocker spaniel.

When this was pointed out, Wright replied, "I took the dog, at 13 and one-half inches tall, like my first dog, Rusty, as the canine scale. If Rusty had been taller, the scale might have been different," then added, "Sit, Eddie, you're destroying the scale!"
 
posted by Herodios at 7:31 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I want to quip something like "He was a great architect, but he wasn't a good architect.".
posted by benito.strauss at 7:34 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amusing but irrelevant: This post flows really nicely into the first couple of sentences of the previous one on the front page:

In 1956 a 12-year-old Jim Berger exchanged letters with Frank Lloyd Wright. The result was a Wright designed doghouse. It towers 51 feet high, extending a further 36 feet below ground. It weighs approximately 16 million pounds. And it's capable of delivering 50,000 metric tons of compressive force.

Sounds like when FLW designed a doghouse he really designed a doghouse.
posted by The Tensor at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2012



As for architects needing to anticipate Murphy's Law... oh yeah. That.

I learned a lot as a 10 year old, watching my parents build their dream house. My father, by the time we were waiting for the 4th electrical inspection said:

1. "Don't hire Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck as your contractors".

2. If you are building a house that has a wall of glass at the front, and you live in Arizona, go with your gut and get double paned windows.

3. While a flat roof is very modern and stylish, it is really, really impractical, expect it to leak and leak mightily. It might help somewhat if Mickey and Donald stagger the seams, rather than butting them up against each other.

4. If you are building an outdoor bathroom, anticipatingthe installation of a pool at a later date, double check to see what those rocks are made out of. You might need dynamite to get through them.

5. If the City of Phoenix is confused about where exactly they need to run the water, don't be surprised if it's a .5 mile, pvc wonder that is so shallowly buried that all of the taps run warm perpetually.

6. If your house abutts a small mountain, and your city's television transmitters are all behind said house, expect that until the cable company is compelled to bring cable to your house, that your antenna will be situated 500 feet worth of coaxial cable away from the house, "attached" to a Palo Verde tree. Also expect to read a lot and listen to the radio, since unless it's a warm, humid night, you aren't going to be watching any TV.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2012


There is a FLW designed gas station in the small town (Cloquet MN) just outside the small city (Duluth) where I live.
posted by edgeways at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was having a hard time with that gas station's roof, but it looks more cohesive in some of these images. It balances the sort of hanging glass office, which appears more like the gondola of an airship from the right angle. It also echoes the roof of the building behind it, and looks exciting and Wrightian on the pamphlet.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2012


TreeRooster, I was doing that too!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2012


Did anyone else read this post and the one before it together?

In 1956 a 12-year-old Jim Berger exchanged letters with Frank Lloyd Wright. The result was a Wright designed doghouse.

It towers 51 feet high, extending a further 36 feet below ground. It weighs approximately 16 million pounds. And it's capable of delivering 50,000 metric tons of compressive force.


Because damn Frank when you build a doghouse you don't fuck around
posted by Sebmojo at 2:13 PM on February 13, 2012


I keep reading the previous post as a continuation of this one:

"The result was a Wright designed doghouse. ...

It towers 51 feet high, extending a further 36 feet below ground. "
posted by TreeRooster at 6:56 AM on February 13 [13 favorites +] [!]


That's what I get for skimming a thread!
posted by Sebmojo at 2:15 PM on February 13, 2012


I'm from Chicago, so I am required by birthright to love FLW. My biggest quibble with his designs is that they are unfriendly. Perhaps I am an architecture luddite, but I prefer my buildings to tell me where the front door is.
posted by gjc at 4:14 PM on February 13, 2012


Loosely related; if you ever played with Lincoln Logs as a kid, did you know that the toy was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's son? Lincoln Logs were inspired by the building techniques used by Frank Lloyd Wright to construct the Imperial Palace Hotel in Tokyo
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2012


out of maybe 30 projects on display, about 20 had never been built

Heh. The only building Wright ever designed for my hometown Janesville (near enough to Madison and Spring Green, and where his cousin Jenkin Lloyd Jones once preached) was a never-built garage for his personal friend, pen magnate George S. Parker. There used to be a thumbnail-sized image of the design online; I have a book-sized reproduction, and I've handled the blueprints. It was from his hexagonal/Usonian period and would have easily complemented, say, the Hanna, Palmer or Berger homes, even though Parker's actual home (long since razed) was a much more traditional design.

I hope, one day, to build it. It actually shouldn't be terribly hard. I've also thought about doing a scaled-down version as a yard equipment hutch.
posted by dhartung at 1:27 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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