Browse Tag Lewis Spring

LEWIS SPRING HOUSE

BUILT

1954

CLIENT

George Lewis II

ARCHITECT

Frank Lloyd Wright

ADDRESS

3117 Okeeheepkee Road

The house plan was the first of two “pod-shaped” homes that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed throughout his entire career. The Spring House is currently the only private residence that was designed and built in Florida by Frank Lloyd Wright. The home sits on ten acres of hardwoods in the Capital City of Tallahassee, Florida. 

“Primarily the use of and sympathy with the site and nature of the ground and the purpose of the city and town whatever it might be and of course the character of the inhabitants in that connection… a natural architecture” – Frank Lloyd Wright

“The Mr. and Mrs. George Lewis II House is a two-story residence typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s circular or “hemicycle” mode. It is situated in a wooded setting on the outskirts of the developed suburban area of Tallahassee and sits on a gentle slope overlooking a spring and a narrow stream.”[1]The house was designed during the same period as the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, and both the home and the museum are based on a confluence of arcs that make the two buildings similar and revolutionary.[2]

A picture containing tree, outdoor, building, house

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Figure 1 Ron Jones – Florida Division of Archives

George Lewis II was the president of The Lewis State Bank in Florida, which was the oldest bank and started in 1856. Clifton Lewis, the wife of George, was the one that approached Mr. Wright to design a house for their family. She had first met him at Florida Southern College In 1950 and this is where she had asked him to design their home. Mr. Wright had responded to her request with “find your ground, not on a lot, and get in touch.”[2] Mr. Wright would take on the project once the Lewises found a building site and sent him a map (topographical) of it. By 1952, Mr. Wright had completed plans for the Lewis House. The issue was not having an approved design but having someone capable of building the home with such a complex design with limited resources. The Lewises had to even set up a mill on the site in order to entice contractors to even consider taking on the project. 

Diagram, engineering drawing

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The site had a natural spring on the property that flowed to a lake nearby. I am sure that the location of the site please Mr. Wright. He had mentioned in his interview with NBC in 1958 that in the past twenty years of his life he was seeking a kind of refuge at the time… He mentioned that he was getting a worms-eye view of society and needed to get into the country. His mother had prepared a site for him and asked him to come and take it. His response was “I did and of course the countryside is southern Wisconsin low hills protruding rock ledges, wooded sight, and the same thing applied to Taliesin signified to, later on, to bear run. “The site determined the character and features of the house”

Mr. Wright was asked in his interview: “The American press and sections of your own profession have not always treated you kindly I just wonder if you have any comment about this?”

Mr. Wright had a strong response that is worthy of mentioning to better understand the Architect of the Spring House: “Well I don’t see any reason why they should have treated me kindly I was entirely contrary to everything they believed in and if that was right they were wrong why should they treat me kindly it was a question at one time I suppose of their survival or mine and in those circumstances you know what happens don’t you… it’s still happening in a way but not so much now but it is true that still, the greatest appreciation for what we’ve done comes from European countries and the Orient rather than from our own country we’re very slow to take things on that occurred at home it’s always been the idea of our people that culture came from abroad and they did can’t blame them for thinking so they didn’t want to hear this developing in the tall grass of the Western prairies that was not exciting in fact they’d rather resented hearing about it in that sense so hundreds had gone abroad and it had been understood and appreciated abroad and the Europeans came over here with it so they could sell it to the American people and they would take it from them when they didn’t like to take it from me.”

I was looking at the influences of this house during the same time, but before I get into what other discussions about the changes through time and what influences there were in art, culture, society, etc. it is important to know that one of his personal guiding thoughts in his life is the following. This quote is a response to this thinking about his work as it related to the influences of others on his work. “My idea was pretty well fixed I was pretty sure of my ground and my style and I saw no occasion you see early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have not seen a reason to change even now. They’re pursuing the same centerline to all changes and I’m confident that the principle of our work which is its heart and centerline is really the ideology of democracy. If democracy is ever to have a free architecture I mean if it’s ever to have freedom have a culture of its own architecture will be its basic effect and condition and I believe we have the centerline of that architecture for freedom and for democracy.” 

Mr. Wright was a believer in Art and that Art could not be taught and that it could only be inculcated by exemplars. A guiding principle of his work was to navigate the site, occupants, and the needs of all parties in order to have a “pay-off.” His thoughts of the majority of Architecture were to have the effects sought and multiplied and the why of the effect the real cause of the center of the thing seems to have vanished. If Architects mastered the inner principle, an infinite variety would be the result. “No one would have to copy anybody else and my great disappointment in it all is that instead of emulation what I see is a wave of imitation.”

Historicism vs. Nostalgia

William Pahlmann, created furniture with casters in order to provide flexibility and adjustment within a room more easily. Pahlmann was at the forefront of color richness. He was proud of introducing, green, orange, deep cerulean blue for the lounge of the Columbus Hotel in Miami, driftwood, lime, orange, and white.

It is difficult to know what the furniture design was for the home. It was cited that Mr. Wright did design furniture, but the owners did not have it made. The only furniture that was integrated was built-in furniture, which is purpose-built to orient views outward. The existing furniture has a stark contrast to the flexibility that Mr. Pahlmann was designing at the same time. 

There was also the development of other interior ideas from colors to fabrics, to textures, and even to the forms adjusting. The idea of sunken living space. A space created specifically for the integration of a family. This is in contrast to a building that is designed around multiple facets of life. A purpose-built space and in isolation of all other elements. This friction between Historicism and Nostalgia went as far as broadening the scope of an Interior Decorator. In 1957, NSID was founded, and there was reluctance to move away from Decorator to Designer. 1954 Federal Renewal Program. A slum meant any building over thirty years old. The federal renewal program was a specific program in order to motivate “design” for a political need. This act alone probably influenced statements from Wright about his disappointment with imitation over emulation. “No one would have to copy anybody else and my great disappointment in it all is that instead of emulation what I see is a wave of imitation.”

“If anything, good could stand in isolation, then it could stand next to anything else good.” – 1950’s viewpoint of quality

The interior spaces of the Lewis house were a composition of the whole… a family, a site, the function. 

“Primary seating in the living room is adjacent to the fireplace on a low wood seat which runs the entire length of the west wall. This area is provided a strong sense of enclosure by the low ceiling under the second story, but the vista is toward a two-story space and the glass “rear” wall.  

Interior decorative interest is provided by the natural colors, textures, and arrangement of the exposed structural materials. Only the ceilings are plastered and these are unpainted. All doors and operable windows are hung with exposed brass piano hinges; all other hardware is also of brass. All lighting fixtures are within 9″ square.”[1]

The home which has a plan of concentric and intersecting circles was atypical of common American building practices. The Lewis House was a radical statement within the historical architectural traditions of Tallahassee. 

The triumph of Modernism was more dependent on the growth of the new, young generation than it was dependent on a change of sympathies.”[4]

Mr. Wright objected to the idea of modernism in the sense of objecting and turning your back on something for subjective reasoning. Instead, the idea that Natural architecture should be the driver in the development of new forms. An emulation of the experiences and art that creates something new is important. 

There is an entirely different way of approaching the Art of Architecture when you think of it holistically and respond to the site and the needs of the individuals. A lot of the reading on Historicism and Nostalgia are based not on the inner principles of the design, but on a motivator that is not connected directly to the needs of the occupants. I will once again leave you with the important descriptor of what it means to have Natural Architecture. 

“Primarily the use of and sympathy with the site and nature of the ground and the purpose of the city and town whatever it might be and of course the character of the inhabitants in that connection… a natural architecture” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Mr. Wright had a belief that his most satisfactory achievement of his career would be his next building. 

Figure 1 Photo by Ron Jones Florida Division of Archives

Bibliography

  1. Catalog.archives.gov. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://catalog.archives.gov/id/77842905> [Accessed 22 October 2021].
  2. “Lewis Spring House.” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://franklloydwright.org/site/lewis-spring-house/. 
  3. National Broadcasting Company, and Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Inc. 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright. National Broadcasting Co.
  4. Allen Tate and C. Ray Smith, Interior Design in the 20th Century, Chapter 15, pp. 421-442. 
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