07 January 2006
project: Fry Residence, 1936
location: Ladue, Missouri
condition: no longer extant
This house design is a unique amalgamation of architectural forms and concepts. The initial impression is of a Wrightian prairie house with its cruciform organization extending from a central masonry chimney. The hipped roofs and continuous, wide overhangs contribute a great deal to this impression, particularly because of the way in which it shapes the house's silhouette.
This image of a prairie house, however, is elevated to the second level above a rectilinear structure which presents itself as having flat roofs and horizontal strip windows more akin to the International Style than the Arts and Crafts source of Wright's early residential works.
This axonometric drawing in black and white with darkened glazing graphically gives the house more of a Corbusian appearance than the actual house projects. The axonometric method of presentation used in depicting three-dimensional forms is an abstract, analytical approach. Frank Lloyd Wright would not typically use this approach, rather he preferred to present his work using perspective, where parallel lines recede to vanishing points, giving an image more akin to actual visual perception.
The axonometric approach maintains all parallel lines as parallell and measurable. Nothing recedes into the distance and the building is presented more as a free-standing, man-made object as opposed to the more naturalistic, perceptual image presented by a perspective drawing.
In particular, the drawing suggests plain white exterior surfaces, while the actual building materials were primarily brick and copper. The built-in planters and climbing vines suggest Wright's work as a source, but these were features that Armstrong included in many of his works of various materials and forms.
The site plan and siting of the house dictates the approach to the house. Initially, the visitor is faced with a blank brick wall relieved only by a planter at the far corner. The hedges surrounding the driveway are organized for privacy in additional to their function in directing vehicular circulation. The blank, simplicity of the garage volume acts as a foil for the house which presents a complex series of planes and openings, all oriented for horizontall emphasis, except the large vertical glazing at the main entry at the inside corner of the "L".
Drawing courtesy of the Harris Armstrong Archives, Special Collections, Washington University in Saint Louis.