This past weekend we had the opportunity to tour of three Lloyd Wright architectural homes here in Southern California. It was organized by the Friends of the Gamble House – a group that everyone who loves architecture should join!
We started at the Sowden House, built in 1926 for John & Ruth Sowden, who were Hollywood elite back in the day. The house was of the steel reinforced Textile Concrete Block period in Wright’s career and the house was grand in every scale. Designed around a courtyard, it was said that the Sowden’s would put on theatrical performances utilizing the several doors along the narrow hallways to enter and exit the “stage”. Although rather impressive still today, the topic of conversation among the many friends and colleagues on the tour was the shock of how much had been stripped away from this grand house. At what point does a Lloyd Wright house stop being a Lloyd Wright house?
Next on the tour for us was the Derby House. Built around the same time as the Sowden house, the Derby house was another of the Textile Concrete Block period. It appeared to be mostly original which was a breath of fresh air. You could see Lloyd Wright’s Art Deco influence with the skyscraper and floral motif’s repeated in the wrought iron garage door (image below), the fireplace grill and they many window coverings throughout the house.
Lastly was the Gainsburg House. Built in 1946 this house was lovely brought back to its original condition by the current owners with painstaking attention to detail. It was designed by Wright while he was building the Wayfarers Chapel and you can see the many Usonian similarities. It was said that Wright and the Gainsburg’s had a falling out and a portion of the house was never completed. However, this impressive house was the highlight of our day. Every room in the house is a modified parallelogram and retains the Usonian principal: using native materials, perfectly positioned rooms and windows for passive air cooling utilized by the large cantilevered roof.