Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Legacy Keeps On Giving

By Bruce Wentworth, AIA

The 50th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s death (April 9, 1959) is a milestone for anyone who cares about residential architecture, and an appropriate occasion for me to reflect on his vision and enduring influence. Wright’s personal residence-- “Taliesin East”-- in Spring Green, Wisconsin (near Madison) was a renowned landmark when I was growing up in suburban Milwaukee, and his famous school was nearby. Locals spoke his name with respect, honored that a person of his international stature shared our understated but lovely countryside.

When I was five, my parents decided to look for a family home just outside Milwaukee, and happened upon a contemporary that was inspired by Wright’s ideas: open floor plan, high vaulted ceilings, stone and wood construction. Awestruck, I asked my mother who ‘draws’ these houses? To which she responded “an architect”, “Then that’s what I want to be,” I replied. Afterwards, my mother mentioned Wright’s name often, and I began finding books about his work. That experience—aided by a sand box, tinker toys and building blocks-- set me on the path that eventually led to my career choice.

Throughout the 1950s, Wright’s work completely captured the public imagination. He became the virtual symbol of the notion that architecture can express social progress. Newspapers and magazines exulted in his design for America’s modern art Mecca: New York City’s Guggenheim Museum. I later learned that Wright had resided at the Plaza Hotel while in the city, and even developed an interior design for his suite.

Despite a turbulent personal and professional life fraught with financial ups and downs, Wright enjoyed a long and prolific career. He designed more than 1,100 homes and buildings of which 532 were actually constructed. His contributions to architecture (and social theory) ranged from ‘organic architecture’, the Usonian home, and the Prairie School of design to ‘Broadacre City’, a pioneering experiment in modern urban planning.

How Americans live today has been fundamentally shaped by Wright’s designs and lifestyle concepts. The Usonian home—a simple, rectangular form stripped of unneeded adornment—become the prototype for a futuristic egalitarian structure that sublimely marries form and function. Plans called for a moderate, inexpensive structure of about 1,200 square feet that features an open floor plan, built on a slab with radiant heat, no basement, a carport instead of a garage, no interior trim, no plaster, no gutters or downspouts, and no painting. In essence – a low-cost, perfectly balanced, yet small house that would require minimal maintenance.

Notably, Wright’s Pope-Leighey house (circa 1940) in south Alexandria perfectly illustrates the maestro’s vision. The economy of scale, use of natural materials, and glass walls inviting visual continuum with nature are all in evidence. Clerestory windows provide natural light along with privacy. Solutions are crisply articulated, highly functional and beautiful.

By the time of his death in 1959, at the age of 92, Wright had become internationally known. Still, 50 years after his death Wright’s core ideas still guide our designs, and our thinking.

Let us know how Frank Lloyd Wright has influenced you.


The Luxury of Space

By Bruce Wentworth, AIA

It is a rare occasion when a client has too much space. But it does happen. And this was the case for a recent remodeling project involving a Master Bathroom. The happy homeowner’s are a couple with two small children and a spacious townhouse.

Their circa 1980s home needed an updated master bathroom that utilized the existing space properly and took advantage of a spectacular city view from its fourth floor vantage. Although the existing bath’s space was ample, it was inefficiently arranged, cheaply built, and lacked the aesthetic appeal desired by the homeowner.

The space had several challenges. A south facing wall of glass included a large window and sliding-glass door that lead to a narrow balcony. The spectacular view from the fourth floor bathroom was sacred, but lacked privacy and suffered from hot southern sun. Additionally, there was too much space to properly place all of the bathroom functions in one room adjacent to a wall of glass. Sensible design required that the bath be reconfigured and zoned for functionality.

The design team agreed that the new layout would have ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces to be more practical. The public space, opening onto the master bedroom with double doors, was placed near the window wall with a free-standing sculptural tub so bathers can enjoy the city view. A double-sink vanity, furniture-like with a mirror and over-mantle feature, provides an aesthetic and functional focal point. The large wall visible upon entering the space was enhanced with applied panel moldings and two tone paint colors. The public area’s ample space also accommodates an upholstered bench and a cheval glass mirror. The simple arrangement and ample space feel luxurious. Privacy and sun control are provided for with a wall of sliding louvered panels.

The bath’s smaller, private space was placed behind a new wall. Separated from the public space, by a frosted-glass pocket door, this smaller private area accommodates the toilet and a large walk-in shower stall with a built-in bench. Large scale porcelain wall tile and horizontal bands of glass mosaic wall tile enhance the shower. Linked to this private space is an existing ample sized walk-in closet that allows the homeowner to exit to their bedroom.

Success is measured with a happy client. Aesthetically and functionally the master bath has changed their home for the better. The project is a testament to the importance of a good space plan zoned with public and private spaces. Where else can a homeowner enjoy a view of the Washington Monument while soaking in their tub?

Bruce Wentworth, AIA, an architect and contractor, is the founder of Wentworth, Inc. a residential design-build firm offering architecture, interiors and construction. 240-395-0705 x 100. www.wentworthstudio.com


NARI Honors
Wentworth, Inc.
With National CotY Award

Chevy Chase, MD, April 1st, 2009The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) named Wentworth, Inc. of Chevy Chase, Maryland, the 2009 National CotY Grand Award winner in the category Residential Exterior Under $100,000.
click photos to zoom
Wentworth, Inc. (www.wentworthstudio.com), founded by architect Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is residential remodeling design/build company located in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The firm specializes in architectural design and remodeling of older urban homes. Wentworth, Inc. was named 2009 National Contractor of the year (CotY) in the category of Residential Exterior Under $100,000 by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Each year, NARI members from across the country submit their best remodeling work to be considered for the National CotY Awards. The National CotY represents the best in the remodeling and design-build industry across the country.

Wentworth, Inc. was presented the award at NARI’s Evening of ExcellenceSM on March 28 at the Sheraton Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia. The Evening of ExcellenceSM is widely considered to be the premier event of the year in the remodeling industry, and was attended this year by more than 250 of the industry’s elite. Wentworth, Inc. received the Grand Prize award in the category Residential Exterior Under $100,000.


Mary Endres
Wentworth, Inc.
P 240.395.0705 x108

Bruce Wentworth
Wentworth, Inc.
P 240.395.0705 x100


(photos available)