Google+ House Revivals: U is for Usonian

Thursday, June 10, 2010

U is for Usonian

U is for Usonian. As in the adjective!  As in Frank Lloyd Wright's description of a type of affordable architecture for people in the United States of North America.

Although, Frank Lloyd Wright probably was not the original author of the term "Usonian", his Usonian philosophy was definitely an original concept in architecture.  

 image from Frankk Lloyd Wright Foundation website, here.
To see an interview of Mr. Wright by Mike Wallace, click here.

Always an independent thinker, often a ruffler of feathers, later a more soft spoken and thoughtful speaker, Wright has come to be known as one of the great architects of all time.

Wright's Usonian homes were designed to be affordable and  elegant, simple, and built from interlocking concrete block.  The idea was that they would be easily reproduced and built in garden cites all over the country.  The Usonian house was a response to the automobile and the over crowded conditions in most cities of the time. 

Although Wright designed the house around a lifestyle concept for the common man, the Usonian house never quite caught on the way Wright had envisioned.  In this way, architects can be similar to politicians-- they both have strong opinions about how other people should live!  

Another big problem with the Usonian houses was that they were too expensive for the common man to afford.  The few homes that did get built, were customized to the point that they came in way over budget.  There is no denying, however, that they were beautiful pieces of sculpture.

 Perhaps the most beautiful example of Usonian architecture 
is the Pope-Leighey house, shown here.  To see this, and other 
striking images of Usonian houses, click here

With it's concrete block walls, concrete slab floor, and attached carport, the importance of the Usonian concept was probably not in it's own execution, but in it's function as a precursor to the popular ranch houses that later popped up all over the country.  And those ranch houses did, indeed, help define a unique American style of living!
American architecture and lifestyle began
to center around the automobile, as 
predicted by Frank Lloyd Wright, during
the second half of the last century. image source

This post is being linked to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Tuesday.  To see more posts on the letter "U", click here.


  1. I think I saw something about him once on an HGTV program. I don't remember what program it was but they were showing one of his homes. Great u post.

  2. Such a unique choice for your "U" word...I just love architecture and appreciate F L Wright...very cool...peace and blessings

  3. I don't think I could ever have been comfortable in one of those houses - every time I see one in a magazine I just think 'how cold'.

  4. I lived all of one mile from the Pope-Leighy house and not once did I go see it! Is that not the most ridiculous thing??

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. oh this was a great post, I love that i learn so much somedays ... and today is no exception.

  6. Here in Colorado for the longest time we had this nifty house that was actually designed by the husband of my moms best childhood is a treat to see

  7. they definitely are not me...too stark and geometric, but I appreciate his vision....

  8. I learned a lot from this, thanks :)

  9. You got me on this one!

    A word I have never heard of...I'm inspired by this post, though. I often forget how lovely spare lines can be.

    Your example photo is charming!

    Thank you for sharing your own inspiration for Alphabe-Thursday!

    This was really unbelievably fascinating to me.


  10. I love all the different styles of architecture that you share with us! Frank Lloyd Wright's creations are certainly unique.
    "Usonian" is such an interesting word too... hm...I just had to google search more... I also love to learn the origins of words, phrases, and anything else!

    Blessings & Aloha!
    (thank you again for stopping by! I truly enjoy finding your sweet and uplifting comments :o)

  11. Wonderful post for U, and I always thought that his designs are wonderful and fantastic.

  12. I had a busy weekend and did not get to visit very many alpabe-thursday friends so I am trying to get a few in before the next post. I work for an appraiser and we have been appraising a home that reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright homes. It is a lake home and very unique. They just finished the build which is great in itself because there are very few new homes being built in todays economy.

  13. My uncle (who took his life at 23) was FLW's intern. His journals describe him as "a man impossible to get along with". I always think of Bob when I pass the Rocky Mountain National Park visitors center FLW designed. I didn't know about the Usonian houses, so thanks for teaching me something new.

  14. The modern trend in design is toward integration of previously separated specialties, especially among large firms. In the past, architects, interior designers, engineers, developers, construction managers, and general contractors were more likely to be entirely separate companies, even in the larger firms.


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