Archives For architects
Two of the most creative architects ever to embrace the round form, Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff, were both born on June 8—Wright in 1867, and Goff in 1904.
For Wright, the circular form symbolized freedom, an escape from the traditional residential box. As he explained in 1952, “a box is a containment. I tried to abolish the box.” Wright designed at least 14 round and semi-circular houses, as well as, most famously, the spiraling Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Not all of his round house designs were built; sadly, some of his most beautiful and innovative efforts never made it beyond the planning stage.
Wright’s 1938 project for Ralph Jester, meant for a suburban housing community in Palos Verdes, California, was his first attempt at a circular residence -
Another unbuilt round house was the Ludd M. Spivey house, which Wright designed during the same period.
Designed by maverick American architect Bruce Goff, the Ruth Ford House — known variously as the Round House, Coal House, and Umbrella House — is a creative tour de force. It could not look less like neighboring houses in suburban Aurora, Illinois, where it was built in 1947-49, and local people took it as an architectural affront. Fortunately, as the photo below attests, the owners of the house were undaunted -
A colony of Wallace Neff’s bubble houses (“maisons ballons”) in Dakar — as they look now -
And as they looked in 1949, when they were built -
Cecil Alexander’s circular house in Atlanta, on the cover of Florida Architect in April 1958. Finished in 1957, the house was featured in Life magazine in November of that year, and in Progressive Architecture in November 1959.
Back in the late 1950s, when living in the suburbs was understood to be the common aspiration of mankind, the magazine Suburbia Today asked this question of its readers. In an article about the “unusual suburban home” of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Benson, whose circular floor plan offered ample open space for entertaining guests, it gave an appealing glimpse of life in the round.
Stunning views, tasteful furnishings, elegant cocktail parties — a round home was modern and glamorous, the magazine suggested.
The Walter Bensons wanted their house to be round so that they could get maximum exposure to their magnificent views. To live way, way up on the top of a mountain in a house that seems to melt in with its surroundings; to look freely all about you and see the mountain ridges to the side, the bay and ocean below, and the teeming city across that you must be part of and yet can turn away from at will — this was the dream of the Bensons.
Built in 1950, the house was said to be in terrible shape in 1998 when it was bought and restored by actress Kelly Lynch and writer Mitch Glazer. Lautner principal Helena Arahuete led the restoration, and the original builder, John de la Veaux, came back to assist on it.
The swirling living room is stunning.
The circle-studded facade of NYC’s Dream Downtown Hotel -
The hotel is the latest incarnation of an iconic 1966 building designed by Louisiana architect Albert C. Ledner, known for a sort of playful, oddball modernism. Just off Ninth Avenue, stretching between West 16th and 17th Street, the building was recently transformed by Handel Architects. The building’s 16th Street facade, above, was covered in shiny stainless steel, as was its 17th Street facade (on the left, below, in its original red-brick cladding).
The building’s circular motif — equally in evidence in the adjoining Ledner-designed structure, the white tile and concrete Maritime Hotel — reflects the structure’s history. Both buildings were originally annexes to the headquarters of the National Maritime Union: the porthole windows were a coy reference to life at sea.
Ledner, whose use of circular forms extends from his professional to his personal life, or vice-versa, lives in a round house of his own design in New Orleans.
Somehow in putting together my list of round houses for sale I overlooked the most fabulous of them all: Seymour Harris’ Tukal, in Hampshire, England. At an asking price of £12 million (over $18 million), it is easily the world’s most expensive circular home, but unlike some of round McMansions currently on the market, it’s more than just an ostentatious display of wealth — it actually has style and daring.
Yes, it’s monstrously large — and yes, it has its own lake, 10-acre garden and private dock — but beyond the glitz are some appealing ideas about structure, transparency and the flow of space.
Designed by architect Seymour Harris in 1962 as home for himself and his wife, the house in its current iteration might be best understood as an asynchronous collaboration between Harris and architect Nic Bailey. Harris moved to the Bahamas in 1968; the house suffered through a series of bad owners and unhappy renovations, and Bailey was brought in to salvage it several years ago, when the house was bought by its current owner, Mike Browne.