Frank Lloyd Wright was a world-renown architect born in 1867 who lived to be 92 years old and his career lasted for 70+ years. During that time he designed over 1,000 buildings, of which more than 530 were built to completion. People not in the architecture business may not know that this is actually a very good track record, especially for an architect whose career included periods when building Avant guard structures was not a cultural priority.
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His designs, at least ostensibly, were meant to produce structures that were to be well-tuned with the environment and with the nature and needs of the humans who would use them.
One of his most interesting home designs, the “Usonian” design, was used to build a home on the shore of Crystal Lake in Virginia Beach. It was sold for just $2.2 million in 2016. The structure features Wright’s own “hemicircle” look which is designed to be unimposing, offer a natural flow, and allow for the maximum contact with the surrounding environment.
While the front of the building is rather conservative in nature, with an unusual overhang but otherwise nothing especially unusual – the building has some surprises for first-time visitors. Chief among these is the fact that the house is built around the semi-circle of windows which make up an entire side of the building and offers an uncompromisingly massive view of Crystal Lake and its far shores.
The main room inside the semi-circle window is a massively multipurpose area with dining furniture, lounge furniture, and a long, arced row of chairs almost as if in anticipation of a large lakeside spectacle. At a glance, the whole place is steeped in what appears to be a 1960s-1970s aesthetic with brickwork made up of long bricks separated by thin mortar. Also, in keeping with this theme, the space is dominated by light browns and dim golds in a subdued version of an almost art-deco décor.
A bit deeper into the home, away from the overpowering lakeside window, we find a very conservative dining area. The tone and décor are the same as that of the outer area with a large open stove made from long brick, a dark brown marble floor, and particularly simple furnishings. Standing aside the dining table is a small cooking cabinet with pantries and cupboards.
Possibly the most noteworthy interior feature is that open stove which doubles as a fireplace with small seats made from tree stumps near the raised cooking grille. This is clearly meant to entertain a whole group as open flame has always been excellent for that purpose.
Outdoors, the semi-circle of windows is even more striking, made from bright red-stained wood and heavily glossed. It stands in strong contrast to the evergreen trees and lake background, yet it does not detract from the naturalistic features of the property. The feeling is something like having landed in a spaceship to enjoy an especially verdant part of another world.
All told, it’s quite an inspiring design.