"I believe a house is more a home by being a work of art."
-Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959) was one of America’s most influential twentieth century architects. His concept of the Usonian House-- "a home of the common people"--can be seen in eight homes that he designed in Kalamazoo County.
The Usonian House
Ideally, the Usonian House is situated on an acre of land with a large living room and fireplace, a convenient kitchen, indirect lighting, heated concrete mat floors and built-in furniture and closets. The walls are constructed of inexpensive concrete blocks accented with mahogany trim and an extensive wall of windows overlooking a naturally landscaped yard. Designed to control costs, it has no attic, basement, visible roof, garage, gutters or downspouts.
In the late 1940's a group of young, admiring professionals here persuaded Wright to design affordable houses they could build themselves. He was pleased with the initiative of the group’s work to "achieve individual freedom." He recognized the need for a moderately priced house with "a pattern for more simplified and...more gracious living." He was involved with every detail from master site plans, house plans, furniture and landscape designs.
Usonians in Kalamazoo
There are four Usonian houses in Parkwyn Village in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1947, Wright planned and designed the plat on 57-acres of suburban property. He developed a circular road pattern and circular lots (the "biscuit cutter" layout, later modified to a more conventional design) and implemented underground utilities. Four Usonian homes were built in The Acres, located on 72-acres of rural property near Galesburg in eastern Kalamazoo County. For pictures and details about these homes, consult the sources listed below.
The houses were built to maximize privacy, thus making some difficult to view from the road. He utilized native plants, trees and wildflowers so the house became "integral with the site." While homeowners have made modifications over the years, the structures remain intact. The Usonian houses are unique and unconventional, reflecting Wright’s innovative and creative ideas in the world of architecture.