When Frank Lloyd Wright Designed a Doghouse, His Smallest Architectural Creation (1956)

On your first day in archi­tec­ture school, you have to design a dog­house. Hav­ing nev­er set foot inside an archi­tec­ture school, I con­cede that the pre­vi­ous sen­tence may well be false, but you have to admit that it sounds plau­si­ble. As the sim­plest form of shel­ter in com­mon use across the world, the hum­ble dog­house presents to an aspir­ing archi­tect the most basic pos­si­ble test. If you can’t build one, what busi­ness do you have build­ing any­thing else? Yet it was with char­ac­ter­is­tic idio­syn­crasy that Frank Lloyd Wright, that most famous of all Amer­i­can archi­tects, took on the project of a dog­house only toward the end of his long life and career.

Images cour­tesy of the Marin Coun­ty Civic Cen­ter

“ ‘Eddie’s House’ is a dog­house designed gratis by Wright in 1956 to com­ple­ment a Uson­ian-style house he built on com­mis­sion for Robert and Glo­ria Berg­er between 1950 and 1951, in the Marin Coun­ty town of San Ansel­mo, Cal­i­for­nia,” writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Sarah Rose Sharp. The com­mis­sion, such as it was, came from the Berg­ers’ twelve-year-old son Jim. “I would appre­ci­ate it if you would design me a dog­house, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house,” he wrote to Wright, spec­i­fy­ing Eddie’s dimen­sions and offer­ing com­pen­sa­tion in the form of his paper-route mon­ey.

“A house for Eddie is an oppor­tu­ni­ty,” replied the archi­tect, and the fol­low­ing year — after fin­ish­ing up the pre­vi­ous project that had delayed him, the Solomon R. Guggen­heim Muse­umhe sent Jim a lit­er­al back-of-the-enve­lope dia­gram. As explained in the brief video from Marin Coun­ty’s Youtube chan­nel above, that was stan­dard Wright prac­tice: the archi­tec­t’s rough draw­ings were then con­vert­ed into prop­er plans by his staff at Tal­iesin. “I want­ed it to be easy,” says the grown-up Berg­er. “It was­n’t. It was a night­mare, so my dad built it.” And as for Eddie, he nev­er actu­al­ly slept in it.

The Berg­ers’ gold­en retriev­er “cer­tain­ly wouldn’t be the first of Wright’s clients to be dis­ap­point­ed by some of the architect’s short­com­ings,” writes Sharp. “Appar­ent­ly, as with many of Wright’s designs, the roof to Eddie’s House leaked.” Nev­er­the­less, it’s become a beloved addi­tion to the Wright canon since Berg­er rebuilt it for Michael Min­er’s Roman­za: A Frank Lloyd Wright Doc­u­men­tary and sub­se­quent­ly donat­ed it to the coun­ty. To this day, the repli­ca of Wright’s small­est work remains on dis­play inside his largest one: the Marin Civic Cen­ter, a slight­ly lat­er and much more ambi­tious build­ing, but one not entire­ly lack­ing in fam­i­ly resem­blance to Eddie’s House.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed con­tent:

12 Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Hous­es Offer Vir­tu­al Tours: Hol­ly­hock House, Tal­iesin West, Falling­wa­ter & More

Build Wood­en Mod­els of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Great Build­ing: The Guggen­heim, Uni­ty Tem­ple, John­son Wax Head­quar­ters & More

How Frank Lloyd Wright’s Son Invent­ed Lin­coln Logs, “America’s Nation­al Toy” (1916)

The Mod­ernist Gas Sta­tions of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe

Steve Mar­tin Per­forms Stand-Up Com­e­dy for Dogs (1973)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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