99% Invisible: 246- Usonia 1
February 15, 2017 7:08 AM - Subscribe

Frank Lloyd Wright was a bombastic character that ultimately changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known works, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful house. This modest home would go on to shape the way working- and middle-class Americans live to this day. And it all started with a journalist from Milwaukee.
posted by jazon (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I loved this! But I pretty much love anything Avery Trufelman does, she is amazing. I haven't listened to the second part yet.

Roman was featured on the Surprisingly Nice podcast recently, and I just started listening to the episode. How many shows does Travis McElroy do!?! Roman mentioned that his show got a big bump early on by being featured in MeFi's own Jesse Thorn's blog, which I didn't know.
posted by radioamy at 8:13 PM on February 15, 2017

Oh FLW, you and your anti-garageism. Carport, shmarport.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:27 PM on February 15, 2017

I am torn about garages. On one hand, they provide valuable storage, and space for appliances (laundry, extra fridge, etc.). But they *do* encourage you to accumulate junk. My best friend's mom had to move out of the place she's lived for 20 years, and they had to hire pros to deal with the amount of crap in the garage.
posted by radioamy at 2:33 PM on February 16, 2017

Yeah, that can be a hassle, but a garage is a god-send in places where they got real bastardly winters. Which is the case in Wisconsin, I believe. A carport just isn't enough!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:02 AM on February 17, 2017

As usual, I enjoyed this episode.

I'm always a bit conflicted when it comes to FLR. On one hand, he designed some absolutely amazing buildings. Unity Temple deserves a place on any top three list of the most beautiful structures mankind has ever created. It's absolutely fantastic.

On the other hand, he seems to have been an arrogant sociopath and a complete asshole to everyone in his personal life, and he spent a whole lot of his time advocating for everything that I hate about America. Insisting on stupidly non-ergonomic chairs no human would want to sit in and designing dresses to match the furniture reach comic-book-villain levels of obnoxious. Holding press conferences to announce how awesome the suburbs will be are surely the long-con version of an actual comic book villain's plan to destroy the world. Refusing to include storage falls into the same category.

Want affordable, beautiful, replicable housing for the average Joe? Large, multi-unit dwellings in the center of the city with all the advantages of public infrastructure and shared common spaces are the way to go. We learned this hundreds of years ago. Moving to the countryside and building structures that claim - but fail - to blend in with the natural environment is a luxury only the astonishingly wasteful would contemplate. The rest of us live in places that haven't been natural to centuries, our households cost a tiny fraction of what it takes to maintain a leaky Usonia home in the middle of nowhere and then commute to civilization, and we take day-trips to see actual falling water without having to pay admission to some dead rich guy's house to enjoy the experience.

In short, it's a shame so much talent was wasted on building a world I don't want to live in.
posted by eotvos at 9:27 AM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

L, LL, W, R, whatever. You get the idea. (Sorry.)
posted by eotvos at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2017

Yeah, I was struck with how beautiful and how stupid Frank Lloyd Wright's vision was. His apparent hatred of kitchens (I had no idea) also seems to show a lack of understanding of how women in his suburban 'utopia' had to spend much of their time.
posted by latkes at 2:51 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

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