Calendar of Events

Spring 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011
Anna Vemer Andrzejewski
Midwestern Modernism: “Wrightification” and Domestic Architecture in Madison, Wisconsin, 1930-1970
4:30 pm Architecture and Urban Planning (AUP) 170
2131 E Hartford Ave
Co-sponsored by the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) and buildings-landscapes-cultures (blc) initiative

Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on twentieth-century domestic architecture is well known. By the time the Wasmuth Portfolio was published in Germany in 1910, the allure of Wright’s prairie-style houses, the culmination of his early artistic development, was already evident in Madison, less than an hour from Wright’s birthplace in southwestern Wisconsin. In a city that would eventually feature several important Wright commissions, including the Gilmore “Airplane” House (1908), the Usonian Jacobs house I (1936), and the First Unitarian Meeting House (1947), the architect’s influence remains especially pronounced. By mid-century, architects and builders drew upon Wright’s aesthetics to the extent that one can speak of a widespread trend of Wrightification, which for them represented an obvious superficial link to their local, modern, genius.

Usonian Jacobs House 1

Andrzejewski’s talk focuses on ways in which Madison-based architects and builders adopted and transformed elements from Wright’s architecture in the postwar period. It will highlight the career of one Wrightifier, Marshall Erdman, who initially met Wright when he was hired as the contractor for the Unitarian Meeting House. Like other Wrightifiers, Erdman adopted elements from Wright’s prairie style aesthetics, but unlike others, Erdman also followed Wright’s modular method of building in prefabricated houses and (later) medical buildings as well as in his approach to site planning. Looking at Erdman alongside others who appropriated elements from Wright’s architecture, Andrzejewski suggests the importance of place in Madison’s mid-twentieth century domestic architecture. In so doing, she seeks to revise dominant narratives about postwar architectural modernism, and its supposed homogeneity, by suggesting that regional concerns remained at the forefront of modernism in the Upper Midwest.

Also of interest: Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century, at The Milwaukee Art Museum, February 12 – May 15, 2011, Baker/Rowland Galleries.

Photo: James Steakly, Wikimedia, under Creative Commons license. Usonian Jacobs House I, Madison, Wisconsin.

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