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Walter Rudin House, Erdman Prefab II

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1959, Frank Lloyd Wright and Marshall Erdman. 110 Marinette Trail

The 1959 “Parade of Homes” in Madison showcased the second prefabricated dwelling that Wright had designed for building contractor and developer Marshall Erdman, who marketed it as the latest in his line of “U-Form-It Houses.” Wright wanted this, like his other Usonian designs, to be affordable to the middle class, so he used stock windows and doors from Andersen and Pella and standard dimensions of plywood, Masonite, and dry wall. He sold only two copies of this model, the first to Rudin, a professor at the University of Wisconsin.

The exterior is most remarkable for its generous and creative use of windows. The living room is glazed with continuous vertical bands of windows, so that even though the room is two stories tall, it appears to enclose a one-story volume. A ribbon of awning windows runs just underneath the roof, so that the heavy cornice, enriched with a geometric motif, almost appears to float above the house. This cornice and a one-story, glazed dining bay with an overhanging roof create a strong horizontality. The sense of a single volume of space continues inside, where the dramatic two-story living room and an open floor plan create what is in essence a one-room house. Upstairs bedrooms open onto a balcony overlooking the living room. Wright gave privacy to the bedrooms by enclosing them with folding walls. The design reflected Wright’s ongoing interest in Japanese architecture. The gridded glass walls evoke shoji, a translucent screen of paper and wood used as a sliding door. The folding bedroom walls, too, recall Japanese partition walls.

In collaborating with Erdman, Wright gave up his usual control of the building’s site plan. In this case, the design proved ill-suited to its environment. The glass-walled living room and dining bay both face north, exposing these rooms to cold winter winds. Erdman also reversed Wright’s plan so that the living room opened onto the street rather than to a neighboring house. The change added privacy but made it harder to keep the house warm.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Marsha Weisiger et al.
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Citation

Marsha Weisiger et al., "Walter Rudin House, Erdman Prefab II", [Madison, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WI-01-DA41.

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 462-463.

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