Instant House

A blog tribute to the manufactured, mass-produced, modular and kit homes that grace the American landscape.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Solar Hemicycle Usonian Homes

The Next Wave of Usonian Homes  
An unusual bunch of semi-circular houses came out of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian houses.  In 1943, Wright pioneered the idea of a house that uses the sun as a natural source of light and heat.  That is to say, an INTENTIONAL source of light and heat.  All structures take into account the sun in some manner, even if it's only "oh, the kitchen is on the south side of the house so you'll get nice light in the afternoon".  The Solar Hemicycle houses are intentionally oriented and shaped in a manner that maximizes the sun's exposure.  Oddly enough, the first Solar Hemicycle house was built for the Jacobs family, the very same family that commissioned the first Usonian house.  *I can't find anything to support this, but I'm willing to bet that wartime fuel rationing was the inspiration for Wright's using the sun as a heating/lighting source.

Interior of the 2nd Jacob's House
Jacob's 2nd House Design  
The Solar Hemicycle homes are semi-circular in nature to take advantage of the sun's differing heights at different times of the year.  The south side of the house (interior of the curve) is glazed floor-to-ceiling, maximizing sun exposure.  The north side of the house is an earth berm--to block the cold winds.  This is Wisconsin, after all.  Like the original Usonians, the house is essentially a one-big-room-with-bedrooms layout.  This design was repeated in several other houses, including the Meyer House (Michigan), the Laurent House (Illinois), and the Pearce House (California).



A 1970s Passive Solar Home (not FLW)
The Solar Hemicycles Legacy  
It took a little while for the concept of the sun-as-energy-source to catch on.  It also took a national fuel crisis.  In the 1970s, many houses that were either "passive solar" or "active solar" were built to take advantage of the sun, and they share many of the features as the Wright Solar Hemicycles (glazed southern exposures, fortress-like north walls, etc.).  As the nation (and the world) is in another borderline fuel crisis, solar homes are starting to reappear.  A development of "Solar Hemicycles" in Claverdon Village, Warwickshire, UK, takes particular inspiration from the Wright Hemicycles.


Approach to the 2nd Jacob's House - Through the berm!


1st Floor Plan of the 2nd Jacobs House - Notice the curious indoor/outdoor fish pond.



The 2nd floor of the Jacbos House.
The family had grown, necessitating a new home with five bedrooms.

Wright's layout of the 2nd Jacobs House.  You can see his solar calculations at the bottom.

The Cooke Home.

The Curtis Meyer Home in Galesburg, Michigan.

The Laurent Home of Rockford, Illinois.

The Wilbur Pearce Home in Bradbury, California.


2 comments:

  1. Spring House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Clifton and George Lewis II of Tallahassee, is the only private residence in Florida built during the great architect's lifetime (completed in 1954). The primary shape of the home is created by the intersection of two hemicycles. Learn more at http://PreserveSpringHouse.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. Spring House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Clifton and George Lewis II of Tallahassee, is the only private residence in Florida built during the great architect's lifetime (completed in 1954). The primary shape of the home is created by the intersection of two hemicycles. Learn more at http://PreserveSpringHouse.org

    ReplyDelete