wright in the bay area
Check out FLW's Hanna-Honeycomb House on claass HAUS today.
Originally completed in 1937, the Hanna House just might be one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most innovative (and imaginative) domestic experiments. His first completed project in the Bay Area, the sprawling residential complex based on the honeycomb proved to be a critical turning point in the architect's career, marking his shift from rectilinear geometry to circular, triangular, and hexagonal forms (think the Guggenheim Museum). In his design for the Hanna House, the master of organic architecture broke the proverbial box, abandoning the rectangle to create a proto-Usonian home uniquely adaptable to life's changing needs.
Today, you can find the Hanna House nestled into a quiet, shady lot on the Stanford University campus. Commissioned in 1935 for a pair of Stanford educators (and childhood development experts), Paul and Jean Hanna, the house is the remarkable product of the close working relationship between the (prickly) architect and his (intrepid) clients. Over a period of 25 years, Wright and the Hannas collaborated on a radical residential design that evolved based on the family's immediate needs- first meeting the demands of a young married couple with small children and later becoming a showpiece for the empty nesters and their many guests. This extraordinary partnership (and lasting friendship) yielded an audacious act of architecture, a hexagonal house with a remarkable degree of flexibility and a purely Wrightian approach to detail.
Carefully situated to take full advantage of its heavily wooded, almost park-like lot, Wright's honeycomb design commands dramatic views of the surrounding landscape, its organic structure clinging to the hillside in a dramatic embrace of the site. The home's overall horizontal massing, low rooflines with prow-like gables, and wide overhanging eaves instantly reveal Wright's hand, while natural redwood siding, flat red brick, and chains of windows shade the exterior like the brushstrokes of an old master. On the interior, rooms easily flow from one to the next, each individual space (with the exception of the kitchen and bathroom) opening to terraces and the outdoors. The hexagon is repeated throughout the house, marking the concrete floors and directing the form of the custom furniture. Overall, the design for the Hanna House is an ingenious concept, a residential space that is modern in its informality, free in its movement, and intimately connected to nature. It is a living organism that coexists with the landscape and slowly evolves over time.
Construction on the house began in 1936, but work continued over the next two decades as the clients' personal and professional needs changed. From the very beginning, Wright devised a modular plan that was easily adaptable, and the architect would return to the project (one of his personal favorites) throughout the rest of his career, designing substantial remodels in 1950 and 1957. Ultimately, the 1.5-acre site grew to include not only the 2,500-square-foot main house but also a guesthouse, woodworking shop, storage building, garage, carport, breezeway, and garden house. As for the cost, the couple's initial $15,000 budget ballooned to $39,000 (just for the original design), far surpassing the Usonian notion of middle class affordability.
After rearing three children and managing successful careers, Paul and Jean Hanna remained in their honeycomb house for most of their lives, finally donating the landmark to Stanford University in 1975. The home would go on to house four provosts until 1989 when the structure suffered severe damage in the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Following a difficult decade-long restoration process, the residence reopened to the public in 1999. Today, the National Historic Landmark is available for tours by appointment.
You can read more about Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian housing here and here.
Image at top:
By Sanfranman59 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
Leave a Reply.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.