Want to Tour a FLWright?

Wright's East Bay Buehler Usonian opens up May 17 for a preservationist fundraiser
The Buehler house
Here's a rare opportunity to get inside a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Buehler house (pictured here), in San
Francisco's East Bay, will open its doors for a benefit tour May 17. Don't miss it.
The Buehler house
Above and below: A peek inside Wright's Buehler house.
The Buehler house

A wonderful, amazingly intact Frank Lloyd Wright house in the bucolic suburb of Orinda will soon open its doors as a benefit for one of the Bay Area's most active preservation groups.

The Buehler house, built in 1948 for Maynard and Katie Buehler, will be open on May 17 as a fundraiser for Oakland Heritage Alliance, a group that fights to preserve buildings and landscapes throughout Oakland and that puts on dozens of tours, lectures, and other events annually. It was founded in 1980.

The event, 'Modernism Masterfully Melded with Nature: Frank Lloyd Wright's Buehler House Tour,' is actually two events. On Tuesday May 5, at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, author Alan Hess will give an introduction to the tour itself.

His talk, 'How the West Shaped Frank Lloyd Wright,' will start at 7 p.m. at the chapel, located at 4499 Piedmont Avenue.

"The idea of the talk is that Wright in the 1930s was looking for new ideas and a new base," Hess says. "He found it in the Arizona desert, which he had visited since the late 1920s. By the late 1930s he decided to build his second home there, Taliesin West. The materials, forms, color, and growing suburban cities of the Sunbelt inspired him in the great resurgence of his career from the late 1930s until his passing in 1959."

Although the Chapel of the Chimes is known for the architecture of its older building, a Gothic-styled fantasy by Julia Morgan, modernism fans should check out the later addition, which was designed by Aaron Green, one of Wright's leading associates and followers in a style that recalls that of Wright himself.

The Buehler house tour, which runs Sunday May 17 from 2 to 6 p.m., will feature "sparkling wine, delightful confections, and string ensemble music, with like-minded admirers of exemplary design," according to OHA, as the preservation group is known. The 3.5-acre site has a koi pond, a teahouse, and landscaping by the renowned Henry Matsutani.

The Buehler house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of Wright's 'Usonian' designs.

"Wright coined the term 'Usonia' for an egalitarian American culture he predicted would emerge," OHA writes. "He intended to make artistically interesting designs accessible to middle-class families, and to create environments in which people would interact closely. Usonian houses had a profound influence on post-WW II design, especially in the open and flowing space plans."

One man who was influenced by Wright's Usonian homes, of course, was none other than Joe Eichler, who spent the World War II years living in a rented Usonian house on the Peninsula. That is where he became inspired to build houses.

The Buehler house was built just as Eichler was beginning his new career in home building. For more information on the Buehler house tour, click here.