The Bazett House - Hillsborough - Page 4

A 'paradise lost' that Joe Eichler never regained—the legendary Bazett house of Frank Lloyd Wright

On the scale of the individual family, Wright imagined the Usonian: a warm, open-planned, small home designed for convenience, economy, and comfort. Wright's model of residential design for the "everyman" would provide abundant lessons for the designers of Eichler Homes. While the formal imagery of the Eichlers more closely resembles European Modernism, their integration with the landscape and the specific use of indigenous materials owes a debt to Wright, who pursued his vision of the well-designed small house with a sense of moral purpose.

Unlike the mass-produced Eichlers, Wright's Usonians were always custom designed for individual clients, but the homes were always very modestly scaled; their planning made efficient with built-in furniture and a minimum of circulation space. The architects who designed Eichler's homes would employ many of Wright's Usonian principles when designing Eichler's prototypes.

Many features of Wright's Usonian houses, including the Bazett house, and the more famous Hanna house constructed in Palo Alto in 1938, are common to the Eichler homes. It would seem likely, considering their proximity and their considerable notoriety, that these homes provided Eichler's first architect, Bob Anshen, who felt such deep sympathy toward Wright's work, convenient resources for ideas and techniques. In fact, the design parameters Wright defined for his Usonians were remarkably similar to those Anshen would employ in his prototypical designs for Eichler.

When seen today, the Bazett house is obviously a product of an earlier time. The fact that nothing about the house is standardized points to a condition, before modern codes and the machine-like construction methods of contemporary building, when houses were "hand crafted." Ornament aside, however, it is the careful accommodation of the intimate duties and pleasures of domestic life that have made this Usonian meaningful for the Franks for almost 55 years. And for Joe Eichler and Bob Anshen, the house was a touchstone that never ceased to resonate for either of them as they strove to transcend the limits of merchant building.


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