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Platonic Solids


Passing platonic solids isn’t as painful as it might sound.

The “Shingle Style” is a design idiom relatively easy to assimilate, based as it is on the manipulation of platonic shapes such as those propounded by German educator Friedrich Fröbel. [I know, enough about Fröbel, already!] Though the German died mid-century and didn’t live to see the impact his educational theories would have on childhood education generally and American architecture in particular, he’d be surprised to find familiar shapes in Oak Park, Illinois, for example: The Walter Gale house of 1893 is a classic case in point.

The juxtaposition of three primary geometric solids, the prism, cylinder, and rectangular slab in that hierarchy of importance, all wrapped in narrow horizontal clapboard and shingled roofs was a stunning achievement for the very young Frank Lloyd Wright (twenty-six at the time), still employed by the Adler & Sullivan firm. It was work like this that caught Sullivan’s attention and resulted in the angry scene where phrases like “You can’t fire me; I just quit!” were hurled about. Design like this isn’t produced by people trying to hide.

Not wanting to beat a flagging horse, I won’t invoke the C. T. Mott/Motte house referenced several times in the past week, except to say that comparably reductive geometries were quite easy to interpret as a plan. Once you’ve looked at as many houses from the years 1885-1915 as I have, it takes little effort to imagine the two unillustrated sides of the house and the interior arrangement.

It’s really too bad there is so little market for this sort of shit, ’cause I’m damnably good at it.

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