The natural beauty of our state inspires artists of every medium to create objects and images that tell us how they interpret our world. For Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work seeks to blend architecture with its surrounding landscape, the Gordon House of Silverton, Oregon represented his vision of a modern farmhouse blending into the lush Willamette Valley.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
As the most celebrated designer of the modern age, Frank Lloyd Wright recreated the modern home during his seven decade career. From windows to dinnerware, everything he designed fell under the philosophy of “form following function ” and his contribution to the Oregon landscape is no exception. The Gordon House in Silverton, designed in 1957 and built in 1963 is one of his last works and one where he strove to perfect his Unisonian design for a middle-class family.
Flow and Form
One of the most noticeable features in the Gordon House are the visual lines running throughout every room. Wright connected the lines found in windowpanes, bookshelves, couch cushions, and floor tiles to keep the eye moving and the sense of flow running throughout the interior.
Striving to make the design functional and comfortable, Wright followed the homeowner’s preference for his pick-up’s bench seat as his most comfortable chair by incorporating a fifteen degree angle into the living room settee. Just as he did with lines, he also carried that theme into other aspects of the design. You’ll find it in the edges and legs of the coffee table the repeated pattern in the elaborate windowpanes, and many other places throughout the house.
Keeping the uniform lines of the house in place was an important task for Wright. Even when creating a view from the master bedroom on one end of the home to the office at other end, the architect kept to his design by incorporating a series of narrow windows with a clear sight through four rooms.
A Futuristic Home
Wright broke the mold of a typical middle class family’s home by incorporating the latest features in building into the design. Good examples of this are found in the kitchen’s skylight and the floor to ceiling windows that let in natural light and opened the home to the world outside. This was a new concept at the time.
Wright’s Unisonian style provided a breath of fresh after the heavier Craftsman style of the architect’s earlier period. The Gordon House’s fireplace is clean and linear, with a curtain screen that follows the corner of the chimney and there is no mantle or base in the cinderblock structure.
Wright’s design reflects the transitional age of his time. You’ll see this in the kitchen where, in the past, servants would be mostly kept out of sight. The narrow entryways of the Gordon House were meant to keep the business of the house out of sight, but taking the doors off allowed an unobstructed view of the living room activities for the lady of this middle income home.
The Private Rooms
The kitchen has been left as it was built, with the original 1960’s appliances still in-tact. (You’ll notice a drop box to the basement’s incinerator is conveniently located in the wall just outside the room.)
There are three bedrooms in the Gordon House, the master on the main floor and two more upstairs. In each, the use of cinderblock, wood and the continuing themes of connecting lines and fifteen degree angles are part of the design.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s design gives visitors to the Gordon House’s a feeling of being inside an art piece, and possibly even a part of it. It’s clear that his design was meant to merge the environment with the home, making it one of Oregon’s architectural masterpieces.