Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Summer Plans in Greater Cincinnati: Touring Home

Last weekend I was reminded again of the inferiority of digital images when it comes to experiencing architecture. On Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the William P. Boswell House in Indian Hill. After a number of semesters as an undergrad learning about the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright through slide presentations, and then as a grad student at the University of Chicago walking by the Robie House almost daily, I knew my afternoon would be filled with right angles. To be honest, I was looking forward more to meeting new people or seeing familiar faces than touring the house during this official launch of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Conference taking place later this year.

The drive through Indian Hill to the house was beautifully teasing. Immediately, I wanted a closer look at all of those homes I passed on the way to the Boswell House. These seemed much more interesting to me than the grid I was about to enter.

The William P. Boswell House (blogger slide show) was completed in 1959. The familiar Prairie style structure was no real surprise to me until I walked into the house. The beautiful woodwork is much more soothing than I expected. I anticipated the hard-edged style emphasized in pictures, the efficiency of space and storage, and a compactness stressed by the pyramid roof that seems to further compress space. But this house is enormous! Since the house's construction its kitchen and baths (5 of them!) have been renovated. The size and spacious feel of the house is achieved through efficiency as well as Frank Lloyd Wright's ability to wed indoor and outdoor spaces. Both of these characteristics are lost when looking at slides of the Prairie House style. Unfortunately these characteristics have also been abandoned with recent house design in favor of studding our American landscape with "mcmansions."

I enjoy slide shows as much as anyone else. In fact, I've relied much of my work on the quality of reproductions of art and pictures of architecture. Fortunately, having access to and taking the time to actually visit these architectural spaces offer an experience we all know cannot be matched by a slide show.

Greater Cincinnati has many such structures: historic buildings, house museums, older homes. To see them, resist the temptation to simply visit websites. Instead, take a drive or walk this summer and experience them. This is my plan for the summer.