Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, Emerald Bay, California, 1923

Wright's designs for the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, begun in 1923 while he was pursuing hopes for Doheny, were also speculative. The site of some 200 acres enclosed the head of Emerald Bay at the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe. As records show, he attempted to interest the owner of the property - a woman of means by the name of Jessie Armstrong - with preliminary drawings of his proposal. Impressed with Wright as a person, she remained reserved regarding his work. His ideas for Lake Tahoe remained unrealized, although the site, now a state park, has survived largely untouched.

Mobility was fundamental to Wright's concept, not the mobility of the automobile and integrated roadways seen in the other projects in the exhibition but that of the houses themselves. Here he conceived floating cabins whose changeable positions on the water would intensify the visual impact of the bay, and conceived the inn, itself approached by a floating bridge, as a sort of elaborate jetty.

Hypothetical study model of the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

In constructing the hypothetical study model of Wright's Tahoe design, cabins were located in ways suggested by Wright's perspectives. The linear quality of the Shore Type, for example, was clearly meant to embank the water's edge.

An examination of the upper areas of the site revealed several natural terraces, bordered by rocks, that correspond to perspectives of the other types. Only a few cabins are shown to suggest the openness Wright might have sought. The inn and its network of floating piers were developed from the surviving sketch showing a site plan and partial elevation.

Basswood, birch, and acrylic, 1995-96. Scale: 1 inch = 50 feet (area represented: approximately 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile). Created for the exhibition by George Ranalli, architect, with Aaron McDonald and Julie Shurtz, model makers (56)

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Panorama, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, Steamer at Pier

Early in the century Emerald Bay was an established destination for tourists on lake steamers that arrived at a pier near the entrance to the bay.

Harold A. Parker. ca. 1910 (negative exposed), modern print from copy negative. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (148)

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Road map showing the proposed location of the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, Emerald Bay, California

 

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Worthington Gates, cartographer. California Automobile Tours. (Oakland: California Automobile Tours,1914). Relief halftone and letterpress. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (57)

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Two views of the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony Project and perspective sketch of Wigwam cabin

Wright superimposed an outline of the Lake Tahoe summer colony over an aerial photograph of the site, reflecting his broad, inclusive vision of landscape and facilitating the depiction of his knowing manipulation. The original sketch remains undiscovered.

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Heinrich de Fries, ed., Frank Lloyd Wright: aus dem Lebenswerke eines Architekten (Berlin: Verlag Ernest Pollak, 1926), pp. 46-47. Relief halftone. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.. Howard Dearstyne Collection, Gift of Marjorie Smolka (58)

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Inn

The site of the colony included the lake's only island, about the size of a city block, and there Wright located the focal point of the development: an inn built out over the bay and linked to the mainland by a varied network of floating piers. Wright gave it special prominence by placing it adjacent to the island itself, where it would have appeared romantically isolated.

The outline of the small island would have been intensified by the sympathetically scaled inn, and brought into strong alliance with the surrounding mountains through its connection to the shore. Had he continued to plan, bringing the individual cabins more firmly into the composition, they would no doubt have further structured their setting.

The true basis for any serious study of the art of architecture is in those indigenous structures, the more humble buildings everywhere, which are to architecture what folklore is to literature or folksongs are to music . . . . All are happily content with what ornament and color they carry, as naturally as the rocks and trees and garden slopes which are with them. 1910

Site plan and partial elevation showing inn, piers, and floating cabins for the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The complicated intersections of the pitched and hipped roofs seem to be under study in this drawing. Prominent in the elevation is a polygonal element linking the central chimney with the lower bay window of the lounge. It resembles the elaborate, multi-wired radio antennae shown on the roofs of the floating cabins.

Site plan and partial elevation showing inn, piers, and floating cabins for the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and crayon on tracing paper, ca. 1923. Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York (35)

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Sketch perspectives and plans for the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

A recently discovered sheet of sketches in Wright's hand hints at yet another cabin prototype: a cabin bridging a chasm, as seen in the lower-right corner, with a corresponding plan in the upper left. It would have been more difficult to place than the others as such chasms are rare.

Sketch perspectives and plans for the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on Japanese paper, ca. 1923. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.. Gift, Donald D. Walker, 1986 (36)

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Cabins

Along the shore and on nearby mountain slopes, Wright proposed a series of individual cabins. No site plan survives to locate these exactly, and probably none was ever drawn; as with the Doheny Ranch, he had conceived prototypes that could be varied to meet specific demands. He gave them names evocative of appearance or location: Lodge, Wigwam, Fir Tree, Shore Type.

He again proposed his system of concrete blocks, but to be made of Tahoe's white sand rather than the granite and sandstone of Los Angeles, and limited to the retaining walls of terraces and the lower walls of the buildings. The upper levels of the cabins were to be of stained boards and the steep roofs of copper, with standing seams aligned to emphasize crystalline patterns.

Perspective and partial plan for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

This perspective, more finished than the alternate perspective shown, reveals how effectively Wright refined his Tahoe vocabulary by adding angled bays, complicated roof profiles, and more varied terraces.

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Perspective and partial plan for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (37)

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Perspective and partial plan for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

A preliminary perspective shows the cabin and adjacent, multi-leveled terraces dramatically sited atop high retaining walls that seem to define one edge of a level clearing.

Perspective and partial plan for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on Japanese paper, ca. 1923. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. Gift of George Jacobsen and of the CCA Founder's Circle, in his memory, 1994 (38)

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Elevation for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

 

Elevation for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (39)

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Plan for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

Notes in Wright's hand list prototypes being considered for the colony. These correspond somewhat to the surviving drawings but suggest that other types were also being considered and that names for them were in flux.

Plan for the Lodge Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (40)

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Perspective for the Wigwam Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

Named in obvious reference to its roof form, this cabin was also called the "Big Tree."

Perspective for the Wigwam Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (41)

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Plan and elevation for the Wigwam Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

In this drawing a compact cluster of four rooms joined at the center by a massive fireplace is rotated 45 degrees over its terraced base, adding angular complexities.

Plan and elevation for the Wigwam Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (42)

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Plan and elevation for the Shore Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The lower, more extended profile makes this cabin ideally suited for a location along the flatter areas of the site adjacent to the bay. Bedrooms on the upper level are partly cantilevered over block walls below, imparting a dramatic profile. The wall enclosing a small court at the back seems intended to retain the slope of a hill rising behind.

Plan and elevation for the Shore Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (45)

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Perspective and partial plan for the Shore Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

 

Perspective and partial plan for the Shore Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (44)

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Sketch perspective for the Shore Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

This preliminary sketch in Wright's hand conforms closely to the finished perspective.

Sketch perspective for the Shore Type Cabin, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (43)

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Floating Cabins

The floating cabins, like houseboats, were to be moved about the bay, thus bringing the lake itself into special play. Their names, like those of the cabins, reflect specific qualities: Catamaran, Fallen Leaf, Family Type, Barge for Two. Except for the Catamaran, all incorporated angled geometries, most notably in their prows. The Barge for Two records Wright's first known use of a fully hexagonal module. Not only its bays but the spaces throughout are so shaped, resulting in a fully hexagonal plan. It was a device he would explore in later years with extraordinary results.

Plan and elevation for the Fallen Leaf Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The plan, generated by rotated squares, like the Wigwam cabin, achieves richly angled complexity.

Plan and elevation for the Fallen Leaf Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (53)

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Perspective for the Fallen Leaf Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

Clearly essential to Wright's vision were the reflected patterns of the barges as they plied the waters of Emerald Bay.

Perspective for the Fallen Leaf Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (51)

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Elevation for the Fallen Leaf Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The elevation shows a steeply peaked roof with a richly faceted pattern; it is terminated by what appears to be a multi-cabled radio antenna.

Elevation for the Fallen Leaf Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (52)

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Perspective for the Family Type Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The low, raking angles of the projecting roofs of this barge impart a sleek appearance. The reflected image records a more conservative and probably earlier profile.

Perspective for the Family Type Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (48)

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Perspective and plan for the Family Type Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The blockier, less extended massing of this perspective appears to record an earlier version of the design.

Perspective and plan for the Family Type Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (49)

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Elevations and plans for the Family Type Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

Roof profiles are again varied, with a more developed radio antenna that Wright labeled"Radio or Aeolian Harp." The angled elements of its plan would have facilitated the barge's movement through water.

Elevations and plans for the Family Type Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (50)

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Perspective and plan for the Catamaran Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

Long, narrow rooms and extended decks emphasize the linear nature of this floating cabin, with telescoping elements defining a tapering profile. Partly erased lines above a hipped roof seem to mark an open network of wires that on other drawings indicates a radio antenna.

Perspective and plan for the Catamaran Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (46)

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Plan and elevation for the Catamaran Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

Good form arising out of the nature of materials, circumstances, and site . . . the Tahoe designs were tent-like and terraced - and belonged with the big trees round about them. 1933

Plan and elevation for the Catamaran Barge, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (47)

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Perspective for the Barge for Two, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

 

Perspective for the Barge for Two, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (54)

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Plan and elevation for the Barge for Two, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony

The boards and diaphanous cables of the elevation reinforce the angled plan, Wright's first recorded use of a fully hexagonal module.

Plan and elevation for the Barge for Two, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, 1923. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (55)

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Nakoma Country Club and Memorial Gateway, Near Madison, Wisconsin, 1923-1924

Late in 1923, while he still held hopes for Tahoe's realization, Wright developed its architectural vocabulary of steeply hipped roofs and angled forms for the Nakoma Country Club, intended to adjoin a golf course in the residential suburb of Nakoma a few miles west of Madison, Wisconsin.

The octagonal elements of its plan are less daring than his angular proposals for Lake Tahoe, but its scale is larger than Tahoe's individual cabins, and it is dramatically sited: one long wing was planned as an enclosure for parked automobiles that bridges a shallow ravine. Except for this passive reference to the automobile and a conventional driveway, roadways are not integrated into the design.

Site plan for the Nakoma Country Club, near Madison, Wisconsin

 

Site plan for the Nakoma Country Club, near Madison, Wisconsin. Graphite, ink and colored ink on tracing paper, 1923-24. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (62)

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Perspective for Memorial Gateway to the Nakoma Country Club, near Madison, Wisconsin

Wright's clear grasp of the scale of the site and of the need for an architectural statement that would have discernible, even symbolic, presence within its broad expanse is suggested by this drawing, with notes regarding his intended meaning. He wrote to the directors of the club describing the "contrast of the shining plateau and more shadowed pool" that would result, indicating those features as important components of his design. The clubhouse can be seen in the far distance.

Perspective for Memorial Gateway to the Nakoma Country Club, near Madison, Wisconsin. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923Ð24. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona (59)

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Elevation and plan with perspectival foreground for the Nakoma Country Club

 

Elevation and plan with perspectival foreground for the Nakoma Country Club. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite on tracing paper, ca. 1923-24. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.. Gift of Donald D. Walker, 1986 (61)

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Elevation with perspectival foreground for the Nakoma Country Club

 

Elevation with perspectival foreground for the Nakoma Country Club. Office of Frank Lloyd Wright. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, ca. 1923-24. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.. Gift, Donald D. Walker, 1986 (60)

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