Laurent House: A Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Home in Rockford, Illinois USA

We received the following and can't attribute the writer of the announcement, alas, but we're sharing the story as it's central to our moment when so many wounded warriors are returning home.

 

SK

 

 

ACCESS & GOOD DESIGN

  Interior of Laurent House

Like many of today’s wounded warriors Returning from World War II with a spinal cord injury provided Kenneth Laurent with many new challenges he had not expected.   In 1949 he challenged an architect to design an accessible home. Completed in 1952 Mr. Laurent’s house was fully accessible some 20 years before the first ANSI standards for access and nearly 40 years before the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mr. Laurent credits his home with giving him the will and motivation to live – and to do so fully. He noted that the home has allowed him to focus on his ability rather than his disability.  The architect that rose to the challenge, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Rockville Illinois home is currently for sale.  For more information read the article below or follow this link http://blog.preservationnation.org/2011/12/06/interview-frank-lloyd-wrights-little-gem-up-for-auction/

 

Laurent House: A Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Home in Rockford, Illinois USA

 

In August of 1948, Kenneth Laurent, a wheel-chair using World War II veteran, wrote to the world-famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, requesting that he design a house suitable for unobstructed living by a wheelchair-bound person and that it be modestly priced by the standards of the time. Wright responded, as he always did when confronted with a unique building problem, “We are interested but don’t guarantee costs.”

 

The formal drawings were finished and a contract for the services of Frank Lloyd Wright was signed in July of 1949. The house, in total, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, complete with furnishings, lighting and coloration. It was finished in May of 1952, and its authenticity has been maintained by Ken and Phyllis Laurent since.

 

The Laurent house was the first and only home Wright ever designed for a disabled person’s use and comfort; this was executed 40 years in advance of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wright designed a house that shows its true beauty only when the observer looks at it from Ken’s eye level. All switches and fixtures are at a suitable, accessible level. There are no drawers in the built-ins, but hinged, horizontal doors suitable for unobstructed

access from a wheelchair. All built-in desks and tables for the homeowner’s use are cantilevered so that his wheelchair fits beneath. The built-in benches and ottomans that nestle beneath the tables are all designed to keep clutter and obstructions to a minimum. All doorways are a minimum of 36” wide, and all hallways are wide enough to turn a wheelchair.

 

The house met all of the needs of a wheelchair-bound client before design for disabilities was even considered by architects, builders or the government. It can be argued that this home is the first house ever designed for a disabled client. It allowed Ken to realize his full potential as a human being by giving him unrestricted access to everyday living. Wright gave him the level playing field we all take for granted.

 

In his design of the home, Wright was experimenting with what he called the “hemicycle” house based upon intersecting arcs and circles. The Laurent House is the second of only eight hemicycles he designed and the only one in Illinois. The culmination of this “arc and circle” experiment was the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Wright developed an uncharacteristic friendship with the Laurents. He visited the site during construction and visited the Laurents personally after the house was completed. They were invited to “drop in anytime” at Taliesin, Wright’s Wisconsin home, and participated in his birthday party celebrated there each year.

 

More information and pictures at http://blog.preservationnation.org/2011/12/06/interview-frank-lloyd-wrights-little-gem-up-for-auction/#more-22094