Chusid’s New Book Chronicles the Struggles to Save Wright’s Freeman House

June 6, 2012

Grab a random passerby on any street in America and ask for the name of a famous architect; chances are the answer will be Frank Lloyd Wright.

Active and prolific from the late 19th century to the 1950s, Wright designed more than 1,000 buildings. His influence can still be seen in current architectural design. While his legacy is still intact, however, some of the buildings he designed are not so fortunate — many have fallen into disrepair and have been radically renovated.

A new book by architect Jeffrey Chusid, associate professor in the Historic Planning Preservation program in the Department of City and Regional Planning, focuses on the Freeman House, a home built of concrete blocks in 1925 in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.

"Saving Wright: The Freeman House and the Preservation of Meaning, Materials, and Modernity" (W.W. Norton) is a case study of the 85-year-old residence.

The book was the winner of the prestigious 2012 Historic Preservation Book Prize premiated by the University of Mary Washington Center for Historic Preservation, for providing the year's "most significant contribution to the intellectual vitality of historic preservation in America."

A former director of the house and its restoration architect, Chusid explores the complicated relationship between Wright's original vision, which aimed to create a new way to build housing for the American middle class, and the building's design flaws, construction mistakes, and many alterations made over time by the avant-garde couple who lived in the home for more than 60 years.

"The Freeman House is such a dramatic and valuable case study because it tests the legitimacy of established preservation procedures and protocols, raises extraordinarily difficult conservation problems, and forces us to question the meaning of a historic site to overlapping and not necessarily compatible communities," says Chusid.

The 256-page book includes 200 photographs and drawings.

by Aaron Goldweber

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