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Organic Architect Porter TX

In addition to designing new homes in Porter, Eric Lloyd Wright has been the architect for the restoration of� many of his grandfather’s masterworks. For a home to be considered organic, its various elements must fit together harmoniously, as necessary parts of a whole. Certainly one of the most famous architects to put into practice the principles of organic architecture was Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Organic Architecture

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In addition to designing new homes, Eric Lloyd Wright has been the architect for the restoration of? many of his grandfather’s masterworks.
For a home to be considered organic, its various elements must fit together harmoniously, as necessary parts of a whole. Certainly one of the most famous architects to put into practice the principles of organic architecture was Frank Lloyd Wright.

Architect Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of Frank, continues the family tradition. “I use the same principles my father and grandfather used in designing a house — what we call organic architecture,” says Wright, of Eric Lloyd Wright and Associates, located in Malibu, Calif. “Go into my grandfather’s houses or my father’s houses. Go inside. Then you really feel the house.”

In a nutshell, organic architecture integrates nature, the arts and innovative materials into architectural design. Frank Lloyd Wright felt that having an awareness of such disciplines as philosophy, theater, literature and dance not only made for a well-rounded person who could take his or her place in society but also helped build a society of quality. “He enjoyed reading Emerson, Thoreau, Blake and Buddha,” and felt buildings should add beauty to the environment, not detract from it, says Wright of his famous grandfather.

Over the years, Wright has worked at restoring many of his grandfather’s masterworks, including the Ennis House in the Hollywood Hills. There, the entryway is built with a low ceiling, but climb a few steps and you are transported into an expanse of open living room and dining room. Light pours in through a glass-walled corridor and art-glass windows. “This house is one of the most unique residential buildings in the world and a great example of organic architecture,” Wright says.

The Ennis House
Out From the Core

Like his father Lloyd Wright, an architect and landscape architect, and his grandfather, Eric Wright sees himself as a caretaker of the natural world and finds inspiration all around him. His 24-acre property in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking Malibu and the Pacific Ocean includes a fruit orchard, an organic garden and many full-growth trees set among the rolling hills.

When Wright designs a home, he always makes the natural setting a part of the plan. It’s much like tossing a pebble into the water. The circles spread out from the center. “I work from the inside out and that helps shape the exterior,” Wright explains.

His method of design works this way: Start with the site plan by looking at the whole site to decide the best house placement, draw a rough floor plan and then refine the floor plan by including the rooms and the functions while taking into consideration the view, the effects of the sun and how the wind will affect house placement.

After those steps come the two-dimensional and three-dimensional models; then he creates the elevations. Lastly comes the final exterior, so that the exterior of the home is shaped by what’s going on inside the house. It starts with an idea and grows out from the core.

From his father, Eric learned “to bring the outdoors in and [take] the indoor out. That is the beauty of glass. It allows us to let the rooms flow. If we site the house in its natural environment to the sun, I can use glass and allow the sun to come in and warm the house with correct window placement.”

Start With Passive Solar

Wright strongly believes that, when building or remodeling a home, the owner and the architect are co-designers. It’s a concept adhered to by both his father and his grandfather. “If the spaces aren’t formed around the client’s needs and desires, the house will not feel right to the owner,” he explains.

His first task when taking on an architectural project is to ask the client to fill out a questionnaire, which specifies the size of the house, all the desired elements in the home and the projected budget. He then visits the site to determine how the house will best fit on the land, and begins to consider construction costs.

The Storer House in Los Angeles.
In alignment with his grandfather’s ideas, Wright believes, first and foremost, that buildings should take advantage of the benefits of passive solar. His grandfather’s Solar Hemicycle House is a great example of an all-passive solar design, he notes. The house, which was built in the late 1940s in Wisconsin, was oriented on the site to take full advantage of passive solar design, which uses sunlight to naturally warm a home.

“My grandfather used the principles of green building back at the turn of the century,” Wright notes. “He had an awareness of the sun and how to protect a house from the cold.”

Once passive solar elements have been incorporated in the design, other choices can be made according to the homeowner’s budget. The architect might add mechanical systems such as high-efficiency heating units, solar panels or a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Natural Materials

When it comes to design, Wright’s main goal is to ensure the house has “an element of comfort, a place that feels good and feels natural.” Many of his clients request open spaces that flow from room to room. They don’t want little windows punched into the house as an afterthought. Instead, Wright says his clients are interested in windows that bring nature into the house.

In addition, his clients are paying more attention to building materials and fixtures, and are increasingly opting for green products. In that regard, Wright has a number of suggestions for homeowners. For instance, he cautions his clients to avoid nylon carpet and recommends wool instead. He prefers natural wood, stone or linoleum for flooring, as those materials won’t offgas toxins into the home’s interior environment.

He also warns homeowners to be on the watch for formaldehyde, which often can offgas from plywood and pressed board. Instead, he suggests, opt for real wood. “I don’t use plastic imitations that look like wood,” he notes.

These two homes, in Los Angeles
(above) and La Crescenta, Calif., (right) illustrate Wright’s adherence to his familial mentors’ architectural philosophy, which includes matching a home to its site and “bringing the outside in.”
One of the few drawbacks with green building materials, Wright notes, is the cost. However, he’s hopeful that with more people insisting on products that are good for the environment and for the homeowners themselves, prices will start to come down. “Some of the prices right now are just not affordable to a lot of clients,” he admits.

Although for many homeowners these earth-friendly, non-toxic materials represent a wider range of options, for Wright they’re nothing new. “Actually, we’ve always used materials that are good for the environment, so a lot of the stuff that’s coming on the market today we have been using for quite a while,” he says. Some of his specific recommendations include the following:

• For the building envelope (walls and roof), Wright likes to use glass, steel, aluminum and stucco.

• For roofing materials, he suggests metal roofs of steel, aluminum or copper. Sod roofs are another option, though they must be installed with some type of waterproof membrane under the sod, and some membranes can offgas. However, the offgassed toxins aren’t released into the atmosphere, since the membrane is covered with earth. Wright also likes elastomeric roofing products, which are durable and elastic, though they, too, can offgas, since they are made from neoprene plastics.

• For flooring, Wright uses bamboo, cork and linoleum. Concrete and tile floors are other options. Wright notes that flooring materials must be installed using nontoxic glues.

• For kitchens, he suggests countertops made from compressed-paper laminates. “It’s a bit on the expensive side,” he says, “but as it catches on it will become an important product.” Concrete countertops are attractive but expensive — about the same as granite in cost. Tile countertops are also good options.

• For the bathroom, Wright notes that tile walls are still the best option due to their cost-effectiveness. Marble, slate or granite are good options for those who can afford them. Colored waterproof cement plaster shower walls can be attractive.

• For windows, Wright recommends wood, steel or aluminum frames. Plastic frames, though convenient to clean and easy to maintain, do offgas. Double-glass all windows and doors and use low-emission glass. To insulate around windows, Wright suggests using renewable products such as cellulose insulation, which is made from recycled newspapers, or insulation containing other types of recycled materials, such as cotton.

By incorporating natural materials and passive solar design into his buildings, carefully matching a home to its site, allowing a home’s interior space to dictate its exterior design and integrating artistic elements, Eric Lloyd Wright continues to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, while setting his own architectural course for the 21st century.

Judith Stock contributes frequently to Smart HomeOwner. She’s based in Los Angeles.

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