Designer of some of the most celebrated buildings in American history—including Falling Water and the Guggenheim Museum—Frank Lloyd Wright, as it turns out, helped fulfill the housing needs of other animals too.
In 1956, a 12-year-old boy asked the famous architect if—seeing as he was already designing a house for his family, the Bergers—the great designer wouldn’t be troubled to include a dog house to go with it.
Penning a reply, Wright said building a dog house for Eddie the Labrador retriever was an “opportunity,” but that on account of a packed schedule, young Jim Berger would have to wait about 18 months.
Jim was the son of Robert and Gloria, who had recently contracted Wright to build them one of his “Usonian style” homes for the American family.
Just as he had intended, Wright got around to the “opportunity” and provided plans for the four-square-foot doghouse the next year, written on the back of an envelope and at no charge.
The triangular structure was designed in keeping with the main house and included signature Wright details, such as the low-pitched roof with exaggerated overhang. Wright even suggested that Jim use scrap pieces of Philippine mahogany and cedar left over from the home’s original construction.
Jim never got around to building it, and eventually joined the Army in 1963. Later his brother and father built the doghouse, only to find that Eddie never used it and preferred to sleep inside where it was warmer. The roof leaked anyway, an unexpected yet typical feature of Wright’s work. This led Jim’s mother Gloria to toss the thing in the landfill.
In 2010, the documentary Designed by Frank featured Jim and his brother rebuilding the doghouse according to the original plans, and, after they were finished, they donated it to Marin County for display at another of Wright’s buildings, the Marin County Civic Center.
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Displayed only briefly, it was placed in storage in 2016, but the people who saw it never forgot, and so as of late May, the smallest building he ever designed is now on permanent display inside the largest existing building he ever designed.
“The people love it,” Libby Garrison of the Marin County Department of Cultural Services, told the Marin Independent.
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“We are a pet-loving community and I think it’s an intimate kind of lovely building and I feel like it tells a bigger Frank Lloyd Wright story. The doghouse adds further dimension to Frank Lloyd Wright in Marin County, and it’s a fun family story.”
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