Often considered the greatest triumph of America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterwork was built for Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar Kauffmann.
What do a Taos Indian pueblo, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and the Marina City complex in Chicago have in common? Other than they are all spectacularly different places in which to live? They’re also featured in a new PBS and WTTW Chicago program titled “10 That Changed America.” More specifically, these residences and six others kick off the new three-part television and web series, which begins with “10 Homes That Changed America,” premiering Tuesday, April 5, on PBS.
The California retreat of the wealthy Gamble family, the Gamble House, built by architects Charles and Henry Greene, is a prime example of the American craftsman bungalow style.
Shot on location with host Geoffrey Baer, the homes segment takes viewers up close and into residences few are ever able to enter. In addition to such midcentury gems as Marina City and a prefab house designed by Charles and Ray Eames in Pacific Palisades, California, the show includes the 2004 innovative, prefabricated green Glidehouse in Novato, California, designed by Michelle Kaufman. Also included is the exquisite, Craftsman-style Gamble House, designed in 1908 by Greene and Greene.
Michelle Kauffman’s environmentally friendly “glidehouses” are only the latest example of American designers’ quest to solve some of our greatest challenges with innovative design.
The gothic castle-like Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York, designed by architect A. J. Davis for former New York City Mayor William Paulding, contrasts wildly in design, construction and style from Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, designed for Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar Kauffmann. But not all of the residences in the program were designed and built for wealthy Americans.
America’s first “green buildings,” the pueblos of the Taos Indians of New Mexico, were built with adobe (mud), which kept the dwellings cool during the day and warm at night.
“10 Homes That Changed America” also includes—and examines the influence of—a mid-19th century tenement building on New York’s Lower East Side. Many immigrant families’ dreams began in those cramped quarters, and a visit to New York’s Tenement Museum provides valuable, and often overlooked insights, into the lives of the newcomers who went on to shape American history, business, art, and culture. The lives of one of America’s First Peoples, the Taos Indians, are explored via an excursion to one of the adobe living complexes they designed, built, and fostered community within. And Langston Terrace in Washington D.C.— the nation’s second federally-funded development, designed in 1935 for African American residents by pioneering African American architect Hilyard Robinson—is also included in the program.
Thomas Jefferson called his Virginia estate Monticello his “essay in architecture.”
In addition to lavish photography of these homes, the program includes insights from an array of experts. Author and poet Eloise Little Greenfield, who grew up at Langston Terrace, and architect Melvin Mitchell discuss that project’s stark geometry and light-filled spaces. Reed Kroloff, a nationally known commentator in the world of architecture and urban design—provides eloquent, witty commentary. And the Eames’ grandchildren, Eames Demetrios and Lucia Dewey Atwood, give viewers a tour through their grandparents’ iconic Case Study house.
“10 That Changed American” continues in April with “10 Parks That Changed America” on Tuesday, April 22; and “10 Towns That Changed America” on Tuesday, April 19. Armchair travel to 40 American sites and the people who created them, along with guides who enlighten us to the ways in which these places changed how we live, work, and play, has never been easier—or more enjoyable.
By Camille LeFevre
Fallingwater, courtesy of Matt Tolk
Gamble house, courtesy of Greg Gayne
Glide house, courtesy of Paul Turang
Pueblo, courtesy of Deanna Nelso
Monticello, courtesy of Jonathan Hillyer