Book explores Monona’s Meier House, one of few American System-Built Homes

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A new book entitled “This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes” will follow authors Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber—owners of the Meier House in Monona which is one of the few American System-Built Homes (ASBH) constructed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs—as they trace its history through previous owners.

 

Although many books over the years have featured Frank Lloyd Wright and his work, the couple’s release takes a different approach to how people view architecture: how buildings change with the people who live in them and the role homeowners take on in exchange. In “This American House,” Loper and Schreiber explore that interconnectedness with enthusiasm and empathy.

 

When the two set out to buy a home in 2013, they didn’t picture buying one with a pedigree. In fact, they had imagined a cozy getaway cabin not far from their life in Chicago. What they got instead was a big house in a small town, and the only American System-Built Home in Iowa.

 

In doing so, they took on not just a mortgage, but also a long history of stewardship, ushering the 1917 house into a new period of time while retaining its original meaning and charm.

 

Inspired by that history, the two began compiling a record of their experiences, those of the previous residents and the role of the American System-Built Homes within Wright’s oeuvre. 

 

Long before designing his signature Usonian houses, Wright envisioned an earlier series of affordable models for the middle class: The American System-Built Homes. He developed seven floor plans of varying size and layout, standardized so materials could be precut to reduce costs. Only a few years after the project began, the U.S. entered World War I, and all home construction was stalled due to lumber shortages. With fewer than 20 built, the American System-Built Homes were all but forgotten.

 

“This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes” features over 120 photographs of Wright’s American System-Built Homes, architectural drawings by Wright and historical images of the Meier House and its owners. It also includes countless hours of research by Loper and Schreiber, who interviewed former owners, searched through the Wright archives at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, compared notes with other ASBH owners and spent time scrolling through blogs, websites and library records. 

 

Some findings—as well as a chronicling of the couple’s efforts to restore the historic home while also making it functional for a 21st century lifestyle—have also been published on their blog, similarly titled “This American House.”

 

The book is available now through Pomegranate, Ingram and other major book wholesalers.

 

A brief historical overview and tour of the Meier House can be seen in a video made for the Iowa Architectural Foundation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQlyhDiUc8c&feature=youtu.be.

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