Designed in 1951 by Frank Lloyd Wright and still owned by the original family, the Kinney House offers a rare opportunity to experience firsthand what it would be like to live in Wright’s Usonian non-rectilinear architecture. Wright believed the parallelogram plan, based on "diamond modules" with 60 & 120-degree angles, would create complex spaces that provide a sense of spaciousness within an affordable small footprint. Located in the small town of Lancaster WI, just 50 miles SW of Taliesin.
The house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1951 for Patrick Kinney (a Lancaster, Wisconsin attorney), his wife Margaret, and their three children. Margaret had initially experienced Wright's architecture firsthand while working at Taliesin (just 40 miles from the house and a great day-trip) as an assistant to Wright's sister, and was inspired to commission Wright for their home. Construction was completed in 1953. The original plan consisted of a double hexagonal central core housing the living room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, and a bathroom. A linear wing housing two bedrooms and a second bathroom extended from the core. After completion, the arrival of a fourth child necessitated an addition for two more bedrooms and a bathroom. Taliesin Fellow John H. Howe, who had supervised the construction of the original house, designed the addition.
Wright’s lifelong passion to create a “democratic” Usonian-style of architecture is exemplified in the Kinney House. Rising to the challenge of the $15,000 budget, Wright suggested a modest 1500 s.f. modular footprint and concrete block as the primary building material. In an effort to keep costs down and get the local Wisconsin limestone he loved, Patrick Kinney acted as the contractor and took on some of the labor himself - going so far as to dynamite, cut, load and deliver limestone to the site in his 1939 Chevy truck before work most mornings. Consequently, the Kinney house is often referred to as one of Wright’s few “owner built” homes.
When most people think of modular homes they think 90-degree angles, but not Wright, whose genius is on display in the non-rectilinear layout. Wright believed the parallelogram plan - based on "diamond modules" and 60 and 120-degree angles - created interesting spaces that gave people a larger sense of rooms unfolding as they walked around the house. The “diamonds” extend beyond the plan to inform three-dimensional space: the ceiling, the lighting, and the furniture.
Today, when I reflect on the house I remember school children calling it a “space ship,” and the people from all over the world who would simply stop by unannounced hoping to get a peak at Wright’s work. Typically, my parents would invite the strangers in and proudly show them around, often for hours at a time. Building this house was the most defining aspect of my parent’s lives.
The Kinney House is located in the City of Lancaster, in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. It is known as the "City of the Dome" for the beautiful Grant County Courthouse in the center of downtown. The charming historic shopping district features an array of boutiques, a variety of dining opportunities and a restored historic movie theatre. There are a variety of activities year round including an annual County Fair, Night on the Square, Music in the Park, Deal and Steals Days, parades and much more.
Lancaster, Wisconsin, USA