Texas Architect July/Aug 2009: Residential Design
Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other editorial content largely written by AIA members in Texas. That collective participation was the basis of Texas Architect’s recognition by the national AIA with a 2010 Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement.
texas architect 7/8 2009 10 News Restored Usonian House in Amarillo Once Again shows wrightian Touch a m a r i l l o Sterling and Dorothy Ann Kinney hired Frank Lloyd Wright in 1955 with the desire to build a home of “beauty and integrity” for the benefit of their three young daughters. Today, almost 50 years after construction was completed, their home, though of modest scale and material, stands as a testament to this aspiration. As one of only four Wright projects constructed in the state, the Kinney Residence is only minutes from downtown Amarillo. The 2,000-sf Kinney Residence is a fine example of Wright’s Usonian design. Its deep overhangs, common materiality, and full expression of light were fundamentals of this new American design. The Kinneys, particu- larly Dorothy Ann, followed Wright’s career and had been enchanted by his published work. In a letter to Wright in 1957 following a visit to Taliesin East, she noted, “I can’t decide whether you are an architect or a magician.” Wright died before the Kinney Residence was completed in 1960, but made one visit to the property during the design phase, observing the character of the site and locating the placement for the home. Construction was accomplished under the Taliesin Associated Architects and supervised by Allen Lape Davison. Set back from the highway, it pays no attention to the traffic. The private road approaches the house from the southeast. The carport, seen first, simultaneously provides the function of car storage and the sculptural quality common in Wright’s angles of first impression. The terraces open to the west with views of the creek bed and mesas. Although the west facade is almost entirely glass, the mature trees provide strategic relief in the late afternoon. In May 2004, Robin Weir purchased the property from the Kinney family and became its second owner. Although many potential buyers approached the family, Weir’s commitment to delicate, authentic restoration convinced them that they had found a suitable successor. The restoration process began almost imme- diately after Weir took possession. The Kinney Residence was by no means dilapidated, but only a few years of deferred maintenance can deteriorate a home with such high demands. As would be expected, water damage to the roof and soffits had to be addressed along with the systematic removal of several decades worth of floor wax and cigarette smoke. There was surprisingly little damage to the brick walls and integral glass, confirming the Kinney’s request (clockwise from top left) the modestly scaled Kinney residence features some of the original furnishings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including the curved sofa and dining table. as shown at the entry, red-brick walls are set at a 15-degree batter. the original owners retained the construction documents and the new owner displays copies that illustrate the underlying organization of the Usonian plan. p h o t o s by K e n n y b r a u n Continued on page 14