Usonia (//) is a word that was used by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to refer to the United States in general (in preference to America), and more specifically to his vision for the landscape of the country, including the planning of cities and the architecture of buildings. Wright proposed the use of the adjective Usonian to describe the particular New World character of the American landscape as distinct and free of previous architectural conventions.
"Usonian" usually refers to a group of approximately sixty middle-income family homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright beginning in 1934 with the Willey House, with most considering the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House, 1937, to be the first true "Usonian." The "Usonian Homes" are typically small, single-story dwellings without a garage or much storage. They are often L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace on unusual and inexpensive sites. They are characterized by native materials; flat roofs and large cantilevered overhangs for passive solar heating and natural cooling; natural lighting with clerestory windows; and radiant-floor heating. Another distinctive feature is that they typically have little exposure to the front/'public' side, while the rear/'private' sides are completely open to the outside. A strong visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is an important characteristic of all Usonian homes. The word carport was coined by Wright to describe an overhang for sheltering a parked vehicle.
Variants of the Jacobs House design are still in existence today. The Usonian design is considered among the aesthetic origins of the ranch-style house popular in the American west of the 1950s.
In 2013, Florida Southern College constructed the 13th Wright building on their campus according to plans that he created in 1939. The 1,700 sq. ft. building includes textile-block construction, colored glass in perforated concrete blocks, Wright photographs, a documentary film about the architect's work at the school, and furniture designed by Wright. Named the "Usonian House", it was originally designed as one of twenty faculty housing units. The building is home to the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, a visitor center for guests visiting campus to see the collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.
Origin of the word
The word Usonian appears to have been coined by James Duff Law, an American writer born in 1865. In a miscellaneous collection entitled Here and There in Two Hemispheres (1903), Law quoted a letter of his own (dated June 18, 1903) that begins "We of the United States, in justice to Canadians and Mexicans, have no right to use the title 'Americans' when referring to matters pertaining exclusively to ourselves." He went on to acknowledge that some author had proposed "Usona", but that he preferred the form "Usonia". Perhaps the earliest published use by Wright was in 1927:
But why this term "America" has become representative as the name of these United States at home and abroad is past recall. Samuel Butler fitted us with a good name. He called us Usonians, and our Nation of combined States, Usonia.— Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture: Selected Writings 1894–1940, p. 100.
However, this seems to be a misattribution, as there is as yet no published evidence that Butler ever used the word.
Usono is the name for the United States in Esperanto. The creator of Esperanto, L. L. Zamenhof, used the term in his speech at the 1910 World Congress of Esperanto in Washington, D.C., coincidentally the same year Wright was in Europe. But it was already well-established by 1908, when Joseph Rhodes, a fellow of the British Esperanto Association and a member of the Lingva Komitato, published The English-Esperanto Dictionary, which was "based upon the 'Fundamento,' the Esperanto literature, and the national-Esperanto dictionaries bearing Dr. Zamenhof's 'aprobo'."
José F. Buscaglia-Salgado reclaims the term Usonian to refer to the peoples, national ideology and neo-imperial tradition of the United States of America.
Miguel Torres-Castro uses the term Usonian to refer to the origin of the Atlantic Puffin bird used in the children's book Jupu the Puffin: A Usonian Story. The bird is a puffin from Maine, USA.
Noted Usonian houses
Precursor to Usonians
- Malcolm Willey House 1934, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Peters-Margedant House* 1934, University of Evansville, Evansville, Indiana.
- Benjamin Rebhuhn House 1937, Great Neck Estates, New York
- Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House, "Jacobs I," 1937, Madison, Wisconsin
- Paul and Jean Hanna House, "Honeycomb House," 1937, Palo Alto, California
- Bernard Schwartz House 1939, Two Rivers, Wisconsin
- George Sturges House 1939, Los Angeles, California
- John and Ruth Pew House 1939, Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin
- Hause House 1939, Lansing, Michigan
- Goetsch–Winckler House 1940, Okemos, Michigan
- Rosenbaum House 1940, Florence, Alabama
- Pope–Leighey House 1941, Alexandria, Virginia
- Alvin and Inez Miller residence 1946, Charles City, Iowa
- Erling P. Brauner House 1948, Okemos, Michigan
- Usonia Homes, Pleasantville, New York
- Melvyn Maxwell and Sara Stein Smith House 1949, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
- Robert and Rae Levin House 1949, Kalamazoo, Michigan
- Weltzheimer/Johnson House 1949, Oberlin, Ohio
- Donald Schaberg House 1950, Okemos,Michigan
- J.A. Sweeton Residence 1950, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
- Lowell and Agnes Walter House 1950, Quasqueton, Iowa
- Kraus House 1950, Kirkwood, Missouri
- Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent House 1951, Rockford, Illinois
- Nathan Rubin House 1951, Canton, Ohio
- Muirhead Farmhouse 1951, Hampshire, Illinois
- Zimmerman House 1951, Manchester, New Hampshire
- John D. Haynes House 1952, Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Arthur Pieper residence 1952, Paradise Valley, Arizona
- Frank S. Sander House 1952, Stamford, Connecticut
- Kentuck Knob 1953, Stewart Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania
- John and Syd Dobkins House 1953, Canton, Ohio
- Bachman Wilson House, Millstone, New Jersey 1954
- Ellis Feiman House 1954, Canton, Ohio
- Samara (John E. Christian House) 1954, West Lafayette, Indiana
- Louis Penfield House 1955, Willoughby Hills, Ohio
- Cedric G. and Patricia Neils Boulter House 1956, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Dudley Spencer House 1956, Wilmington, Delaware
- Dorothy H. Turkel House 1956, Detroit, Michigan
- Donald C. Duncan House 1957, Donegal, Pennsylvania (dismantled and relocated from its original location in Lisle, Illinois)
- Evelyn and Conrad Gordon House 1957, Wilsonville, Oregon (later moved to Silverton, Oregon)
- Lovness House and Cottage 1957, Stillwater, Minnesota
- Robert H. Sunday House 1957, Marshalltown, Iowa
- John Gillin Residence 1958, Dallas, Texas
- Paul J. and Ida Trier House 1958, Johnston, Iowa
- Polychrome Historic District, a similar effort to provide inexpensive housing by John Joseph Earley
- "The Malcolm Willey House". thewilleyhouse. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
- "Herbert Jacobs House". Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
- Wright Stuff March 2014 Florida Trend page 36
- James D. Law, Here and There in Two Hemispheres (Lancaster: Home Publishing Co., 1903), pp. 111–12n.
- The English-Esperanto Dictionary
- Buscaglia-Salgado, José F. (2003). Undoing Empire, Race, and Nation in the Mulatto Caribbean. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3574-9.
- Torres-Castro, Miguel (2014). Jupu the Puffin: A Usonian Story. New York City: Jupu Press. ISBN 0-6159-4073-0.
- "Peters-Margedant House - Archaeology and Art History - University of Evansville". www.evansville.edu. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
|Look up Usonian in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- John D. Haynes House
- Jones House
- Jacobs House
- Frank Lloyd Wright: Usonian House at PBS.org
- Columbia University - Usonia: Frank Lloyd Wright's Vision for America
- Pope-Leighey House, Usonian house in Alexandria, Virginia, open to the public
- Weltzheimer/Johnson House, Usonian house in Oberlin, Ohio, open to the public
- , Rosenbaum House Florence Alabama
- List of Usonian houses
- The Post Usonian Project
- Florida Southern College
- Inspiring Communities—Usonia