Frank Lloyd Wright House; Relocated and Reacquainted With Radiant

Wright had built the house on a grid system, which crews had to duplicate for the concrete pour.

Two giant shipping containers were carefully loaded with the dismantled house. One container made the entire 1,235-mile trek via tractor-trailer (taking over 24 hours), while the other was an intermodal transit, using both rail and road.

The construction team that the museum put together is now in the throes of piecing the house back together on site at Crystal Bridges’ 120-acre property in the Northwestern corner of Arkansas.

Director of Operations, Scott Eccleston, estimated that it would take a year to fully reassemble and finish the house.

The home’s front façade, with concrete block and mahogany trim, has a nearly fortress-like appearance that ensured privacy from the street in its original suburban location. Inside, 14-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows tower over the open floor plan with red concrete floors, imprinted to show the grid work pattern that Frank Lloyd Wright used to design his homes — another architectural facet Wright loved to incorporate.

Even though Wright designed the home in 1954, it was wildly futuristic at the time. Aside from modern aesthetic characteristics, the Bachman Wilson House is equipped with green building components, such as passive solar through abundant use of natural light, and in-floor hydronic radiant heat.

An Exacting Rebuild

The museum team is using the same methods Frank Lloyd Wright used in the original design for the reconstruction process — even down to using the same nail and screw holes.

The only exception was not an alteration — it was an addition. A basement area was added to the new design so that a mechanical room could be installed out-of-sight for museumgoers. Metal decking fastened to steel joists was chosen to support the concrete floor.

Wright was one of the very first architects to use hydronic radiant heat as a key to clean, uncluttered design, chiefly because it eliminated visible heating elements such as ducts and a variety of terminal units. And while the original hydronic system used copper piping, the museum knowingly avoided that because of the frailty of copper when embedded in concrete. PEX tubing was chosen to transport heated fluids in the floors.

Using a grid system to build the Bachman Wilson House, Wright cast the grid lines right into the concrete — creating blocks that measure four-foot by four-foot. The grid lines (lettered horizontally and numbered vertically), show where all the homes’ major elements align, so that when it was built (and now being rebuilt) workers knew, for example, that the fireplace would start exactly on grid D13 and end on E13.

“Every element in the home is on the grid or half-grid,” explained Bill Faber, president of Bentonville, AR-based Bill Faber Construction, the general contractor. “Reconstructing a house that’s been built and disassembled once before is like a jigsaw puzzle. We’re using the original boards and material to rebuild it, so everything has to piece together perfectly — including the new concrete floors — down to less than a sixteenth of an inch.”

So that workers could make exact grooves to match the original grid work in the concrete without having to reach too far with the groove-making tool — potentially causing mistakes or damage — the concrete had to be poured in alternating eight-foot wide by 20-foot long strips.

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Posted by on Apr 1st, 2017 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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