The Shampay House of 1919: Authorship and Ownership

Jin-Ho Park, Lionel March
2002 Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH)  
I really do not know what 'a Schindler' would look like. You know much better what a 'Wright' would look and be like."1 Introduction he Shampay House of 1919 has been commonly understood to be the very last of Frank Lloyd Wright's cruciform Prairie houses. A fair amount of controversy has surrounded the authorship of the design, in particular, the extent to which Wright was involved and the degree of Schindler's contribution. David Gebhard attributes the design to Wright in Tokyo, with
more » ... in Chicago making modifications, giving the latter credit for certain details: in particular, the placement of the garage as part of the main body of the house.2 Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer agrees with Gebhard, and regards the house as a direct source for the development of Wright's Usonian houses some fourteen years later.3 Pfeiffer also appreciates the transitional quality of the project among Wright's work, especially in the way the living areas are opened up to the garden. Nevertheless, he finds "certain details clumsy," a quality he blames on the "draughtsmen" [sic] Schindler. Barbara Giella asserts that the "project utilizes Wrightian morphology but not Wrightian syntax."4 Then she distinguishes its characteristic features from Wright's typical Prairie designs, describing its asymmetric "spatial configuration," "the placement of the bank of tall, narrow windows," and "the blank wall." Much earlier, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Jr., had expressed a different opinion when he wrote that "the Monolith Homes, as well as C. E. Staley and J. P. Shampay house were developed by Schindler during Wright's absence in Japan. They are hardly to be considered Wright's work, though they issued from his office and the Monolith Homes drawings carry his signature."5 These commentators focus on the characteristics of the design and the identification of an original designer. Due to the lack of clear documentary evidence or any detailed examination of the project, many of the circumstances surrounding the development of the project have remained obscure. Thus, many of these observers' conclusions are conjectural. Until recently, the only available sources have been the drawings from the Schindler archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara,6 and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona.7 However, recently discovered letters and annotated blueprints of the house, taken together with letters from the Schindler archive, provide a valuable foundation for reexamining the facts.8 This study clarifies some of the confusion and polemics while addressing the evolution of the controversy. In 1917, after working for Ottenheimer, Stern, and Reichert in Chicago, Schindler joined Frank Lloyd Wright, whose Wasmuth portfolio (1910) significantly contributed to the early developments of Schindler's architectural thought. Schindler recalled his impression of the portfolio as a student in Vienna: "I immediately realized-here was a man who had taken hold of this new medium. Here was 'space architecture."'9 Schindler worked in Wright's Chicago and Taliesin offices at a time when the Imperial Hotel designs were undergoing revision. Frictions over authorship within the office seem to have begun right away. Schindler clearly recollected a conversation with Wright at Taliesin. In a letter to Wright dated 10June 1931, Schindler typed in upper case:
doi:10.2307/991869 fatcat:gud3ofj4bnah5llzza6isfjcuu