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Archive for June, 2012

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A year or so ago Ted Bower crossed my mind. I did a cursory search and found somewhere that he had died. Having other things on my mind at the time, I didn’t follow up on the information. Then the other day I read an article in The Pacific Sun, a Marin County (California) weekly newspaper, on Daniel Liebermann, an architect who worked on Frank Lloyd Wright’s last, posthumous project, the Marin Civic Center, after Wright’s death. (Article url http://www.pacificsun.com/story.php?story_id=5377 ). This led to another search for Ted Bower and better results – which I will share below.

I didn’t know Ted all that well, spending time with him on four or five occasions in Molly’s apartments in New York, but we seemed to hit it off and respect and liking seemed to be mutual. The last time I saw Ted was just about forty years ago when he and his wife, Diana, visited their son who was living in an ashram in Oakland, and came to spend an afternoon with Barbara and me at our Larch Road house in Bolinas.

To recapitulate the Bower family context, as spelled out in the Satish Gujral post: the father was a surgeon, professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and Chief of Surgery at Philadelphia General Hospital; the mother was very religious, becoming more so as she aged. They had six children, three boy-girl pairs named, in birth order, Jack and Jill (really), Theodore (Ted) and Joan (pronounced Jo-ann) and Robert (Bobby) and Mary Margaret (Molly).

Jack became a dentist, moved to Iowa, probably his wife’s home and a Baptist bible-thumper (wife again?). Jill was mentally impaired from birth and was the origin of much misery in the family, including the mother’s religiosity. The much more sensible siblings eventually convinced the parents to allow Jill to live in a house of her peers where she had companionship, suitable work to do and was very happy.

I’ll talk about Ted later. Joan went to Wellesley, fell in with a crowd of graduates of Carnegie Tech’s theater school in New York, married Arnold Horwitt a writer of musicals, had two (?) children, divorced and eventually became an Anglican priest in Connecticut. (Horwitt went to Hollywood where he wrote for TV game shows. He died of bone cancer at age 58 in 1977.)

Bobby followed in his father’s footsteps and became a surgeon. I know nothing more about him other than he is retired. Molly was a year ahead of me at the University of Chicago, a roommate of my first wife, Terry Flambert, in Kelly Hall and my lifelong friend until her death from cigarettes in 1997. I believe that Joan, now in her late eighties, and Bobby, now in his mid-eighties, are still living.

Leslie, one of Molly’s daughters, told me that at some time in the last decade or so, Satish came to Washington, DC and hosted a dinner with Ted and her self present. She made special note of how gracious a host Satish was. Contentment comes with a long life well lived.

My search this time was much more productive both for biographical facts and pictures. First, I found an obituary for Ted in the local, Lopez Island, Washington, newspaper.

Image

Next, I found this article in Docomomo-wewa, the website for the western Washington state branch of Docomomo-us, an organization dedicated to appreciation and awareness of modern movement architecture and design.

Bower, Theodore D.

 (1922 – 2009)

<http://docomomo-wewa.org/architects_gallery.php&gt;

Theodore “Ted” Dixon Bower holds the distinction of being one of a

handful of Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture (Taliesin)

graduates who practiced in Washington State during the 1950s and 1960s.

Bower was born on May 29, 1922 in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. After attending Amherst College in Massachusetts for a year (1940-41), he then

apprenticed at Taliesin until 1948.

 

As one of Wright’s long-term apprentices, Bower played a key role in

designing and building several homes at Wright’s planned utopian

community of Mount Pleasant, in upstate New York. Bower also supervised

the construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Weltzheimer House (1949) in

Oberlin, OH and the Sol Friedman (1948) House in Pleasantville, NY. Upon

leaving Taliesin, Bower traveled in Europe and then took a job as a “Jr.

Architect” for the government of Punjab, India in 1950. While there he

worked with Pierre Jenneret on buildings and plans for the new capitol

city at Chandigarh. Then in 1952 he went to work as an architect for the

Besant Centenary Trust working on designs for schools throughout India.

 

  Image

 

In 1954, Bower migrated to the northwest and worked briefly for the

architectural firm of Durham, Anderson & Freed; and Fred Bassetti (1955)

before opening his own private practice in Seattle. Notable projects

include the Harold & Margaret Ogle House (1959) in Vancouver, WA which

was featured in a variety of Sunset Magazine articles; the Pearce

Apartments (2221 NE 46th Street) in Seattle, a 1963 Seattle AIA honor

award winner, and an addition to Western Washington University’s

physical plant (1971). Bower also designed in partnership with Wendell

Lovett, the pedestrian walkway shelters for the Century 21 Exposition.

 

In 1977, architect Folke Nyberg joined Bower in a short-lived

partnership, however any projects by them are unknown. By 1979, Bower

was a sole practitioner again. After retiring to Lopez Island, Bower

became heavily involved in the Center of Nonviolent Action near Poulsbo.

He designed a clubhouse for the organization, called the “Ground Zero

House” in 2005.

 

Bower passed away on Lopez Island on November 27, 2009. Docomomo WEWA is seeking additional information about the life and work of Ted Bower.

Note the mention of Chandigarh. Satish has a much more elaborate notion of Ted’s career in India.

I met Ted for the first time when he was working for Wright on the Mount Pleasant project. He told me at that time that he left Taliesin West the way everyone did – after a big and bitter fight with Wright. Mrs. Wright also figured prominently in these unpleasant exits.

A chat room discussion after Ted’s death was filled with insights, large and small.

{ http://www.savewright.org/wright_chat/viewtopic.php?p=25282&sid=9d743409fbf95ce9c402a6104f2dd7ba }

Palli Davis Holubar

Location: Wakeman, Ohio

        

PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:38 pm    Post subject:          Reply with quote

Much of Ted Bowers time at Taliesin was during WWII. Those were frustrating years when the life of art and community at Taliesin was constrained within a war economy. Rather than active work in the drafting room, the common bond was the understanding that “war was the real enemy” (Randolph Bourne’s words). Howe and Davidson had been stolen away to sit in prison, unable to mentor and buffer other apprentices in the wake of Wright’s genius and the fury of Mrs. Wright’s insecurities. Ted Bower’s spirit survived the experience.

 Finally, in 1948, Ted Bower took the opportunity to leave Taliesin without leaving the work of Taliesin- supervising the Weltzheimer House. I can imagine the unleashed zeal he brought to Oberlin as he managed the clients and the construction- all the while learning with his hands, resolving one problem after another.

 The Weltzheimer perforated board design is wholly Ted Bower’s design and it adds distinction to the staid L-plan Usonian that stands as a final work of the board and batten period. It was Bower’s hard work (and hard-won luck) that from the Weltzheimer House he moved on to Usonia to realize the idiosyncratic Toy House, the quiet grace of Serlin and his own designs of the Glass House and the challenging Scheinbaum House. He crammed important houses into his last Taliesin years before launching his own practice and living his own considered life in art.

ted and wright

Photo taken at the Friedman house site, in Reisley’s book.
From left: Ted Bower, Robert Chuckrow, Wright, (unidentified), Aaron Resnick, David Henken, Sol Friedman

Another item, recalling Ted’s work with Wright after leaving Taliesin and their prickly (to say the least!) relationship:

Posted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:58 pm    Post subject:

Reisley’s account of Bower’s interaction with Wright:

When critical of a design Wright would shoot off an exasperated, even caustic, letter, as a 1949 exchange with Ted Bower shows. Bower, a former Wright apprentice [sic], was dispatched by Taliesin to oversee construction of Wright’s Friedman House. He also designed a few of his own. Commenting on Bower’s preliminary sketches for the Scheinbaum House, Wright wrote:

Dear Ted,

our disconnected opus — a nightmarish abuse of privilege —

is at hand …. Try again and don’t take originality at any cost

as an objective … don’t make game of your sojourn at

Taliesin. Try to do something free from such affectation.

Sincerely,

Frank Lloyd Wright

As if that were not damning enough, Wright later told Bower that the low concrete dome on the roof looked like “a bald pate with excema (sic-rpk).” Bower, known to be a little confrontational himself, replied, “I could do without the sarcasm that was smeared so thick (sic-rpk) over your criticism.” However, accepting Wright’s comments, he added, “I think the faults of the design were out of awkwardness, not affectation. I wanted to use the dome form not only because it seemed appropriate to the site but also because it seemed possible to economize by spanning the house with an arched shell instead of a flat heavily reinforced slab. I am interested not in novel effects but in integrity.”

He redrew the house according to Wright’s suggestions, explaining, “The roof shell is not to be bone-white but a light earth-red, just dark enough and colorful enough to take well the mellowing effect of the weather.” The house was a tiny hexagon. Seen from the road, the red shingled dome surrounded by white gravel, all encircled with a red fascia, became an iconic image. Ted recalled a female member of the co-op saying, “that roof practically gives me an * every time I go by it!”

The following pictures are taken from Roland Reisley’s book “Usonia New York: Building a Community With Frank Lloyd Wright
There was an interesting article in The New York Times on Reisley and the house Wright built for him.
scheinbaum house

Glass house

Scheinbaum house
Scheinbaum house

bower 1

Scheinbaum house

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