The Usonian House at Crystal Bridges

Homes

I love homes, old ones…the one’s people design with intent and artistic panache. Pamela and I first learned an original Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian home was coming to Crystal Bridges on a trip to visit the museum over a year ago, it was a brilliant surprise! Wright, a native of Chicago (Oak Park is a complete Joy) didn’t often visit my part of the country. There are a few notable exceptions like Price Tower in Oklahoma (Wright’s only skyscraper), but the best work is not close…until now! There are obvious restrictions, but you can schedule (you need an appointment before hand complete with time of entry) a tour of the Bachman-Wilson House, either guided or self-guided. The symmetry and detail here are completely thought out and elegantly executed. The engineering feet to completely deconstruct a home and build it a new is also quite impressive. I say it all the time, but Crystal Bridges is a Gem of the Ozarks!

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 4 June, 2017
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • ISO: 500
  • Shutter speed: 1/500s
  • Title: The Usonian House at Crystal Bridges

View of Lake Como from Villa Monastero

Never a More Beautiful Place

I have been a good deal of places over the last few years, and I have to say the Lake Como region of Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Perhaps it was the lucky weather or the magical smell of the blooming wisteria that seemed to be all around. I spent my time on the lake visiting small villages/towns and the villa’s that were located there. This particular place was called Villa Monastero and while it didn’t have the financing that Villa Balbianello had, its length with super impressive!

The grounds occupy a narrow strip of land that follows the coast of the city of Varenna. I walked for 45 minutes (slowly mind you) before I hit a gate and could go no further. I entered the gates only an hour before closing time and had to walk back at a VERY fast rate to make it there before getting locked in an Italian Villa for the night. On second thought, perhaps I had the wrong idea! This photo is of one of the multitude of awesome views of Lake Como in the city of Varenna, Italy.

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 6 April, 2014
  • Focal length: 32mm
  • ISO: 500
  • Location: 46° 0.455′ 0″ N 9° 17.269′ 0″ E
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000s
  • Title: View of Lake Como from Villa Monastero

Casa Batllo Skylight

Brilliant Design

I cant get over the many ingenious design elements of Antoni Gaudi’s homes. This skylight running through the center of Casa Batllo is a perfect example. The further light has to travel, the weaker it seems. This is something I deal with in photography all the time, but in a multistory home like this it would mean the lower floors would have weak light, while the top floor would be flooded. Gaudi brilliantly used multicolored tiles to counteract this effect. Towards the top the tiles are dark blue. As you get further away from the source of light, the lighter the tiles become. The dark colors absorb more light, the light colored tiles reflect more helping to balance the light to all floors.

Casa Batllo Laundry

Design for All

This area of Casa Batllo is the laundry and servants work area of the home. What’s interesting to me is even in this utilitarian area of the mansion, Antoni Gaudi didn’t stop designing, he didn’t stop the theme. It made me think of a belly of a whale which fits perfectly with the home.

Casa Batllo Laundry
Casa Batllo Laundry by W. Brian Duncan

Shangri La Garden

Richest Little Girl in the World

What an interesting place Shangri La must have been back in it’s hay day! Not that it isn’t interesting now…there is perhaps no finer Islamic art collection in the Western world. It’s just the people that inevitable came and went from the mansion must have been an interesting counterpoint. General a sanctuary for Doris Duke from the world, the mansion was know to host Andy Warhol and Truman Capote among others…what a life.

The Mughal Garden of Shangri La

Old Mansions

There is, for me, something fascinating about touring old mansions. In part it is the history of the place. Fantastic stories of visitors and deals made under a roof as powerful men and women visit a person’s home. I also love old building techniques. There is an impersonal nature to sheetrock and modern building techniques. I simply love seeing the works of master craftsmen and artists. Then a good portion I think has to do with all the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous I saw as a kid. Who doesn’t like to think of actually living in one of these palaces.

On my most recent trip to Hawaii I visited Doris Duke’s Shangri La. I was on the regular tour as sadly the person who helps with special access was away. There is little you are allowed to photograph, but I was allowed to handhold a shot in the fantastic Mugal Garden. The cypress tress are a sort of oddity for Hawaii, but they somehow seem to thrive here. If you happen to be on Oahu, definitely put this on your list. They have one of the finest Islamic Art collections in the western world! On my next trip, I hope to get to photograph inside the estate as well as bring my tripod!