A Frank Lloyd Wright house, designed by the architect and hand-built by its owner, came on the market this week in San Anselmo, a 3-bed, 2-bath Usonian house on a .9-acre lot asking $2,500,000. Engineer and College of Marin professor Robert Berger first approached Wright about commissioning a house in the early '50s, with the transaction conducted almost entirely by mail– Wright designed the house based on photographs and a topographical drawing of the lot– and almost entirely constructed by Berger himself with guidance from architect Aaron Green, Wright's long-time California associate. Berger was a huge fan of Wright, and with Wright proselytizing for a New World (Usonian) architecture for the common man– especially in the years after WWII– it was a good fit.
The result is a mini-version of Taliesen West, Wright's retreat and school in the desert near Scottsdale, AZ, with an expandable plan of polygons on a platform of "desert rubble masonry," the technique of setting split stones in rebar and filling the voids with concrete. Robert Berger reminisced before his death:
No mention in the listing as to the fate of the Berger's doghouse, also designed by Wright. As to the price, selling a Wright house can be an art in itself. In 2010, we looked at a much grander one in Los Banos, the Fawcett House, which closed this past June for substantially less than its original asking price of $2,700,000. To be fair, it's in the Central Valley and not an attractive Marin County neighborhood and came with some complicated water rights issues that impeded a quick sale.
· 259 Redwood Road, San Anselmo [Redfin]
· Architect Aaron Green Left Graceful bay Area Legacy [Alan Temko/SFGate]
· Owner Built Wright Houses: The Robert Berger House: 1950-1973 [Bernard Pyron]
· Let's Be Frank! [Curbed SF Archives]
[A note of thanks- we're indebted to architect and Wright expert Jan Novie at Aaron Green Associates for help with the technical details involved in Wright's dry masonry techniques. –PF]