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H e was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's last apprentices, and he's still designing with Wright's principles today.

It hardly seems possible. There are still a few- a very few- architects who were personally trained by Frank Lloyd Wright himself, and one of them is itching to design your next house. Based in Atlanta, Robert Green, AIA, is one of the very few people who can design a house that is not only Wrightian in appearance, but Wrightian in principle. Just as Wright did, Robert Green wants to know you and know your site, so that the house reflects both client and setting. A native of Savannah, GA, Robert Green studied architecture first at Georgia Tech, but left when he found the institution's program too limiting. The International Style was favored by his professors, and Green found the style too cold and sterile; he had already found the work of Frank Lloyd Wright to be of great interest and inspiration. After two years in the Marines that qualified him for the G.I. Bill, and a brief stint at Berkeley, Green returned to Tech for a while, but again, found the emphasis on machine-like structures to be a constraint he could not live with. The final straw was a dispute with a professor over the quality of Frank Lloyd Wright's work.

No, it's not an early-1950's Frank Lloyd Wright- it's Robert Green's Krone House. The design is completely original, yet reminiscent of Wright's Usonians. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)

One of the few kindred souls Green had found at Tech was a professor who eventually left the university to accept a post as head of the Department of Architecture at USC. Traveling to California to meet with this man, Green stopped over in Scottsdale, Arizona, having heard that Frank Lloyd Wright would accept students under the G.I. Bill. Green applied to Mr. Wright by letter, which took so long to be answered that Green sent a second, more terse note asking for at least the courtesy of a response. That letter elicited a meeting with Wright, one that found Green so eager to be accepted for training that he told Wright he'd be willing to sleep in his car. Wright's twinkle-eyed response, "Well, we won't make you do that," was Green's signal that he'd found a place at Taliesin West.

Green's Arrowhead House, shown at the beginning of the article and in this photograph of its Family Room, takes its name from its distinctive, arrow-shaped floor plan. The built-in seating seen here is similar to that seen at Wright's Fallingwater. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)

Green speaks of his time at Taliesin appreciatively, but unsentimentally; names usually pronounced with awe are merely old co-workers to him, and he does not remember everyone fondly. But his affection for Mr. Wright is boundless, his gratitude for his education at Wright's side incalculable. He has kind words for Wright's secretary, Eugene Masselink, feeling that Masselink was one of the few whose devotion to Wright was completely devoid of selfish motives.

The Pafford House shows Green's interest in building houses that are in tune with their sites, and the lives of their owners. Many nearby houses are designed for impressiveness, sitting starkly on their lots, dominating their surroundings instead of becoming part of them. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)

As much as Robert Green gained from his time with Frank Lloyd Wright, that time was short-lived. Wright died in 1959, only a year after Green's offer to sleep in his car if necessary. A lot changed at Taliesin after that, and Green eventually founded his own practice, one that continues today. He's particularly adept at the use of Wright's hexagonal module, which Green prefers to think of as a triangular one (six triangles make a hexagon). Green's Kingloff House, Sherman House, Color Country Spa, and Gianino House all show complete mastery of the tricky 120-degree angle that Wright used in his Hanna House, now part of the campus of Stanford University.

Echoes of Wright's detailing appear in Green's Gigi's Restaurant, built in Athens, GA. The beams, the architectural lighting fixtures, and the clerestory are all Wrightian elements used in a new, simpler manner. The building now houses a Chinese restaurant. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)

As close as a Robert Green house can be to Wright's own work, Green's career has not been as high-profile as one might think. Green loves his adopted Atlanta, and he loves designing Wrightian houses, but the two enthusiasms are not always compatible. Atlanta is a city that loves the new and the fashionable; modernist architecture is more likely to be torn down there today than built. Another city might have yielded more commissions, but Green is unfazed. He has always done what he wanted to do, without compromise.

Built-in lighting dramatizes a room in Green's Howell House. The stone is Georgia granite, laid by local craftsmen in the manner traditional to the area. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)

In addition to designing houses, Green also shares Wright's interest and aptitude for designing furniture and details. His clients often end up with custom-designed furniture to go with their new house, and Green nearly always adds built-in lighting that's perfectly mated to his architecture. His houses are strongly in demand with those Atlantans who do appreciate Wright's work; the fashionable Lake Lanier resort area boasts several houses by Green. Green's practice is not limited to residential architecture; he also designs commercial and multi-family projects using the same principles taught to him by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This plan of the Sherman House, one of Green's houses using the 120-degree angle used by Wright in his Hanna (Honeycomb) House, shows Green's absolute mastery of the difficult-to-comprehend hexagonal module. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)

Robert Green shares Wright's interest in the design of furniture; this chess table's tiled playing surface is surrounded by other insets of tile intended to serve as built-in coasters for the players' drinks. Green uses the same idea in his dining tables, where larger tile inserts are used as built-in trivets for hot dishes. (Image Credit: Robert Green, AIA. Used by permission.)


Sadly, Robert Green died unexpectedly, of an aneurysm, on September 17, 2003. He leaves a significant number of built projects that enrich the architectural heritage of his native Georgia, and many fond memories among his friends, associates, and admirers.


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Copyright 2003 D.A. "Sandy" McLendon and Joe Kunkel, www.jetsetmodern.com Jetset - Designs for Modern Living. All rights reserved worldwide. This article may not be reproduced, reprinted, reposted or rewritten without express permission in writing from the author and publisher. First posted to the Web on December 8, 2003.