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HomeArtA Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Doghouse Goes on View in California

A Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Doghouse Goes on View in California


“Eddie’s House,” the original doghouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 and built by clients in 1963 (all images courtesy the Marin County Civic Center unless noted otherwise)

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was famously particular about the details of his designs, often controlling materials, artworks, and palette — for example, by limiting his masterpiece, the Fallingwater house in southwest Pennsylvania, to only two colors throughout (a light ochre for the concrete and “Cherokee red” for the steel). Though the architect is known for having a dark side, at least one instance of his disciplinarian nature produced adorable results, on behalf of a canine client named Eddie.

A young Jim Berger’s letter to Frank Lloyd Wright

Eddie’s House” is a doghouse designed gratis by Wright in 1956 to complement a Usonian-style house he built on commission for Robert and Gloria Berger between 1950 and 1951, in the Marin County town of San Anselmo, California. The county is a destination for fans of the architect, as he also designed the orange-and-blue Marin County Civic Center, which stands as his largest public project (and was prominently featured in the 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca).

The Civic Center will now be the permanent home of Wright’s smallest structure, a doghouse he drew on the back of an envelope at the request of 12-year-old Jim Berger so the family could accommodate their new golden retriever in style.

“My dog’s name is Edward, but we call him Eddie. He is four years old or in dog life 28 years,” reads the letter penned by the young Berger, in which the boy adds he would pay for the doghouse with money from his newspaper route.

The final doghouse design features some of Wright’s signature moves, with a low-slung roof and the suggestion to use scrap material from the original home build, including Philippine mahogany and cedar, to further enhance its harmonious blend with the lines of the human domicile. The Bergers got around to building the doghouse in 1963, though apparently Eddie never really bothered to sleep in it, preferring cushier digs inside the house. He certainly wouldn’t be the first of Wright’s clients to be disappointed by some of the architect’s shortcomings — apparently, as with many of Wright’s designs, the roof to Eddie’s House leaked.

In 1970, Gloria Berger sent the doghouse to the dump, but in 2012, Berger brothers Jim and Eric rebuilt the doghouse from Wright’s original plans, and in 2016, Jim donated the piece to the county. It was on display briefly before going back into storage; now, it’s back on view.

The doghouse on display at the Marin Civic Center

In keeping with Wrightian principles of incorporation, the curved plexiglass used to protect the doghouse display is repurposed from one of the original Marin County Civic Center skylights (although the skylights were added after the architect’s death, to shelter the open mall areas that were part of the original Civic Center design).

While this wasn’t the only time Frank Lloyd Wright found himself in the doghouse — for occasionally running off with married women, snubbing the American Institute of Architects, and creating beautiful aesthetics, sometimes at the cost of structural deficiencies — the story of Eddie’s House is certainly the most charming instance.

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