Niche designed by Frank Lloyd Wright gets permanent display

This dog rug is part of architectural history.

A canine retreat designed by one of America’s most respected architects has found a furry home in California.

“Thanks to a generous donation, Marin County has acquired a veritable doghouse designed by one of the most well-known architects in American history,” says a press release regarding the permanent installation of the dog hutch in the cafeteria of a civic center in San Rafael in May.

The doghouse was donated by a man named Jim Berger, who grew up in the Wright-designed Berger home in nearby San Anselmo, which his parents – Robert and Gloria Berger – commissioned Wright to design in the early 1950s Shortly after moving in, in 1956, Jim set up his own Wright command. The then 12-year-old wrote to the visionary asking if he could build a smaller home to complement the family’s Usonian-style home for their new golden retriever, Eddie.

Wright complied the following year and, at no additional cost, drew a 4-foot-square niche on the back of an envelope. When an older Jim joined the army in 1963, his father and brother built the doghouse based on Wright’s sketch.

The niche was rebuilt according to Wright’s plans in 2010.
Marin County Civic Center
house of swirls frank lloyd wright
Wright during an interview in Chicago on May 8, 1953.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images
house of swirls frank lloyd wright
Wright remains famous for his Usonian-style houses.
Archive Bettmann

Despite the design’s pedigree, Eddie was not a fan, “preferring to sleep in the warmth of the main house“. In 1970, Gloria Berger sent the kennel to the landfill. (Wright himself died in 1959.)

Skip 40 years into the future: In 2010, Jim and his son rebuilt the niche for a documentary film about Wright.

Although rejected by its sole resident, the structure is a good example of many of Wright’s signature details not as immediately noticeable in his larger designs. For example, the structure is triangular, the low-pitched roof has an exaggerated overhang – and, as with many Wright designs, the roof has leaked.

“The niche remains the smallest structure Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed and is now on permanent display at the Marin County Civic Center, Wright’s largest existing building,” the statement read. “In 1952, after 69 years in architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright designed one of the most charming buildings of his entire career…a niche for Eddie.”

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