Introduction: Frank Lloyd Wright Concrete "Textile" Block

Usonian Ornament: A Computer Numerically Controlled reconsideration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block system

The project intends to investigate how the change from standardized industrial processes to digitally-based fabrication methods promotes new ornament in architecture, one that integrates structure, program and beauty. Formal design investigations of Frank Lloyd Wright's textile block system are to be examined in terms of the possibilities of surface modulation and structure through digital manufacturing, a process that exploits the reciprocal effects between digital information and material production. Research, fabrication and assembly procedures will center on full scale Computer Numerically Controlled production processes and multiple, subsequent material pour and drape forming CNC production techniques.

Project investigations in geometry from Frank Lloyd Wright’s historical, textile block specific building systems are intended to renew a discussion of both ornament and production processes. These project investigations highlight experiments done as studies of known geometrical systems of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block patterning systems reworked through digital machinic processes in new materials, including the Derby, Ennis-Brown, Freeman, Hollyhock, La Miniatura, Little Dipper, Storer, and Susan Lawrence Dana houses, as well as the Arizona Biltmore, Imperial Hotel, Midway Gardens, Price Tower and San Marcos In the Desert projects.

Project investigations include digital, 3-dimensional single surface & solid-object models, multiple toolpath variations and 1:1 male and female, or positive and negative [figure-ground reversal] molds, as well as interlocking [mirrored / sandwich type] molds, including Corain, foam & medium density fibre-board, and multiple, subsequent material pours, including concrete [with steel reinforcement], latex, plaster, resin & rubber compounds.

Additionally, Mesa and North American geometric influences, including Aztec, Mayan & Native North American [typically southwest] Indian cultures, are to be profiled & traced to the FLW textile block geometry sets, along with biological motifs.

Ornament in Architecture

The FLW textile block projects are a series of indulgent highlights in an architectural history of surface ornament and articulation. How digital techniques may facilitate an extension to this lineage becomes the question. What is important in this discussion is not the historical background, but the sensibilities and formal geometry systems active in their production. The geometries form a sort of energy or architectural phenomena, ripe for reinterpretation.


Sweeney, Robert L. Wright in Hollywood-Visions of a New Architecture. Cambridge:

The MIT Press. 1994.

Moor, Abby. Californian Textile Block. London: PRC Publishing Ltd. 2002