Frank Lloyd Wright
Auldbrass, in Yemassee, South Carolina
Frank Lloyd Wright designed over 1000 projects during his career, Auldbrass, in Yemassee, South Carolina is the only plantation among them. It is one of the largest and most complex projects he ever undertook. Wright had an unusually intense commitment to Auldbrass, and worked on it, off and on, for over twenty years, from 1938 until his death in 1959.
Auldbrass privately owned by C. Leigh Stevens fell into disrepair after Stevens death in 1962. Partly due to Stevens wishes, it was rarely photographed or published, and as a consequence, little has been known about this major work. In 1986, film producer Joel Silver bought Auldbrass and with the help of Eric Lloyd Wright, the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, he meticulously began by restoring the existing buildings and to begin construction on the designs that Stevens had been unable to complete.
The first new project would be assigned by Eric Lloyd Wright to Bennett Baker Strahan, a graduate of the Frank Lloyd Wright school of Architecture, Taliesin as the Auldbrass site supervisor. In 1988, Ben Strahan requested Crystal Pools to build the swimming pool designed by Frank Lloyd Wright because of Crystal’s extensive knowledge of the Shotcrete application technique and Strahan awareness of the engineering challenges that would be involved in building Wright’s unusual pool design.
The swimming pool designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is 125’6” feet long, 21’ 6” feet wide. If the pool had been built in Wright’s day it would have been filled up with fresh water and emptied and refilled 7 days later with no provisions for filtration or heating systems. Silver and his guests however would require a swimming pool with modern conveniences of purification, heating, and cleaning. Dr. Jon Meincke, the founder of Crystal Pools an expert in swimming pool circulation and cleaning systems with six patents and international patents pending would tackle the swimming pool’s challenges by balancing respect for Wright’s design and building a pool with the latest in swimming pool innovation. The original owner, Stevens, an efficiency expert hired Frank Lloyd Wright in 1938 to design Auldbrass to be a working plantation would have appreciated Meincke’s patented Circ-u-vac System. (See Our Technology) Wright himself would have approved of the in floor system since it would not effect his design and is similar in concept to Wright’s radiant heating for the floors of the Auldbrass home.
The long pool with the hexagonal spa extends the line of the main house and breezeway and connects the guest houses that Silver plans to complete. The hexagonal spa unites the hexagon shaped floor tiles of the home. Wright’s swimming pool design is integral in the overall concept of the plantation. The pool walls mirror the inward sloping of Wright’s other Auldbrass structures and give the waterscape the elusion of being dramatically deeper. “The first challenge of constructing Wright’s design was the pool’s floor being wider than at the top of the pool. This inward slope made each phase difficult from digging the pool to steel and shotcrete.” states Meincke. Special engineering was required to build the large pool beam that give the appearance of a cantilevered deck. The swimming pool is a monolithic steel reinforced shotcrete structure. Meincke remembers “Strahan, Silver and I worked carefully to make certain we were building a pool of the 21st century but also in keeping with Wright’s design.”
Strahan would next request that the pool and deck be the color of “Taliesin Red” a color created by Wright himself. After several attempts, Strahan and Silver approved the color and Crystal’s SunCrete was applied to the interior of the pool and deck. The resulting dark reflective color of the pool water compliments its surroundings. The pool deck of “Taliesin Red” or Cherokee Red, Wright’s favorite color, ties together the entire plantation and yet blends into the surrounding landscape as Wright and Stephens had envisioned.
This unique southern plantation that Wright and Stephens spent much of their lives working on, is still evolving through its new caretaker Joel Silver. Stephens and Silver both stated that Auldbrass will never be finished. Joel Silver’s and his family allow Auldbrass to be available to the public every other year through The Beaufort County Open Land Trust (See openlandtrust.com) The organization preserves and protects land in the Low Country with the Auldbrass tours benefiting its mission. Please don’t miss this opportunity to visit this architectural gem.
Another great source is David G. De Long’s book titled “Auldbrass Frank Lloyd Wright’s Southern Plantation” written in 2005 by one of the most eminent modernist architecture historians. De Long’s detailed book includes interviews, letters, drawings and large wonderful photographs to capture Auldbrass for us all to enjoy.