Antonin Nechodoma, Architect, 1877-1928
The Prairie School in the Caribbean
AUTHOR: Marvel, Thomas S. and Brooks, H. Allen
PUBLISHER: University Press of Florida
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"Adds a fascinating new dimension to our knowledge of the history of modern architecture in the Americas. . . . particularly relevant now as issues of multiculturalism, regionalism, and colonialism have become more and more pressing."--Neil Levine, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University
"A remarkable job in researching, recording, and analyzing the work of this elusive practitioner. Those of us interested in the modern movement, both as professionals and as amateurs, are indeed grateful."--Wilbert Hasbrouck, Hasbrouck Peterson Associates, Chicago
In the tropical islands of the Caribbean, far from America's heartland, an improbable number of homes in the Prairie Style of architecture dot the landscape. This book brings to light the life and work of the shadowy architect of these remarkable buildings.
Although facts about Antonin Nechodoma are sketchy, strange rumors and small bits of information about his work circulated among architectural historians for decades. What is known is that Nechodoma grew up in Chicago, where he worked as a contractor for six years, and perhaps served an apprenticeship as a craftsman and builder. Thomas Marvel follows obscure leads about Nechodoma's life from Chicago to Florida and eventually to Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, where he settled in 1905. He unravels complications in Nechodoma's personal life and sorts out the influences that shaped his designs, describing with care and thoroughness the career of the person who introduced modern architecture to the Caribbean.
Nechodoma's relationship to Frank Lloyd Wright, whom he never met, emerges from this search as a troubling issue. Marvel reveals that Nechodoma freely used Wright's Wasmuth Folio as a source for some of his best-known residences, sometimes tracing a perspective or changing only minor
details in designs that he unabashedly sent to magazine publishers as his own. Acknowledging that this practice
taints one's regard for Nechodoma's originality, Marvel writes that "he can be faulted for emulation, but he can also be praised for producing great houses of his own from the great houses of Wright." Marvel credits Nechodoma with adapting the architecture of Wright's Prairie School to the tropics, creating a regional style that fuses design, climate, comfort, and natural materials that can be seen today in modest bungalows throughout Puerto Rico.
Nechodoma's later work combined ornamentation and architecture in the manner of Louis Sullivan and includes magnificent residences that explode with colorful mosaic tiles and art glass.
This book is profusely illustrated with nearly 200 illustrations and includes a bibliography of Nechodoma's published projects from 1908 to 1927 and a list of the location, dates, and current status of all his projects.
Thomas S. Marvel is a senior partner in the architectural firm of Marvel, Flores, Cobian and Associates in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and was an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Puerto Rico. He is the coauthor of The Parish Churches of Puerto Rico.
PUBLICATION DATE: 3/1/1994
CATEGORY: Architecture, Political Science