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Architects, Music and Hi-Fi

Music at home
Frank Lloyd Wright was known to have equipped his luxury home projects with a grand piano. When I visited Fallingwater some years ago I vaguely remember seeing a Fisher 50C preamp tucked inside a wall mounted console but no grand piano. Perhaps this was because it was designed as a weekend home for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. 

The following are scans of how architects approached music reproduction in homes during the first half of the 20th century.

Charlotte Perriand's Modular Cabinet was part of a Bachelor Pad concept presented on behalf of Le Corbusier in Brussels, 1935 - looks like a  ~ 6" fullrange speaker, AM radio/phono amp + an early electric turntable? And it seems like acoustic feedback was not yet a major consideration in those days ;)

Walter Gropius living room in Lincoln, MA
Click on picture for a larger view of the hi-fi components right of center as well as the coaxial speaker further right (infinite baffle?).

Living room of the (Julius) Shulman House,1950 by Ralph Soriano. Cool Jensen DU201 to the right ;)

Pierre Koenig's living room - lots of LPs and I see a Luxman CL35 preamp on the equipment rack. Partially visible on the right edge of the picture is a lowboy speaker cabinet...

...a stereo pair. I wonder what drivers are inside as well as the  loading configuration,  vented box or?

Eames Three Way
This is an interesting picture of a Charles Eames/Stephens Trusonic collaboration sent a while back by Thomas Patrick Shortall, Jr. aka sixcats with another intriguing speaker in the background ;)  Robert Stephens was part of the Shearer Horn project before starting his own company. I have seen a few Stephens drivers and the quality of construction is comparable to an Altec or JBL. But I never saw or heard this particular speaker system which according to a brochure in Hi-Fi Lit contained a 15" woofer in a folded horn chamber, compression driven 10 cell horn midrange + super tweeter. It is a rare piece and probably samples have been snapped up by mid-century modern collectors long before audio aficionados became aware of the sonic virtues of vintage equipment.

Keener eyes will notice that the Eames Trusonic E3 share the same wide front baffle aspect as Pierre Koenig's lowboy enclosed speakers. I have a gut feel Koenig's speakers are actually E3s distorted slightly by a wide angle lens or that's just wishful thinking? ;)

The point is, after years of fiddling with speaker enclosures and open baffles I have come to a conclusion that the prevalent narrow and tall configuration of modern speaker designs does more harm than good to the sound. Gifted architects like Charles Eames and Pierre Koenig probably knew better then...


  1. Dear JE, Thank you. A friend shared your SE45 instructions and last summer I built a pair of mono blocks that run a pair of Altec Valencias, I've never been more happy with the sound in my house. I noticed a Stan Getz piece on another of you posts, I too love the man.
    Again thanks and if you ever make it to Sacramento, Cal. I at least owe you dinner. Maybe a drink and an evening of jazz would do you. Hit me with an e-mail and I'll roll out the red carpet.

  2. Thanks for the kind words and invitation!

    I don't think I'll be in your vicinity any time soon but will keep it in mind.

    Happy listening!

  3. great blog.....have to follow...keep it up

  4. Joseph, I have also scrutinized the gear at Fallingwater but, as you know, they hustle you in and out of the rooms it is hard to take it all in, Well, at least for me. Be sure to visit the Jackson Pollock house and studio in eastern Long Island. Bogen tube amp, Garard tt, and, best of all, an Altec or similar duplex speaker built into the closet door of the dining room. You can see the amp and TT in one of the photos, here:
    Best wishes, Joe

    1. Hi Joe,

      Cool set-up Mr. Pollock had! Sorry I overlooked this comment and took me a couple of years to reply.

      Happy listening!



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