Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum — and this 12-year-old boy’s doghouse

Written by Zoe Sottile, CNN

Famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed iconic buildings such as the Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania and the Guggenheim Museum in New York — and he also designed a dog house for a 12-year-old boy who sent him a letter.
Jim Berger grew up in a house in San Anselmo, California, that his parents had Wright designed, according to Marin County. In 1956, when Berger was 12 years old, he sent a letter to Wright requesting plans for a matching dog house for his Labrador retriever, Eddie.

“I would appreciate it if you could design a dog house for me that would be easy to build but would fit our home,” Berger wrote in the letter. “The reason I would want this dog house is mainly for the winter.”

The letter Berger wrote to Wright. Credit: MARINA PROVINCE

He offered Eddie’s age, “four years old or, in the dog’s life, 28 years,” and size, “two and a half feet high and three feet long.”

He offered to pay the architect for the design with money from his paper route.

“A home for Eddie is an opportunity,” Wright wrote in his reply, dated June 28, 1956. “One day I’ll design one, but now I’m too busy to focus on it. You’ll write to me next November to Phoenix, Arizona and then I might have something.”

It wasn’t until the following year that the architect sent Berger the plans for the triangular dog house, written on the back of an envelope and provided free of charge. The design incorporates features of Wright’s work in general and of the Bergers’ home, such as the low roof and exaggerated overhang.

Architecture buffs can see the doghouse for yourself at the Marin County Civic Center, where it was put on permanent display on May 26, according to the county. The civic center itself is the largest building ever designed by Wright.
The doghouse at the Marin County Civic Center.

The doghouse at the Marin County Civic Center. Credit: MARINA PROVINCE

However, the doghouse shown is not the actual doghouse used by Eddie. Berger’s father, Robert, and brother, Eric, built the doghouse in 1963 when Berger joined the military, six years after receiving Wright’s plans. But the family’s labrador didn’t use the doghouse, and in 1970, Berger’s mother Gloria sent it to the landfill, according to the county.

In 2010, Berger and Eric built another version of the doghouse based on Wright’s plans as part of a documentary, “Romanza,” about Wright’s life. And in 2016, Berger donated the unique structure to Marin County.

The doghouse is the smallest structure Wright has ever designed, the county says. The architect died in 1959, just two years after emailing Berger the design for his canine companion.

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