Review Of "Antonin Nechodoma, Architect, 1877-1928: The Prairie School In The Caribbean" By T. S. Marvel

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The special interest today in Nechodoma, a builder from Chicago's west side, whose active career as an architect spanned only two decades (1907-1928), mostly in Puerto Rico, is much more due to his assimilation into the Caribbean culture than to the character of his dozen Wright-inspired designs of less-than-inspiring quality. He would have been served better by a contextual history than by this monographic treatment, which focuses on his life and oeuvre. We wonder, for example, about the prevailing middle-class houses in Puerto Rico c. 1910, the traces of European influences (perhaps of Otto Wagner and the Sezession), the earlier local vernacular, and the possible influence of any of these on the architect--all unexplored by Marvel, who concentrates on the man and his Wright connection. Although conscientiously researched and competent in describing the works, the book is short on analysis--e.g., how the architect, copying Wright's drawings from the Wasmuth Folio, so conspicuously altered proportions by habitually stretching the second story, or why he was so indifferent to the fluid space (generated by the centrally located fireplace in the Prairie Houses, which he obviously had no use for). A necessary start, but no cross-cultural study and of limited insight into regionalism. For collections in architecture and Caribbean studies. Graduate through professional.


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