www.PDHonline.com - Your Gateway to Lifelong Learning   |   Email: PDHonline@Gmail.com   
PDH Online Course Description PDH Units/
Learning Units (Hours)

Buy Now

View Course

View or Take Quiz


Solar Hemicycle: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Jacobs II Passive Solar House

Jeffrey Syken

The 1930s were a critical time in the life and career of “America’s Architect” – Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1932, with the help of his third wife Oglivanna, Wright established the Taliesin Fellowship at his home/studio Taliesin (Welsh for “Shining Brow”), near Spring Green, Wisconsin. He would also establish his winter retreat: Taliesin West, near Scottsdale, Arizona, with the help of the Fellowship’s apprentices later in the decade. In 1935, Edgar Kaufman Sr. (the father of a Taliesin apprentice) asked Wright to build him a country house in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. The result was Fallingwater, perhaps the most famous and important house of the 20th Century. On the heels of that commission came the Administration Building for the Johnson Wax Company in Racine Wisconsin (1936). By 1938, at age seventy, Frank Lloyd Wright was at the high point of his long, prolific career as an architect.

In the summer of 1936, Herbert Jacobs - a newspaper editor from Madison, Wisconsin, challenged Wright to design for him and his family a “descent” house costing no more than $5K. Twice previously, when Wright attempted to meet such a challenge, the projects fell through due to blown budgets. This time however, the challenge would be met and the result would be “Jacobs I” - the first of twenty-five “Usonian” houses by the master architect. The house featured a flat roof, radiant floor heating, a “carport” (in lieu of a garage) and a garden. Such a low-budget house appealed to Wright’s social conscience and he intended to use such houses in his master plan for the city that was “Everywhere and Nowhere” – Broadacre City. The likes of TIME magazine and future developer of suburbia William Levitt (of Levittown fame) took note. In fact, so many people came to see the house that the Jacobs were able to recover Wright’s entire $500 fee by selling $0.50 tours of the house.

Consciously or not, Wright had created the model for the suburban single-family house of the post-WWII era. However, for the Jacobs the encroachment of the city around their home and Wright’s advice to “move to the country” led to the design of a second house: Jacobs II (1948). Where Jacobs I was innovative in its cost-saving features and use of simple materials, Jacobs II would be no less innovative for providing comfortable shelter for its occupants in its exposed site on the Wisconsin prairie using passive solar design. Wright termed it a “Solar Hemicycle,” which could/would both heat and cool the house using earthen berms, thermal mass, radiant heating and convection currents. In fact, Jacobs II is recognized as the first passive solar house ever built and became the model for modern-day “Earthship” designs. As such, its legacy ranks among Wright’s greatest achievements as an architect.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

View Course Content

NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.