Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unsung Hero

Richard and Don at Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright was supported by his Chief Draftsperson, Jack Howe. Just as Wright was supported by a master draftsperson, Don Erickson was supported by his Chief Draftsperson, Richard Erickson, until Don went “solo” in 1992 intent on returning to his passion for pure design. By 1992, Don had a following of clients who were unafraid to build a home with an indoor cave (featured in “Playboy” magazine) or to build a building which many Americans considered unorthodox.

Richard is Don’s cousin. An unassuming man, and quiet by nature, Richard enjoys detail and precision. It is just such precision that made Richard a superb draftsperson. This talent was combined with an almost instinctive understanding about how to translate a concept into a structure. When Don entered his studio with his newest architectural design rendered on a cocktail napkin over dinner, Richard instinctively “got” the concept and would begin to flesh out the renderings on drafting paper.

Like Gunnar (Don’s father), Richard’s father Herbert Fritz, followed suit and immigrated to Chicago from Arvika, Sweden. While Don spent most of his childhood years in Elmwood Park, Illinois, Richard and his parents lived on another side of Chicago. As boys, the two young men would spend their weekends designing dream homes. These childhood musings lead Richard to attend Lane Technical School and to follow Don to the University of Illinois architectural program at Navy Pier, after graduating from high school.

Upon his professor’s advice, after a year at U of I, Don set out to gain admission to Taliesin. Accepted by Frank Lloyd Wright after Wright viewed Don’s design portfolio, Don conditioned Wright’s offer upon his additional acceptance of Richard as an apprentice. Wright complied.

After both men left Taliesin, and at different times, Don worked for a construction company while studying for the architectural licensing examination. With “seed money” from Gunnar, Don began to develop his architectural studio out of his home in Palatine, Illinois which he shared with his wife, Shirley, and his two young children.

Richard joined Don in the mid-1950’s and was integral to the development of Don’s practice. The two men were “simpatico;” they shared a passion for architecture. But where Don’s talent was in the engineering and design of a building, Richard’s was in the drafting of those designs, drafting with sharpened pencils and particular precision...

1 comment:

BW Des Plaines said...

Really enjoying your blog so far. I got in touch with Karyn last year about possibly doing a couple blog entries of my own about the Erickson & Stevens works in Des Plaines, but clearly you are better able to do them justice. I look forward to reading more!