The Siegel House
Courtesy Thad Russell The Siegel House

The Center for Architecture, a New York–based cultural center for architecture and the built environment, presents Kaneji Domoto at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia, an exhibition focusing on the houses designed by late Japanese-American architect and landscape designer Kaneji Domoto, in the Usonia Historic District, located in Pleasantville, N.Y.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior in 2012, the Usonia Historic District is Frank Lloyd Wright's only fully realized neighborhood, inspired by his vision for American exurban communities. Usonia is a 47-house community, laid on a 100-acre lot, in which Wright designed three residences himself. For a short period, he also served on the district's building committee, set architectural guidelines, and predetermined choices of materials and styles for the houses.

Construction of the Lurie House
Courtesy Walter Slattery/the Kaneji Domoto Family Archive Construction of the Lurie House
Construction of the Siegel House
Courtesy Kaneji Domoto/the Kaneji Domoto Family Archive Construction of the Siegel House

Domoto's earliest connection to Wright traces back to 1939, when he applied to the School of Architecture at Taliesin (formerly the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture), in Scottsdale, Ariz. Although he spent only one year at the Taliesin West campus, his style was undoubtedly influenced by Wright. This is especially evident in his earlier Usonian houses such as: the Lurie House (1949) and the Harris House (1949). "[Domoto's] Wrightian style cost him a passing grade on his first architectural licensing exam, he later submitted a more conventional design and passed," says Lynnette Widder, the exhibition’s curator, and lecturer in sustainability management at Columbia University, in an email to ARCHITECT. A closer look into Domoto's work in Usonia also reveals a number of Japanese motifs like "the translucent sliding panels that recall Shoji screens, and lathe-clad ceilings," says Widder.

The Lurie House
Courtesy Thad Russell The Lurie House
The Siegel House
Courtesy Thad Russell The Siegel House

In 1948, Domoto started working with the committee, and designed five houses in accordance with the committee’s Wrightian guidelines. For Domoto, Usonian architecture was an opportunity to translate Wright’s vision into low-cost construction, and to evolve his master’s style by using his personal knowledge of landscape architecture. Unlike Wright’s reputation of being difficult to work with, Domoto adhered to his clients’ needs, budget, and lifestyle. His Usonian houses utilized newly available materials, and building techniques specific to post–World War II America such as: plywood, black iron pipes, fluorescent fixtures, and corrugated fiberglass panels.

The Bier House
Courtesy Thad Russell The Bier House
The Harris House
Courtesy Thad Russell The Harris House

The exhibition includes artifacts, drawings, letters, models, and photographs—all gathered from never-before-seen private archives—that offer an extensive look into the five houses (the Silson House, the Bier House, the Harris House, the Lurie House, and the Siegel House) Domoto designed for the district between 1949 and 1955. The collection also explores his architectural style, his experience as a landscape designer, and his architectural references to Japanese motifs. Of these five houses, Widder offers an in-depth look into the Lurie House, where her own research on Domoto’s architecture began.

Kaneji Domoto at Usonia
Courtesy Jack Holme/the Kaneji Domoto Family Archive Kaneji Domoto at Usonia
Kaneji Domoto at one of Usonia's construction sites
Courtesy the Kaneji Domoto Family Archive Kaneji Domoto at one of Usonia's construction sites

Designed by New York–based architecture firm Studio Joseph, this exhibition not only celebrates works of a lesser-known architect, but also provides a glimpse at life in Wright’s inner circle. Kaneji Domoto at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia runs through Aug. 26 at the Center for Architecture in New York.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Usonia Historic district was located in Mt. Pleasant, N.Y., when it is in fact located in Pleasantville, N.Y. The article has been updated to reflect the correct location. We regret the error.