Unbuilt Masterpieces – Wright’s Ralph Jester House

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In a followup to my new series on unbuilt masterpieces, this week I bring you Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt home designed for the Hollywood costume designer Ralph Jester. Wright drew up the plans for Jester in 1938 with the aim of building the house in the foothills of Santa Clara, California. Like much of Wright’s work, the build price for the house ended up being considerably more then the client could afford, so the house was never realized, which is a shame as it was so unique. This was Wright’s first foray using the circle, and this circle house is exceptional. The house consists of several circular pods, each with its own function (sleeping, eating, lounging, bathing, etc). The pods were connected by a covered patio creating an indoor/outdoor garden, yet its occupants would still have to go outside to go from one pod to the next. The house’s main feature is its large swimming pool forming the largest circle in the design. Wright’s design for an infinity edge swimming pool was decades ahead of anything the pool industry was creating at the time. Even today this house exudes modernism even if it wasn’t exactly practical.

Wright would go onto design other famous circle themed buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Morris Gift Shop but this was by far his purest circle design.

Guggenheim Museum, NYC
Guggenheim Museum, NYC

Morris Gift Shop Floor Plans
Morris Gift Shop Floor Plans

Wright did try to sell other potential clients on his circle house which were similar to the Jester design such as his design for Huntington which was even more ambitious and included a domed roof and a waterfall, but ultimately no one was willing to commit to the expense required to build such a radical design.

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