Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reissue: A Short History of the Quadruple House

Wright's Quadruple concept

The ‘cluster' or quadruple house was conceived as a solution to the housing problems for workers. In Shrewsbury in England, the Cite Ouvriere in Mulhouse in France, and in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, they came as better alternatives to the terrace house and back to back tenements.

In all these instances, the introduction of the quadruple houses can be linked to a wider movement for progressive change: in Shrewsbury, Charles Bage the inventor of the cluster house is more famous for being the designer of the first iron frame building for his textile mill; in Mulhouse, the socially conscious textile mill owners financed a company that introduced the first ‘monthly payment' arrangement that enabled workers to own their own houses - an important precursor to the modern house mortgage loan.

The quadruple house was perhaps the most economical version of the Usonian houses that Frank Lloyd Wright designed during the Great Depression. Later, during the War years, he could have built more than just the two blocks in Pennsylvania, if his plans for Massachusetts were not blocked by parochial sentiments of architects in that state.

But strangely, the quadruple house type remains largely an unusual type of building. Whilst one can easily find various versions of terrace houses or semi-detached houses all round the world, but that is not the case for the quadruple house. Outside of Malaysia and the pioneering examples here, I don't know of any housing scheme that has used this building type. If anyone reading this should know of one in their country, I'd be grateful if you'd email me with information.

In Malaysia, the early cluster houses tended to be low-cost housing for low-income workers, but recently, developers have introduced them as medium-high cost houses that are priced higher than terrace houses but cheaper than semi-detach houses. Below is a typical example in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city.

A more prosaic example of the Quadruple House


Bage: Inventor of the Quadruple House

Frank Lloyd Wright's Quadruple House

Early Quadruple Houses in Malaysia


First Posted on 2nd. September, 2007

If you are interested in the continuing evolution of the Quadruple House, you might want to look at Tessellar > Introduction

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Kyle and Svet Keeton said...

That is a neat concept of housing. They really are beautiful. (Frank Lloyd Wright's Quadruple House)Once again my favorite Architect! I would love to live in that house. I have never seen this type of housing before this article!


------RC said...

i have great enthusiasm for the
quadruple block plan and am an
advocate for its use in new urbanist communities. see

Mazlin Ghazali said...

I had a look at the castleone1 website. We share the same interest here! I wonder though about where you are based, and how you have come to be an advocate of the quadruple house ?

------RC said...


i live in the southeastern united states in birmingham alabama. as
for quad block houses...i suppose
it all began when i started reading
pattern language and got to pattern
number 140, a private terrace on
the street, credited to frank
lloyd wright. i started studying
wrights ideas in earnest, fell
completely under their spell,
and in the course of reading
about him came to a
discussion of his quad block
proposal. it struck me as being
perfectly suited to new urbanist
communities...and it is now
my mission to spread the word
which i'm so very glad to discover
is already under way :)

Mazlin Ghazali said...

Dear Robert,
You might like to know that in a couple of hours I will post a feature on your quadruple house ideas. I hope you don't mind!