I live in an unusual home—it’s been called a “wooden shell,” a “paisley,” a “hobbit house,” “The Eye.” My late husband Dennis Lencioni and I built this organic, sensual passive-solar sculpture 25 years ago designed by architect Arthur Dyson, and now, with my husband Greg Lapp, I have built a second home with the same architect, a design that follows the form of the California foothills and opens onto the Kings River, defying the Valley heat and capturing the breeze off the river. Arthur Dyson, who apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff, and William Gray Purcell, espouses an authentic architecture based not only on the site, but particularly on the client’s nature and personality. I frequently encounter people who doubt the practicality and feasibility of such radical architecture; yet, through my stories and experiences and interviews with most of the owners, builders, and the architect himself, I describe why authentic architecture is not only worthwhile and feasible, but therapeutic, stimulating, and enduring.
Artist/architects–especially residential architects–depend on clients, first to appreciate, and then to complete (and pay for) their artwork. Other artists–painters, musicians, writers–are not as directly dependent on the client relationship. My hope is that my perspective (as a client who “gets it”) will impact architects who dare to create for clients’ souls as Dyson does. Both houses are radically “green,” in the sense that they require no AC in the 100+ degree heat of California’s Central Valley; our winter heating bills are also negligible. My experiences working with Dyson over 25 years will encourage potential clients to design with architects committed to innovative, organic, human-centered design.
To supplement my experiences and observations, I have interviewed people who knew Art at Taliesin, in Oklahoma with Goff, people who have worked with him and for him, as well as other clients. I have talked to the contractors, apprentices, his family and friends. He has been active in the community–especially on behalf of the homeless–and I have talked to people he’s worked with in that capacity. Following his more public building projects, I’ve witnessed the impact Dyson’s work has had not only on individuals, but on communities.
I grew up near Pasadena, California, graduated from Stanford University in communication with a minor in art history. My first jobs were in television, advertising, journalism and research.
Settling in the Central Valley east of Fresno, I received an MA in creative non-fiction from CSUF. I’ve spent most of my adult working life teaching writing, most of that time at Reedley College, a two-year community college outside of Fresno in the community where Dyson practices, but I approach this project as a client. I’ve sought stories which precede the first time I met him in the mid-80’s, and I’ve included stories since that time from others, but I’ve discovered that my encounters with Art and with organic architecture are a complex microcosm of everyone’s. Ideally, I’ll give creative authentic architecture an avenue to thrive and motivate new clients to consider this enduring architecture that, in Dyson’s words, “speaks to the human soul.”