Working With Alward Construction? [PART 6 of 13]

A story of a Frank Lloyd Wright Residence in the 21st Century


The Buehlers, as a young couple, could not afford the house Wright designed for them.  When Wright was told this, he simply made the house one module narrower and this was enough to make the house affordable.  Now the house was being rebuilt and the Buehlers could afford to have it larger.  Simpson pushed the residential wing one module to the west.  When we were laying out the east foundation, Maynard decided to move the house ½ module towards the east.  In sum, the house was 6 feet wider than the house that was destroyed.

As a result, the residential wing was now 4 feet closer to the former swimming pool, now the koi pond.  At an area near the dining and kitchen back door, this felt uncomfortable to Walter.  He addressed this with three new drawings.  Each showed the patio cantilevered over the koi pond.  I was with him when he presented the drawings to Maynard and Katie.  I had already seen them and knew that Walter preferred the plan with the skylights in the concrete cantilever.  It was however, the most expensive alternative.  He wanted to present less expensive solutions as well.  However, to prejudice the case slightly, his preferred drawing was done with color pencils with nice blue pictures of the skylights in the concrete slab.  I knew Water was worried Maynard would reject all three and leave the house forever marred by the narrow passage between the pool and house.  Katie was delighted with the colored drawing and made it virtually impossible for Maynard to back away.  Walter was delighted as well.

The cantilevered patio slab with its windows was to be poured as part of the structural slab.  Forming of this would require emptying the koi pond.  Maynard’s koi were old friends.  He swore some of them would come to their names.  That seemed unlikely but there’s no doubt they gathered whenever he was at the poolside.

A specialist was hired to place the koi in temporary holding pens while the pool was emptied to allow us to do the required formwork.  Large pens were set up on the site and the koi were carefully transferred to the pens.  A system of pumps and hoses supplied oxygen.  The fish were transferred on Friday.

On Monday I came to the site early and as I sometimes did, I greeted Maynard in the garden house where he had his morning coffee and read the newspaper.  I asked how he was and he replied that he was sick; that over the weekend, all of the koi had died of suffocation.  He seemed in a state shock.  Evidently, a fuse had blown on the circuit supplying electricity to the pumps and he replaced the fuse with one he had laying around the shop, a used one.   It blew in the middle of the night and when Maynard went to check on his koi Sunday morning, they were all dead.

I said how sorry I was and felt helpless to say or do anything more.  Shortly after, I was driving back to the office.  It occurred to me that I might be able to at least help replace the fish.  Maynard had said that many of his prize koi were very valuable.  I called my liability carrier on the car phone.  I explained that while it was not our fault, the problem happened on our construction site.  Might not my insurance company cover the loss?  Mark of NEK Insurance said, “not a problem.” and told me to have Maynard call him.  The fish would be replaced with matched quality.  While there was no way to replace the emotional loss, the fact that he could restock his pond without expense was some comfort.

Keith R. Alward
August, 2011