Frank Lloyd Wright Doghouse on View at the Marin County Civic Center

In the doghouse

Frank Lloyd Wright fans now have a new reason, albeit a “small” one, to visit the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, the architect’s last project, and one of his most notable. The Civic Center, the largest existing building the architect ever designed, now houses the smallest structure he designed: a doghouse that once belonged to former Marin resident Jim Berger. 

In the doghouse

Berger grew up in San Anselmo in a Usonian-style home (now known as the Berger House) that his parents had commissioned Wright to design in 1950–51. In 1956, then 12-year-old Berger wrote to Wright asking for plans for a doghouse for his Labrador retriever, Eddie, that would complement the home’s design. Wright provided plans for the 4-square-foot doghouse free of charge, written on the back of an envelope, and the Berger family built the structure themselves.

“Eddie’s doghouse was originally constructed with scraps of Philippine mahogany and cedar left over from the Berger house construction, and was inspired by the house’s hexagonal shape,” says Libby Garrison, who handles marketing and communications for the County of Marin Department of Cultural Services. “The doghouse displays many Wright design elements, including a low-pitched roof with an exaggerated overhang, the signature floor color of Taliesin (Cherokee) red and the deliberate intention of the angles of structure.” Several years later, however, the unused doghouse was discarded. “The funny thing about the doghouse is that Eddie never slept in it; he wanted to be inside the main Berger house with the rest of the family,” Garrison says. 

Berger and his brother, Eric Berger, rebuilt the doghouse in 2010 from the original plans for a documentary film about Wright and donated it to the county several years later. In May, the county unveiled its display for the doghouse inside the Civic Center’s cafeteria, where families can design their own animal house inspired by the Wright doghouse as part of the experience. And after a two-year Covid-19 break, visitors can also once again sign up for docent tours of the Civic Center, offered at 10:30 a.m. every Friday.

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Lotus Abrams

Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.