Wright responsed to the great depression, in part, by designing Usonian homes. While Wright designed an average of 6-7 buildings per year between 1900-1929, he essentially had no new commissions for four years between 1930 and 1933, as construction in the U.S. ceased.
Wright had tried to design modest homes before, as early as the turn of the century, without much critical success. But in the wake of the depression, FLW tried again to bring the magic of good architecture to a middle class price point. The homes were a hybrid of custom design, mixed with prefab thinking. Each house was genrally quite unique, but used standardized elements, some of which could be precut off site.
Wright designed the "first Usonian" in 1936 in Madison, Wisconsin upon a challenge by journalist Herbert Jacobs to build a house for under $5,000. (The actual cost turned out to be $5,500, though Wright was accused of diverting material form the nearby Johnson Wax construction to remain within budget.)
The Jacobs house displayed the features that became common to Usonians, including:
-- Single story
-- Exaggerated horizontality
-- Wood and brick
-- Cantilevered overhangs
-- Board and batten walls
-- Open kitchen floor plan
-- Car port (no garage)
-- Clerestory windows
-- Centralized heating (usually radiant)
-- Essentially every room opening to outdoors
Pew House, 1939, Madison Wisonsin