Archive for the ‘Frank Lloyd Wright’ Category

Happy Holidays


For winter solstice I traveled up through

the hills of Malibu

looking like Arizona, Sedona, this time of year.

The light changes from point to point.

We arrived at Eric Lloyd Wright’s Wright Organic Resource Center

Others already stood on the hilltop, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. To join them we walked past

a lovely koi pond (shades of Japan, shades of Guggenheim!)

Frank Lloyd Wright often included a water element, even in his urban projects, and in his Southern California work.

This house, designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, grows organically out of the hill, the side of the hill, the brow, like Taliesin (“Shining Brow”) where Eric had lived and worked with “grandfather” for many years.

Others had also come to visit Eric and his lovely, sympathetic and artistic wife Mary and their family, and to see the sun set on the shortest day of the year.

The house for now is far from finished. Some of its forms recall a Japanese Shinto gate; and, as in Shinto, this architecture considers nature sacred and imbued with spirits. To be here is to feel those spirits. Shinto celebrates the sense and essence of a particular place, as does this house. Its concrete looks the color of the hill on which it stands, particularly when bathed with

Underneath the terrace, in the space below, burns the hearth of the home. Fire, to go with the water element, and earth, and air. The space with the hearth faces the sun


over the Pacific.

Back up on top of the terrace

The prow of the house

lines up with the sun on this day of the solstice. Those metal poles will be replaced by solar panels when the house is finished.

We watched an especially surreal, sublime Los Angeles sunset, enhanced by this quiet, dark, natural spot.

They take away all that feels solid inside of you

I looked to the right and saw Eric (in the center, wearing a hat) with a circle of friends

His seems a satisfied mind.

I turned around to watch

We then gathered for warmth and food, back where the koi swam silently. There we were, beneath two aged and spreading, sheltering trees; their branches wrapped loosely in Italian (Chinese?) little white lights. These illuminated our faces, but didn’t keep us warm. We wrapped our hands around warm mugs of herbal tea, shared dinner and merrymaking.

Happy Holidays to you!


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Rest in Peace Jørn Utzon

Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect, died on November 29, aged 90.
He designed the Sydney Opera House
but left the project and never saw it completed.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

With a friend, Tobias Faber, Utzon wrote a controversial article espousing two central architectural principles; learning from vernacular architecture and intelligent response to function.

If these were the seeds of the Sydney Opera House design, travel was the nutrient. In the late 1940s, the Utzons went to America, where Joern had warm meetings with the renowned Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in Michigan, Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin and Charles Eames in California, as well as a bizarre encounter in Chicago with the cigar-sucking Mies van der Rohe, where communication, in English, was through a secretary. Mies allowed the Utzons to visit his newly finished Farnsworth House at Plano, Illinois.

Utzon was struck by the way Miesian spaces were at once disciplined and voluptuous, by Wright’s richly textural use of material and by the sheer panache with which Eames combined off-the-shelf componentry; lessons which he combined to good effect in his own house in Hammermill Wood, Hellebaek, 1952. Next stop Mexico, where Utzon had his first experience of the Mayan temples that, in creating massive stone platforms at the height of the jungle canopy, enabled the Mayans to break through into the sunlight and re-create lost horizons; much as Utzon would later do in Sydney.

(From the New York Times) – As a young architect Mr. Utzon worked for Gunnar Asplund in Sweden and Alvar Aalto in Finland before establishing his own practice in Copenhagen in 1950. In 1956 he read about the Sydney Opera House competition in a Swedish architecture magazine. He spent six months designing a building with sail-like roofs, their geometry, he said, derived from the sections of an orange.

(Back to the Sydney Morning Herald) … by the time he won the Sydney Opera House competition, Utzon was a 39-year-old architect brimming with ideas and design skill but with relatively little experience in the tribulations of getting things built….

The apocryphal story is that (Opera House competition judge) Saarinen arrived two days late and, plucking Utzon’s scheme from the bin, declared it the winner. “So many opera houses look like boots,” he told the press at the time. “Utzon has solved the problem.” … the winner was agreed…. Ten-year-old Lin Utzon, Joern’s eldest child (who herself would later create a number of artworks for Sydney buildings) carried the news to her father, pedalling furiously through the frozen landscape on her bike. “Now,” she said, “can I have my horse?”

Even as Utzon basked in his win, the furor began. His winning scheme was displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art beside Saarinen’s TWA Terminal. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe hated Utzon’s design; Saarinen and Richard Neutra loved it.

Read the whole story here.

A professor of mine, Rafael Moneo, worked on the building, under Utzon. He helped develop some of the geometries of the curved shells. Moneo spoke in superlatives of his former employer. And he said that working on that project influenced his design for the

Kursaal Auditorium and Congress Center in San Sebastián, Spain (1999). Particularly in the use of two volumes to separate functions.

Warning to those who like straight lines – I don’t think his Kursaal – by all accounts wonderful – identifies San Sebastián as famously as Utzon’s design identifies Sydney.

But the Kursaal halls are said to have marvelous acoustics, whereas the acoustics in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House are said to be poor and artists complain about the lack of performance and backstage space.

Lynn Becker has a smart post on Jørn Utzon.

Utzon portrait AFP/Getty
Sunset shot Greg Wood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images



The previous post about music and Frank Lloyd Wright, and knowing how he loved music, made me think of his Guggenheim Museum as a giant cochlea – the organ of the inner ear that converts mechanical vibrations into electrical impulses.

And inside

His Guggenheim also converts our vibrations and impulses and allows us to take in sensations.

As Wright said,

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

exterior cochlea photograph via the Ethnomusic Department at UCLA
cutaway cochlea photograph via The Auditory Science Lab-Hospital for Sick Children

Music and Frank Lloyd Wright


Always interested in the intersection of architecture and music, and in edification, I give you this

“Frank Lloyd Wright playlist”
  • “Building a Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan
  • “(She’s a) Brick House” by Rick James
  • “Mother Nature’s Son” by the Beatles
  • “Let the Sunshine In” by the 5th Dimension
  • “Inside Out” by REM
  • “Square One” by Coldplay
  • “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors
  • “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” by Charles Mingus
  • “Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect” by The Decemberists
  • “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” by Simon & Garfunkel
Any additions?

The list is from this fine blog from the “curator’s corner” of Wright’s fine Darwin Martin house in Buffalo, N.Y.


Want to buy a Frank Lloyd Wright in California?


Frank Lloyd Wright
Los Banos, California

The Harriet and Randall Fawcett Residence, 1961

From the air, midway between Monterey and Yosemite, with its pool, pond and palms, Fawcett Residence is an oasis amid the checkerboard farms of the great San Joaquin Valley. With 80 rich fertile acres, the property fits naturally within a peaceful rural community context. Its self-sufficiency affords a virtual case-study of Wright’s Usonian vision of home as a “refuge for the expanding spirit of man the individual.”

And they’re saying if it’s too much for you….

Built for family living, the residence today would be ideal as a private retreat or arts center.

Plus, this being California, you can grow produce on the land,

as well as a walnut orchard.

Wright, Saarinen and Mies restored at the University of Chicago


Read the story of each by clicking on each photo.

Wright’s Robie House is stirring up a little controversy for how it might be used in the future. In architecture, as in politics, “follow the money.”

But after it is restored, Robie House should look better than any of us has ever seen it.

From the website of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust:

The restoration’s main goals are to stabilize the building, repair the damage caused over time, and return the building to its original appearance in 1910 when construction was completed and the house best reflected the design intent of the architect and the client. Throughout the process, as much original building fabric as possible will be conserved so that the Robie House will showcase with historical accuracy Frank Lloyd Wright’s original extraordinary design…

Exterior restoration began in the spring of 2002, and was completed on schedule in July 2003. The first step was to stabilize the building by preventing further water infiltration and repairing termite-damaged areas. Major projects included repairs of damage caused by water penetration, installation of a historical clay tile roof, replastering of deteriorated soffits, extensive masonry repairs, replacement of damaged bricks and limestone, stabilization or rebuilding of balconies, and conservation of 22 art glass doors and windows. All internal electrical wiring was updated and new water service was introduced. A climate management system, interlocking aspirating fire detection system, and a dry sprinkler system were installed. Reproduction iron gates have been installed in the garden and garage area….

While the exterior restoration has been completed, a significant amount of work remains to fully restore the Robie House to its historic appearance…. The interior of the home, after years of use as a dormitory and office building, needs to be restored to the original design. This includes recreating interior finishes and paint colors; conserving the original wood floors; and conserving 118 art glass windows and sashes. Missing building elements need to be restored, including custom fabricating 70 brass light fixtures; reconstructing built-in cabinets and buffets; replacing missing hardware; recreating bathroom fixtures; and procuring period pieces such as telephones, a stove and kitchen sink. Five custom-made carpets also need to be recreated.

And the landscaping!

Finally, the exterior needs to be landscaped to emphasize the relationship Wright created between the building and nature. Three large elm trees must be planted to recreate the appearance of the site in 1910, and the built-in flower boxes planted to recreate the appearance of the exterior as portrayed in the famous Wasmuth Portfolio plate of 1910.

That’ll change everything. Can’t wait.

Robie House is expected to be fully reopened in 2010, in time for its 100th anniversary.

Mies’ SSA building photo courtesy of

Like Obama? Like Frank Lloyd Wright?


Combine “Left” and Wright

here, with this.

I’m sure the evening will look like

By the way, what is Obama’s arts and culture policy? Or McCain’s?

More photos of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Clarence Sondern house here, (where the top two are from also.)

Yesterday I was at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ravine Bluffs development in Glencoe, Illinois; there’s bad news and there’s lots of good news.

Tomorrow morning I’ll visit Wright’s Barnsdall Residence (Hollyhock) and his Freeman Residence, both in Los Angeles. Photos will follow.

Fabulous. Frank Lloyd Wright on "What’s My Line?"


Wright, almost 89 years old on June 3, 1956 looks a little bored, although he does “twinkle” at the applause, when they introduce him as

I love it when one of the panelists asks if their mystery guest (FLW) works for a profit-making organization! I wish Wright had had the chance to answer.

And the question about whether his work involves the law is very funny.

Once he’s named, and asked what he’s worked on recently, Wright responds,

“…just built a tower on the Western prairies, the Price Tower. I wish you could see it. I’m quite pleased with it. I wish we had a photograph of it here, I’d like the panel to see it. Make sure they haven’t wasted their ‘guest time.'”

Ah yes, the modesty of the “World Famous Architect,”

Will we lose another Frank Lloyd Wright house?


When I was a kid, following the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Kennedy, and in the tumult that followed, I felt unsettled.

I used to walk up to the Ravine Bluffs development designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to see the houses there. They seemed so comfortable where they stood. They seemed a part of the land, a natural outcropping of the place.

I used to just stand there and look at them and find peace.

Now, one of Wright’s Ravine Bluffs houses is in danger.

Current Condition and/or Status: The house has been vacant for two years and has fallen into disrepair. Last winter, the heating pipes burst which has caused further damage.

Potential Threat: The property is for sale and is being marketed for the house “as is” or the land, which is less than a quarter-acre site. If torn down, it would be the first intact Wright house to be demolished in the United States in over 30 years.

What You Can Do: Click here.

Someone would tear this beauty down?

We’ve got to find a way to save it.

Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps the greatest artist America has ever produced, in any medium. Up there with Louis Armstrong and Walt Whitman and Martha Graham.

A creator of beautiful worlds.

Find a way to save it. Well-being depends on it.

Miami Foam City


120 million gallons of bubbles through the streets of Miami! See what you can do with the world’s largest foam machine? So says Sony, which pumped these bubbles into the streets after supplying locals with Sony cameras and digicams to shoot it. “Viral advertising” at its soapiest. You’ve come a long way, baby, from

And what’s this?


I’d love to be there when Sony shoots the next one. Bring it on! =]

And here are bubbles in “high art”

The Beijing Aquatic Center

recently completed

Of course, the most famous confluence of soap and architecture ever

Frank Lloyd Wright
Administration Building for the Larkin Soap Company
Buffalo, New York
1904. Demolished 1950

And because when I think of architecture I think of music, let’s end with