This time last year we published our 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013 featuring a fantastic range of films telling the tales of some of the world’s greatest unsung architectural heroes. We now bring you eleven more for 2014, looking past the panoply of stars to bring you more of the best architectural documentaries which will provoke, intrigue and beguile.
December has been a month of disappointment for fans of Frank Lloyd Wright: first, a plan to build a house designed by Wright and adapted for the English countryside has been rejected by Wraxall Councillors (Bristol Post), who believe that Frank Lloyd Wright “can’t be that influential”. This was followed by the news that SC Johnson, the company for whom Wright designed the famous Johnson Administration Building, is trying to stop the high profile Sotheby’s auction (ArtInfo) of a desk and chair designed for their building – claiming that the items were in fact stolen from them way back in the 1950s. More on the Bristol rejection here and the Sotheby”s controversy here.
54 years after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, Florida Southern College, home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, opened another structure designed by the famed architect last Friday. Originally called the Usonian house, it was envisioned as a professor’s home in 1939 but wasn’t built until this year using blueprints left by Wright.
“The greatest American architect of all time”, Frank Lloyd Wright, was born 146 years ago today. One of the all-time architectural greats, his work has now been inspiring generations of architects for over a century.
Lloyd Wright is particularly interesting because of the unique period of history which he occupied: as a disciple of Louis Sullivan (‘form follows function’) in the late 19th century, his work forms something of a bridge between the traditional architecture of that era and the modernists which began to appear around the 1920s. His later work is formally modernist, yet still retains a sensibility rooted in that earlier period.
Frank Lloyd Wright is for many people the quintessential vision of the architect: he presented himself as a lone genius, fastidious down to the smallest details of his design, and his personality was often rather brash; if it weren’t for the fact that he was almost always right, he might be seen as arrogant. But there is no denying his vision – and the timelessness of his designs continues to reveal just how strong that vision was.
On the occasion of his birthday, we invite you to take in part of the legacy that Frank Lloyd Wright left behind:
After years of disconcerting reports that the historic David and Gladys Wright House by Frank Lloyd Wright was under threat of demolition by developers, we announced that a generous benefactor saved it from its fate by providing funds to buy back the property. It seems that this particular story is not unique. An article on ArchRecord by Frank A. Bernstein lists several other modern architecture treasures that may soon fall under the same threat as they hit the real estate market.
Find out more after the break.
Ada Louise Huxtable was a renowned architecture critic who started at The New York Times in 1963. Her probing articles championed the preservation of buildings regarded as examples of historic design still imperative to the life of the city. Her arguments were leveraged by research and an in-depth understanding of architecture as an ever-relevant art form (“the art we cannot afford to ignore”). Alexandra Lange of The Nation points to the connection between Ada Louise Huxtable’s writing and its influence on the culture of preservation that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in 1965.
More after the break…
In late March, one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright designs in New York City was demolished quietly at 430 Park Avenue. This seldom-noticed interior retail space was home to the Hoffman Auto Showroom for over five decades and just as it was considered for preservation by the Landmark Preservation Commission, the owners of the building applied for its demolition. For many people, this may seem like an act of corporate greed or “corporate vandalism” and it may be so, but the landmark designation for interior spaces applies strictly to public space only according to NYC’s landmark laws.
So was this space ever anything more than private property? Aside from having been designed by one of America’s most famous architects, did the design have “special historical, architectural or cultural significance”?
More after the break…
WNYC has just released a candid interview they recorded with Wright in 1957, two years before his death, in his Plaza Hotel apartment (where he’d moved to oversee construction of the Guggenheim, which he’d been working on for 14 years). The conversation covers a wide range of topics – from Wright’s quirky personal views on American culture to the significance of architecture for mankind. Some gems from the interview include:
On the Guggenheim and its critics: “You’re going to be awakened to the beauty of that thing [a picture, a painting] from a new point of view. And it’s going to be so enlivening and refreshing, that it will make some of these painters quite ashamed of the protest that they issued against it.”
More quotes from Frank Lloyd Wright, after the break…
Our latest movie in our Films & Architecture series is another ’60s classic, this time by the master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. In North by Northwest we see a New York in the heyday of its architectural glory, with one scene taking place at a newly constructed United Nations building. In fact, the last scene takes place in a “house” that, under Hitchcock’s instructions, was meant to seem designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (in reality, the house was just another set design). The film shows a variety of urban spaces, and puts special emphasis on the contrast between the densities of urban and rural realms.
As always, enjoy and comment!
With many museums worldwide seeking to extend to accommodate larger collections, Athens-based Oiio Architecture Office has asked: “What if we decided we needed a little more of Guggenheim?”
More on the design after the break…
LEGO® aficionados, the wait is over. LEGO® has announced the details of their first edition to the 2013 Architecture series! Who better to kick off the new year than LEGO® Architecture staple Frank Lloyd Wright with his Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.
The most celebrated of Wright’s six Japanese buildings, the Imperial Hotel was designed in the, then very chic, Mayan Revival style and constructed largely of stone and reinforced concrete. It was lauded for having survived a sizable earthquake shortly after its opening, however in reality portions of the building sunk leaving residents navigating its wobbly corridors. Eventually it was decided to completely demolish the building in 1968 to make way for the high-rise building that stands on the site today.
But fret not, now instead bemoaning the loss of one of Wright’s great works, for between $90-$100, big kids and little architects can reinstate this landmark building on their very own living room floor with 1,188 glossy miniature blocks.
More photos after the break…
Christmas has come early for the international community of architects and preservationists, as an anonymous benefactor has saved the endangered David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona. Culminating a six month saga, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy is proud to announce that it has facilitated the purchase of the historic property through an LLC owned by an anonymous benefactor. The transaction closed today, December 20, and is no longer a demolition threat.
The Wright home will now be transferred to the hands of an Arizona not-for-profit organization responsible for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the structure. The change in ownership guarantees the house will survive and be preserved. Landmark status is expected to follow shortly.
More information on the David Wright House after the break…
Petre Island (sometimes called Petra Island) is an 11-acre, heart-shaped island 47 miles from Manhattan. While Wright hand-picked the site himself in 1949, and drew up plans for a 5,000 square foot ”dream house” the following year, budget concerns forced him to scale down his vision, resulting in the construction of a smaller guest cottage.
Fast-forward 53 years later, and the island’s new owner, John Massaro, decided to make those long-sitting plans reality; he hired architect and Wright scholar Thomas Heinz, who used ArchiCAD to model aspects of Wright’s design that weren’t obvious from the original renderings and updated the house with some modern amenities.
While the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation refuses to accept the house as authentic (they even tried to sue Massaro for claiming so), that hasn’t stopped AHALife, the web site featuring the island for sale, from proudly selling the “spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house” for $19,900,000 USD.
More images and info on this Wright-designed island, after the break…
Just when we thought the saga was over, a whole new chapter has begun.
The David Wright House, an unusual home in Arizona that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son, has been in danger since July, when the developer-owners announced their plans to tear it down and split the lot in two. After considerable hubbub caused by preservationists, and an online petition that received thousands of votes, enough pressure was put on the Pheonix City Council to delay demolition until they could vote on whether or not to confer Landmark Designation on the house (this would delay demolition for another three years, but not safeguard the house from demolition).
However, the point became moot when a preservation-minded buyer swooped in to save the day. Now, just two weeks later, the buyer has backed out.
Find out more on the fate of the David Wright House, after the break…
According to Real Estate Agent Robert Joffe, who represented the sellers (the developers who wished to split the Frank Lloyd Wright house down the middle), the new owner intends to preserve and restore the home. It sold for its asking price of $2.38 million dollars.
The Pheonix City Council was slated to vote on the house’s landmark designation tomorrow; however, the vote will probably be delayed in light of the sale. As Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio shared with The Pheonix Business Journal, “The next steps are for me and the Mayor to sit down and get some direction from the purchaser in regards to a long-term vision for the property.”
Which is no bad thing – in Pheonix, landmark designation only saves a building for three years. Assuming that the buyer is indeed preservation-minded, the house will be saved for generations to come: the best outcome we could have hoped for for this unusual Wright gem.
On November 5, the Design School at Arizona State University will be hosting a panel discussion centered around the David Wright House and the question of architectural preservation in the city of Phoenix. Speakers will include Burton Barr Central Library architect Will Bruder, The Design School’s director, and more. The conversation will touch on efforts have been underway over the last three months in Arizona to preserve the David Wright House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “ most innovative, unusual and personal works of architecture,” from demolition by developers.