Scottsdale is establishing itself as a mid-century modern architectural gem, tapping into the same sentimental spirit as Palm Springs has done with its wildly popular Modernism Week every February. Only instead of celebrating the works of, among other, architects E. Stewart Williams, Albert Frey and Richard Neutra, the burgeoning Scottsdale scene honors groundbreaking local designs of Ralph Haver, Edward L. Varney, Paolo Soleri, and Frank Lloyd Wright. And while many visitors to Scottsdale have done public tours of Wright’s majestic Taliesin West and Soleri’s Cosanti studio, they’d have little idea that tucked away in cactus-strewn subdivisions and hiding-in-plain-sight are architectural treasures just as interesting, and in some cases influential, as those of those two masters of design. For instance, Ralph Haver ‘s Phoenix-based firm built more than 20,000 so-called ‘Haver Homes,’ affordable tract housing notable for their low-sloped rooflines and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass, brick or cinder blocks. Haver’s mentor Varney, who studied under Wright, designed some of the state’s most iconic buildings, including Sun Devil stadium and the Hotel Valley Ho. Here’s a look at three tours that provide insights into the architectural treasures of the Sonoran desert.
Wright scholar and author Anthony Alofsin recently wrote an article for Smithsonian Magazine about Frank Lloyd Wright's unique and important relationship with New York City, which also happens to be the subject of his new book. Alofsin writes that Wright complained shrilly about the city, calling it a prison, a crime of crimes, a pig pile, an incongruous mantrap and more, but this was the bluster of someone who protested too much. New York forged Wright’s celebrity as an American genius, resurrected his career in the late 1920s, and ultimately set him up for the glory of his final decades and beyond. Read more here.
Frank Lloyd Wright took cues from the Midwestern landscape as well as the Arts and Crafts movement, of which the Prairie Style is a direct descendent. He had a strong cohort of Midwestern architects who celebrated and often contributed to his work. This group, which Wright would later refer to as “The New School for the Middle West,” included George Elmslie, William Gray Purcell, George Washington Maher, and others. Their work can be seen in places across southwest Minneapolis and the rest of the region. You can read more about notable Prairie School architecture in this region and see some photos here.
California is a mecca of midcentury modern architecture, with a wealth of homes that stand as masterpieces of the modern style by leading architects of the time. Yet relatively few are aware that two Austrian designers, drawn to America by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, left their indelible mark on Los Angeles’s architecture from the 1930s to the 1960s. Richard Neutra (1892–1970) and Rudolph M. Schindler (1887–1953) combined modern form with inventive construction and new materials to create a truly modern vision of living that remains inspirational to the present day. The new book, Los Angeles Modernism Revisited features nineteen famous and lesser-known houses designed by Neutra and Schindler, as well as other architects who were directly influenced by their work, such as leftist Los Angeles architect Gregory Ain. Each of the featured houses is marked by a minimalist aesthetic, economical use of space, and ideal adaptations to climatic conditions. Monuments of their time yet timeless models for contemporary and future architecture, the houses are shown in their present state in stunning photographs by David Schreyer, completed by newly drawn floor plans. Drawing on interviews with the houses’ current inhabitants, Andreas Nierhaus explores what the houses mean to them. More here.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Federal and local officials unveiled a plaque last Sunday designating architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) and Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell delivered remarks at a 2 p.m. ceremony, which also included officials from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. “The unveiling of the plaque,” O’Farrell said, “underscores what we already know: The structure represents an unparalleled symbol of cultural heritage and an outstanding contribution to design in the city of Los Angeles and the world.” The Hollyhock House, which was almost demolished in the 1940s, earned Los Angeles its first World Heritage designation in July. Read more here.
“Louis Sullivan’s final masterpiece.” For $2.9 million, the final Sullivan could be yours. Never mind the square footage, floor plan, or estimated property taxes, the primary selling point of the two-story mixed-use building at 4611 N. Lincoln Ave. rests almost entirely in its exquisite facade, which bears the unmistakable mark of the man who designed it, Louis “form follows function” Sullivan, a lion among Chicago’s pantheon of storied architects.
Constructed in 1922, the building’s original owner and occupant was William Krause, who operated a music store out of the first floor and lived in the apartment upstairs. Krause hired William Presto to design the building and Presto in turn recruited Sullivan, his former employer, to collaborate on the facade. By that point, Sullivan’s days of creating masterpieces like the Auditorium Building, the Chicago Stock Exchange and Carson Pirie Scott were well behind him. He was barely keeping himself afloat financially or otherwise when Presto offered a lifeline. The resulting Krause facade is vintage Sullivan, clad in green-blue terra cotta with ornamental floral flourishes. A “K” for Krause crowns the roofline. More here.