The National Park Service has awarded a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures grant to support restoration efforts at the John and Catherine Christian House, commonly known as "Samara," a National Historic Landmark. The house represents one of the most intact works by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Samara is the Wright-designed home located in West Lafayette that Indiana Landmarks co-stewards with the John E. Christian Family Memorial Trust, Inc. The public grant will be matched by $503,000 in private funds from the Christian Family Memorial Trust.
“Samara is truly one of America’s treasures, not only because the home was designed by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, but because it’s one of the most complete, fully implemented Wright-designed projects, with original landscape, graphic motif, interior furnishings, and exterior details,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “We’re pleased that it has risen to such national prominence.”
Dr. John and Catherine Christian commissioned Wright to design the house, working with him over a period of five years (1951-1956) to develop the design and construction details. As the sole owners, the Christians consistently adhered to Wright’s prescribed concepts and ideas. The house represents a rare example of the relationship between owner and client that Wright espoused, but rarely achieved, in which the client was a dedicated partner with the architect in realizing and maintaining the full expression of the famous architect’s plans. Those ideas included specific furniture, china, bed linens, and even the toilet paper holder.
Wright called the house Samara after the winged seeds produced by the site’s evergreens. He repeated an abstract version of the winged seed design motif in the interior and exterior of the house.
“Dr. Christian provided exceptional care for the home until his health began to fail in later years,” said Davis. “Thanks to his care, the home remains stunning, but, as one might expect with a 64-year-old home, it is ready for some structural restoration.”
Chicago-based Harboe Architects conducted a conditions assessment, which determined the restoration plan. More here.
InsideHook says that viewing an impressive work of architecture from the exterior is a fulfilling enough experience, but there’s something to be said for experiencing these spaces as they were originally intended — to be lived in. Now for a few days or week (or even longer), you can afford yourself the luxury (without the full price) of immersing yourself in the design and architecture from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Olson Kundig.
Their list of 10 Airbnbs that will satisfy a range of architectural tastes includes Wright's Eppstein House in Galesburg, Michigan. See the offerings here.
Here is a reminder about a new exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois, by City of Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson. Titled
Wright before the 'Lloyd', this exhibit chronicles how Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by early mentor-ships with architects J. Lyman Silsbee and Louis Sullivan, along with other design disciplines in the development of his own distinctive architectural approach.
Samuelson assembled the exhibit from his private collection of photographs, computer-aided reproductions, and material scraps—several of which were rescued from demolition sites or the dumpster. The exhibit is mounted in three adjoining galleries, beginning with Wright’s childhood in Wisconsin and progressing chronologically to conclude with the first designs signed as "Frank Lloyd Wright."
"You could see his work evolving, then there is a period (between 1896 and '97), and he turns 30 years old. He figured out where he wants to be... but you can still find the essences of all those other influences if you know where to look," Samuelson says. Wright also had a special ability to think in three dimensions and visualize space, giving his buildings a dynamic effect, Samuelson says: "The idea of how a human being can experience three-dimensional space by moving through it. He knew how to orchestrate this. The buildings were functionally efficient but they were inspiring, and you would get the sense of smaller spaces opening into large spaces. Light became part of his palette where it would penetrate the spaces."
Wright before the 'Lloyd' runs through to 14 February 2021 and is free with museum admission. See the photos here.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run received a $239,741 grant awarded by the Commonwealth Financing Agency through the Pennsylvania State Department of Community and Economic Developmen. $20 million in funds were given to 164 organizations or museums in 36 counties. The funding must be used to help offset lost revenue due to forced closure by the disaster emergency issued on March 6, or any of the renewals.
Fallingwater was closed from mid-March until June 13, when it reopened with outdoor exterior self-guided and guided private tours to experience the exterior areas. Director Justin W. Gunther said Fallingwater typically welcomes about 87,000 visitors between March and July.
“This year, our closure and reduced operations resulted in visitation of only 14,000 visitors by the end of July, generating significant losses in earned revenue. Like many other arts and culture organizations, Fallingwater serves as a major tourism anchor for Western Pennsylvania with an annual economic impact of $51 million, and less tourism has created significant hardships for travel-related businesses throughout our region,” Gunther said.
In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf said, “Pennsylvania’s museums and cultural organizations provide education, entertainment, and meaningful experiences to both residents and travelers alike, and the COVID-19 pandemic severely inhibited their ability to fulfill their cultural mission.” More here.
Alden B. Dow Home and Studio recently launched its online gift shop. The gift shop is filled with products inspired by the philosophies and designs by Dow including handcrafted wooden puzzles, original mobiles, books, journals, note cards, and more. Items for sale are meant to spur creativity and playfulness. Proceeds from the gift shop help maintain and preserve the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio and allows it to offer many free K-12 educational programs. To purchase products available exclusively in the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio Online Gift Shop, visit here.
Development company Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group (MAREG) will meet with the Historic Preservation Commission in Oak Park, Illinois, Oct. 1. While the bank structure that currently sits on the lot is not historic and does not require the commission's approval for demolition, the lot itself is in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District. As such, the Historic Preservation Commission must review the proposed building to ensure it fits within the district's character, as well as the potential effects it may have on neighboring Unity Temple.
Last year, Golub & Company had designs on building a 300-foot residential high-rise on the lot in question but elected to withdraw their application after heavy criticism.
MAREG appears to have taken that into consideration, as the letter to the Historic Preservation Commission states that the "height of the building has been crafted so as not to eclipse the streetscape, and specifically not to impose on the visual space of Unity Temple."
Further, the letter states that MAREG's proposed structure's massing and architecture is deferential to that of Unity Temple, as well as the main branch of the nearby Oak Park Public Library. The village of Oak Park's design consultant, Wight & Company, contributed to the plans. More here.
A new family-led documentary reveals the story of George Nakashima, the iconic woodworker, who, influenced by the philosophy of Japan and India, saw his furniture as a tree’s rebirth.
The Japanese-American furniture maker and architect traveled the world in search of meaning, and his voyage of discovery is revealed in new documentary George Nakashima, Woodworker, which premieres online at "Design Miami" on October 2nd.
Nakashima’s belief was that when you made furniture, you created a new life for a tree. His work showcases the natural beauty of wood and was made without mass production. The compound of 18 buildings in concrete, cement and glass that he designed for himself and his family in New Hope, Pennsylvania, became a National Historic Landmark in 2014. There’s a Nakashima museum and gallery in Takamatsu, Japan.
“His importance as a designer is hard to overstate,” says Robert Aibel, founder and co-director of Moderne Gallery in Philadelphia and an authority on Nakashima. “His influence is worldwide as he is one of the few American designers lauded as a master woodworker of the 20th century.”
George Nakashima, his wife Marion and Mira were imprisoned in an Idaho internment camp during the war. It was there that he learnt traditional Japanese woodworking skills from another prisoner.
Nakashima graduated with a masters degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931. He then sold his car and bought a round-the-world steamship ticket. On his travels, Nakashima worked on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and oversaw construction of the first reinforced concrete building in India — the Golconde Dormitory in Pondicherry.
The new documentary is as much a personal journey as any of Nakashima’s creations. Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, the designer’s daughter, also a woodworker, and her cousin, TV producer John Terry Nakashima, have worked on the film since George died in 1990.
Mira and John Terry travelled to Japan and India in the early 2000s and interviewed everyone from Sori Yanagi, son of Soetsu Yanagi, founder of the Mingei movement and author of The Unknown Craftsman, to Nakashima’s Pondicherry-based friend Udar Pinto, an engineer who worked on Golconde and was also an expert on Sri Aurobindo. While Mira used their research to write the book Nature Form & Spirit (2003), her cousin continued the odyssey.
It seems a shame that when John finally declared the documentary finished, the festivals and screening rooms scheduled to host the long-awaited film this year were shut because of Covid-19. “This documentary will hopefully inspire, inform and continue the intellectual adventure which his uncle began so many years ago,” says Mira. “And, as John Terry says, “It will be a quiet premiere – and George may have wanted it that way.”’
George Nakashima, Woodworker premieres October 2nd at Design Miami/Shop. For more information on the virtual premiere click here.