There is truly something for everyone in the new documentary about Unity Temple. The film tells the story of the craftspeople and historians behind the extensive $25 million restoration (unveiled in 2017) of the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois, with narration by none other than Hollywood heartthrob and architecture buff Brad Pitt. Director Lauren Levine tells AD the actor's voice was “a poignant way to weave in Frank Lloyd Wright’s presence”
Directed by Lauren Levine, the 55-minute film tells the story of the concrete temple’s two-year restoration and is currently available for preview screening through November 23, with an official, wider release date still to be determined. For Levine, who grew up in Buffalo and was already familiar with Wright’s projects in that city, it was an opportunity to dive deeper into her appreciation for his architecture and build on her friendship with Heather Hutchison, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation’s former executive director. Read the entire article here.
Lakeshore Public Media is partnering with local producers and funders to bring local documentaries to its streaming platform for students, educators and the general public for a limited time.
“An American Home: Frank Lloyd Wright’s B. Harley Bradley House” is streaming at no cost through the month of November thanks to the sponsorship of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County.
The Bradley House film shares the story of the Kankakee home that helped establish Frank Lloyd Wright as one of America’s greatest architects against the backdrop of a community overcoming economic challenges.
The program can be accessed online and streamed here. They can also be found on the PBS video app using many popular streaming devices such as Roku, FireTV, AppleTV, AndroidTV, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TVs and most IOS and Android devices.
The occupants of Richard Neutra-designed houses reads like a who’s who of mid-century American art and culture, and includes the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, Orson Welles and Ayn Rand. Neutra’s work wasn’t confined to the realm of luxury, either; he also worked with Upton Sinclair to design a plan for low-income housing for Los Angeles.
Of Neutra’s homes, one is widely considered to be his masterpiece: the Lovell Health House, built in 1929. Writing in The New York Times in 1982, Joseph Giovannini explained its significance. “The out-of-doors was integral to the Health House,” Giovannini wrote. “More than any other early modernists, Neutra erased the separation between outdoors and indoors.”
InsideHook notes the Lovell Health House is currently on the market; its listing at Crosby Doe Associates displays the asking price at $11.5 million. The aforementioned listing includes some other details as well: the Lovell Health House is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as having been recognized as a City of Los Angeles Cultural Historic Monument. See it here.
Gordon Strong (1869–1954), a successful Chicago attorney with real estate interests in Illinois and in Washington, D.C., became enchanted by Maryland’s Sugarloaf Mountain and wanted to build a tourist location for motorists on the promontory’s peak, he contracted with Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924 to come up with the design.
Strong had bought the mountain and surrounding real estate, hoping to build a resort to attract urban motorists from nearby D.C. and Baltimore who were eager to escape the urban hubbub. He had a road built to the summit, with a series of overlooks to take advantage of the remarkable vistas. Strong’s plan for the facility was to “serve as an objective for short motor trips on the part of residents of the vicinity,” and the project was named the Automobile Objective. In addition to sightseeing, Strong wanted the Objective to offer dining and entertainment. The design brief he gave Wright was threefold:
• To be striking and impressive so all that hear of it will want to visit.
• To be beautiful and satisfying, so visitors will want to return.
• To be enduring, a permanent monument.
After taking the commission, Wright wrote to Strong:
“An automobile ‘objective,’ I take it, should make a novel entertainment out of the machine in normal use.” Explaining his use of spiral ramps, Wright said that they allowed for the “movement of people sitting comfortable in their own cars … with the whole landscape revolving about them, as exposed to view as though they were in an aeroplane … The spiral is so natural and organic a form for whatever would ascend that I did not see why it should not be played upon and made equally available for descent at one and the same time.”
Central to Strong’s plan, though, was the automobile. His primary requirement was “to provide maximum facility for motor access to and into the structure itself.” People wouldn’t just drive to the Automobile Objective in their cars; they would experience the Automobile Objective inside their cars.
Wright’s circular ziggurat included an ascending, clockwise ramp and a descending, counterclockwise one layered beneath the first. The original plan was to fill the inside of the structure with a theater, but that concept morphed into a large, domed planetarium.
As with his other designs — most famously Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, which is built around a waterfall — Wright wanted Strong's building to be fused with the landscape itself. Strong wanted the structure placed at the peak of the mountain, but it was Wright who chose the precise location, extending the building out over the summit’s cliff. Wright also implemented his characteristic melding of nature and structure with a sunken garden on the northern terrace and planters and flower boxes on the southern terrace. At the spiral’s apogee Wright placed a roof garden. His drawings also show vines trailing down the concrete walls from the balconies and parapets plus terraced gardens on the contiguous triangle tower. The building was to become part of nature. Unfortunately for the building, what Wright came up with might have been too fantastic.
While Strong’s rejection of his design was a bitter disappointment, the commission did give Wright the chance to experiment with new forms, and he used those forms in other project drafts. Not until 35 years after he sketched the rejected Gordon Strong Automobile Objective would Wright’s ziggurat see the light of day. In 1959, he literally turned the design upside down to create one of New York City’s icons, the Guggenheim Museum.
The George Strong Automobile Objective exists only on paper—in Wright’s original drawings. Recently, however, Spanish architect and graphic artist David Romero, whose project “Hooked On The Past” recreates historically significant architectures of prior years using 3D modeling techniques, rendered realistic images of how the building would have looked had it actually been created. Read the entire article and see the renderings here.