The Whirling Arrow reports that visitors to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West will now enjoy new nods to the past thanks to a number of reinterpretation and restoration projects completed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation designed to resurrect the essence the site had when it served as the prolific architect’s winter laboratory in the late 1950s.
As Taliesin West continued to be a living space long after Wright’s passing, many changes to furnishings, upholstery, layout and overall ambience occurred over the years to suit the lifestyle of Mrs. Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship, and to later accommodate tour programs. Faced with a temporary shutdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Foundation’s Preservation and Collections departments pragmatically utilized the period to conduct research on the site’s key Historic Core—including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Office, the Garden Room, Living Quarters, Dining Cove and Sunset Terrace—to determine how they could be reinterpreted to provide an even richer experience when guests returned.
Phase one began with the teams poring over hundreds of historic photographs and archival reference materials to get a sense of how Wright decorated, used, and often rearranged his environs with eclectic, beautiful artifacts and designs. Using the legacy imagery, detailed reports were created tracking the changes made over time and identifying what authentic art, furnishings and other textures still lived in the collections onsite and could be reintroduced to the spaces to return them to their earlier states, and what would need to be recreated.
“The reinterpretation work completed at Taliesin West in recent weeks was largely centered around what could be done to give visitors a better understanding of Wright’s philosophies, and to demonstrate how those principles are still relevant and important today,” said Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Director of Preservation Emily Butler. “The research that was done allowed us to reconstruct and reinstall the elements necessary to make the already compelling architectural wonder even more expressive and beautiful.”
One of the most impactful projects completed in Phase One involved the restoration of a historic and beloved Chinese screen in the Dining Cove. The intricate, multi-media screen was reinstalled in a large frame and then further protected from the effects of the desert with non-reflective Optium Museum Acrylic®, generously donated by TruVue. Prominent conservator and chair of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Board of Trustees T.K. McClintock lead the pro bono restoration of the showpiece screen, along with the design of the protective case.
In phase two, the Foundation hopes to continue reinterpretation efforts by re-upholstering the current orange-colored furniture, which was originally introduced in the 1970s, back to the rusty red, yellow-gold and subdued blue hues accurate to the late 1950s. The next round of projects will also focus on reintroducing architectural features that divide the larger room with visually compelling components that provide an intimate gathering space with views to the garden.
Taliesin West—one of eight Wright-designed buildings inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list is currently open for public tours Thursdays through Sundays with advanced online reservations required. Virtual tours are also available. More here.
Just a friendly reminder that Fallingwater and Miami University are hosting a free, online 90-minute event next Saturday, January 16th via Zoom. Entitled “New Conceptions: Sustainable Organic Architecture,” the program’s lineup includes Wendell Burnette, Kevin Alter of Alterstudio Architecture, Bill James of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Stefan Behnisch as the keynote.
The program will use Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture as a starting point for discussion to explore ideas of sustainability through the lens of what might be considered organic. By bringing together leading practitioners, educators, scholars, and students, the hope is to advance more comprehensive and affective theories and practices that will secure an enduring future for the planet while envisioning a built environment that nurtures and ennobles the human condition. For more on the event and to register follow the link.
Pilgrim Baptist Church, best known as the birthplace of Gospel music, received a grant worth more than $200,000 Thursday from the Citywide Adopt-A-Landmark Fund in what is likely the first of many steps to rebuild the church. The landmark Adler & Sullivan-designed building at 3301 S. Indiana Ave. in Chicago burned in 2006 and partially collapsed in August's vicious storm.
The grant will go towards stabilizing the exterior walls of the church at 3301 S. Indiana Ave. It will be the first project of many required to restore the church, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Place in 1973 and named a Chicago landmark in 1981.
The Citywide Adopt-A-Landmark Fund gives money generated by Downtown construction projects to buildings designated as Chicago Landmarks. The city acquires the money by taking 10 percent of the Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus, a fee developers pay to be allowed to build increased density Downtown. More here.
There is a model 17th century Japanese house squatting in the middle of a park in Philadelphia. It has been there for 63 years, but not many knew why until the city's Japan America Society staged an exhibition called "Shofuso and Modernism: Mid-Century Collaboration Between Japan and Philadelphia." Meant to highlight the JapanPhilly2020 campaign — an Olympics-related celebration of nearly 150 years of trans-cultural exchange between Japan and the city— the exhibition ran from September through November 2020.
The story of the Shofuso (Pine Breeze Villa) house and grounds brings together four artists from Europe, the U.S. and Japan: Antonin Raymond, an architect from Prague; his French wife Noemi, an interior decorator; famed prizewinning Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura, designer of International House of Japan in Tokyo and the Japan Society building in New York; and George Nakashima, a Japanese-American wood craftsman and furniture designer.
Raymond (who worked under Frank Lloyd Wright and eventually became the go-to Western architect in Tokyo, where he founded his own company. The four artists met in Raymond's Tokyo office in the 1930s, working to design private homes and public buildings for the city's richest patrons. Their collaborations and friendship spanned half a century and survived a world war.
The history of the house itself is also a wonder, as recounted in an elegant documentary film, "A House in the Garden: Shofuso and Modernism," produced by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia with Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, both fellows of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia.
The house was built at a workshop in Nagoya in 1953 using the traditional hand tools, materials and joineries of classic shoin-zukuri (residential architecture) of Japan's Edo period (1603-1868). A year later, it was dismantled and reconstructed in New York City, where it was opened to the public at the Museum of Modern Art as a gift from Japan to America symbolizing postwar friendship and peace. Two years later it was moved again, this time down to Philadelphia, where it has stood since 1958.
Visitors to the site during its brief window of accessibility in 2020 (it opened in early September but closed shortly after due to COVID-19 restrictions) celebrate the calming effect of the environs and their meticulously arranged objects, which include Nakashima's furniture, Noemi Raymond's interior designs, and photographs both archival and recent, curated by landscape and architectural photographer Elizabeth Felicella. The program will resume in early 2021. Until then, virtual tours are available on the JapanPhilly website, the environs can be sampled via the documentary film. Read the entire article and see the photographs here.
Architecture critic Blair Kamin's recent announcement of taking a buy-out from the Chicago Tribune leaves us with a mixed bag of emotions. As Mark Hertzberg (himself a veteran of the ink and newsprint trenches) poignantly writes on his Wright in Racine blog:
"Chicago will be diminished as developers and members of the City Council will no longer have Kamin looking over their shoulders. Daniel Burnham famously said, 'Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.'
There have been many 'big plans' announced in recent Chicago history, but they were not necessarily the best plans. Kamin’s columns were Chicago’s conscience to praise worthy ones, and try to hold others in check."
So, a toast to Blair Kamin and his many years of excellent critical writing. We look forward to seeing what might be next. Be sure to read the rest of Mark Hertzberg's post here.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's The Whirling Arrow features, "A Personal Journey: Recreating The Call Building Model" by Eric M. O’Malley, co-founder of WrightSociety and of OA+D Archives. Graphic designer and illustrator Eric O’Malley has always had a passion for interpreting the world around him through drawing. With his illustrations, O’Malley has often honored his favorite Frank Lloyd Wright buildings while using his unique perspective on shape, line, color, and space. This excerpt originally appeared in V4N1 of the Journal of Organic Architecture + Design.](https://cur.at/KbLLI5b?m=web)
"The first time I laid eyes on the wooden Call Building model was in my twenties when my family and I visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate Taliesin, near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Being young, I had yet to fully mature into any kind of understanding or true appreciation for Wright’s work. But seeing the imposingly tall, yet elegantly slender geometric model of this skyscraper sitting at the entry to Wright’s Hillside drafting room seized my undivided attention on that tour and left an indelible impression in my imagination. I was amazed that something that looked so fresh and so modern could have been designed in the early decades of the 20th century. If Frank Lloyd Wright could design something so prophetic way back then, what other remarkable things, I wondered, did he conceive of and design in his long career. That early encounter with the Call Building model was a spark that lit a fire of passion for Wright’s designs, works, and ideas that burns to this day." Read the entire article and see the photos here.