Though Frank Lloyd Wright has long been admired for his ability to artfully integrate his iconic structure’s into the natural world, you’ll only find one near the ocean: the Mrs. Clinton Walker House. Located on Carmel Point near Carmel-by-the-Sea—a celeb-favored California enclave—the one-of-a-kind home just sold for $22 million, according artnet news.
Designed in Wright’s Usonian style, the 1,400-square-foot and single-story home overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and is the only home designed by the architect in a coastal setting. According to the newspaper, Della Walker—widow of Minneapolis lumber executive Clinton Walker—wrote to Wright in 1945 asking him to take on the seaside project. As a woman living alone, she noted that she hoped for privacy and protection, and “a house as enduring as the rocks but as transparent and charming as the waves and delicate as the seashore.” Walker had seen images of Wright’s Fallingwater and was enamored by the way he’d integrated the stream into the property, believing he could craft something just as extraordinary on the beach line. “You are the only man who can do this—will you help me?” she concluded.
Wright agreed to take on the project—appreciating the “brief and to the point” letter—and designed the structure in 1948. Not unusual to the architect’s practice, he was reportedly unwilling to make any adjustments to his outlines, and when completed in 1952, it was largely constructed exactly as he’d originally envisioned it. Appearing like a ship’s bow cutting through the ocean, the home’s most notable feature is its hexagonal living room, which frames views of the nearby crashing waves. “I hope this tiny aristocrat among the Carmel bourgeois, so exciting in itself, is not only a domestic experience giving you the joy you, its progenitor, deserve, but a spiritual uplift,” the architect wrote to Walker after visiting the house a few years after its construction. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Find out more about the sale here.
If you're interested in learning more about the design and history of the Walker House, then you'll want to get your hands on a copy of the newest Journal from the OA+D Archives. It's over a hundred pages and dozens of photos and drawings providing an in-depth look at this iconic Wright design. Get your copy here.
Like all great visionaries, Frank Lloyd Wright had the foresight to plan for the future. In 1955—just four years before his death at 89—he launched a licensing program that led to dozens of high-profile brand partnerships for decades to come. “Wright wanted to democratize design, and products were an approachable medium,” says Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “He wanted to make thoughtful design a part of everyday life.”
Wright’s product designs play a pivotal role in his fabled portfolio according to Caroline Biggs of Business of Home. For his 1,114 architectural projects—of which 532 came to fruition—he designed thousands of furniture and decor items spanning dining room sets to office desks, textiles, vases and tablewares. “Many of his product designs weren’t properly cataloged [at the time], but when you look at the technical plans of past projects, they’re everywhere,” says Graff of the wide assortment of objects. In recent years, the foundation has turned its attention to Wright’s furnishings, both sketched and realized, to bring the late architect’s state-of-the-art works to a new generation of decorators. “Even 60 years after his death, his designs are still forward-thinking,” he says. “He put so many ideas into motion knowing they would be left in the hands of the future designers.”
Of course, in order to fully appreciate the modern-day appeal of Wright’s designs, we must first understand his then-radical worldview. A proponent of the German philosophy of Gesamtkunstwerk—which roughly translates to “total work of art”—he fervently adhered to the belief that all artwork, whether paintings, operas or built environments, should be created as a complete, unified whole.
For Wright, this meant designing his spaces down to the dinner napkins—and in some cases, hostess gowns—so that his clients were truly immersed in his vision. “He approached all of his work with the goal of creating a deeper connection between man, nature and design,” explains Graff. “His products are an example of that synthesis in material form.”
The iconic SC Johnson Administration Building in Racine, Wisconsin, provides a superlative case in point. Completed in 1939 and widely considered to be Wright’s magnum opus, the building is buttressed by lily-pad-shaped columns that support its glass ceiling, and its open working space is outfitted with streamlined, ergonomic office furnishings including chairs with tilting backrests and multilevel desks with integrated filing cabinets and ample room for knee clearance.
In residential projects, meanwhile, he employed a symphony of cutting-edge client-focused designs ranging from wheelchair-accessible door knobs and light switches to insulating tall-back dining chairs and wall-mounted toilets for easy cleaning. “Despite [him] being so famously vain, Wright’s designs were extremely user-centric,” says Graff. “He wanted to elevate and improve his clients’ lives through design.” Read the entire article by clicking here.
Over the past couple of weeks, the website Dirt has been devoting extra attention to properties in the Palm Springs area in honor of Modernism Week, the city’s annual celebration of mid century art, design, and architecture. But while Palm Springs’ pride in its architectural heritage is certainly justifiable, it’s hardly the only city in America that’s got a right to brag on this front. World-class examples showcasing modernism’s signature clean lines, dynamic forms, and integration with nature can be found in abundance in parts of Michigan, Indiana, Texas, Connecticut, and Florida, among other places. Dirt highlights five hot spots in particular that every modernist enthusiast ought to keep in mind when planning their next architectural pilgrimage. Read and see them all here.
Unity Temple Restoration Foundation's second annual Vintage Home Show is happening this Saturday, March 4th from 1-5pm at Wright's iconic building on Lake Street in Oak Park, IL. Oak Park is the perfect location for designers, contractors and artisans to contribute their skills to owners of old homes.
Guests of the event can attend seminars, visit vendor booths, and ask experts about their home renovation questions all within Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Proceeds from the event benefit UTRF’s mission to preserve Unity Temple and educate the public about the significance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s contribution to modern architecture. Get more details and tickets here.