Lost Wright

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9780684813066: Lost Wright

Despite Frank Lloyd Wright's renown as America's most celebrated architect, more than one hundred of his buildings -- one of every five built -- have been destroyed. Thirty-one burned, two fell to natural disasters, four were shops or offices that changed use, and twenty-two were meant to be temporary. But the majority were razed either for economic reasons or because fashions changed.

Gone are his majestic Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the playful Midway Gardens in Chicago. Buffalo, New York, has lost the innovative Larkin Administration Building. Residents of Madison, Wisconsin, near Wright's own home, no longer have his delightful boathouse on Lake Mendota. Gone, too, are notable residences such as the palatial Little house in Minnesota and the stables in Mississippi he designed for his mentor, Louis Sullivan. Ocatilla, his ethereal camp in the Arizona desert, was meant to be temporary, but it is gone nonetheless. Apartment buildings, houses large and small, retail spaces, resort colonies, garages, garden structures, and monumental high-profile commissions -- all have been lost to future generations.

"How could it happen?" asks author Carla Lind in Lost Wright. She then proceeds to show exactly how and why each of these buildings is no longer here. Illustrated with fascinating and often rare photographs, descriptions are arranged by building type from houses to apartments, recreation to business, even some of Wright's own properties that have not survived. Gone but not forgotten, these revolutionary buildings come back to life in the pages of Lost Wright.

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About the Author:

Carla Lind has worked to preserve Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy for two decades. Author of The Wright Style (Simon & Schuster) and the Wright at a Glance series, she has directed the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. She also supervised the restoration of one of Wright's classic Prairie residences, the May house in Grand Rapids, Michigan, served as a consultant for the restoration of the Darwin Martin house in Buffalo, New York, and now teaches in the graduate historic preservation program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives in Oak Park, the locale of much of Wright's earliest work, as well as at a farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, near Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

WRIGHT'S PROPERTIES

Spaces under Frank Lloyd Wright's control -- his own homes and properties as well as those he rented -- were always in a state of flux and most susceptible to loss. During his life nearly continuous changes were made in response to new artistic inspiration or the evolving needs of his family and the Taliesin Fellowship, the group of apprentices who studied and resided with him. The places where he lived and worked were living organisms, responding to the conditions they encountered. Wright was in fact his own biggest client. Using his homes as laboratories, he experimented and experimented and experimented. Each place he lived after he left Oak Park in 1909 was not just his home but a complex of buildings designed to accommodate the needs of a community of individuals who lived and worked together. During his last twenty-seven years, Wright's fondness for change was facilitated by the existence of the Fellowship, which provided a steady pool of cheap labor eager to "learn by doing."

Not all changes were voluntary. Fire, which seemed to plague Wright throughout his long life, ravaged his Wisconsin home, Taliesin (1911-59) (left), three times. After each disaster he responded defiantly to the challenge and seized the opportunity to create yet another imaginative space for his own use. Rather than melting his spirit, fire seemed to temper his steel.

Only major changes to Wright's properties -- those that resulted in the loss of an entire structure or wing -- are presented here. Omitted are a number of small utility structures at Taliesin that deteriorated or became obsolete and were subsequently torn down; these include an old wash house, a machine shed, pig pens, and the carriage house behind Tanyderi, the home of Wright's sister Jane Porter. Although some spaces had outlived their usefulness and were simply eliminated, others were replaced with new designs. By tracking the buildings that were discarded by Wright or otherwise destroyed, it is possible to get a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the life of this inventive architect as he met the challenges of a vital yet turbulent seventy-year career. For one whose life and work were synonymous, the fallen buildings left in Wright's personal wake begin to tell his story.

HILLSIDE HOME SCHOOL I

Wright's aunts, the innovative educators Nell and Jane Lloyd Jones, retained their twenty-year-old nephew in 1887 to design this school, which they established on their parents' homestead. The progressive boarding school was rooted in the lessons of nature and was open to boys and girls. Many years later Wright's two oldest sons would attend Hillside Home, making the twohundred-mile journey from their home in Oak Park, Illinois, on horseback.

The building's design drew on the work of the Chicago architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee, who had been commissioned the same year by Wright's uncle, the prominent Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, to design his All Souls Church in Chicago as well as the family chapel (1886) in Spring Green. Wright had supervised the chapel's construction and would eventually work for Silsbee when he moved to Chicago. The Shingle Style, which Silsbee brought to the Midwest from the East, appealed to the transcendental aesthetics of the Lloyd Jones clan and became the basis for Wright's own first home in Oak Park (1889-98).

In 1902 Wright designed another school building with classrooms and a gymnasium, but his aunts continued to live in the older building. When the school closed in 1915, Wright took over the property, allowing the aunts and his mother, Anna Lloyd Wright, to live there if they wished, but it was mostly abandoned.

After their deaths Wright repeatedly tried to alter the original shingled school to fit the Prairie Style profile of his newer building. The Victorian wainscoted rooms were converted into several apartments, connected by a bridge to the main building, and used by young Taliesin apprentices in the 1940s. Wright had the shingles removed and the roof flattened and, awaiting an inspired solution, left it covered with tar paper for many years. But it was just too tall. Finally, it became an unbearable eyesore, and in 1950 he had it demolished, the fine oak flooring recycled into dining tables and shelving.

TALIESIN I

Seeking to begin a new chapter in his life, Wright left his family in Oak Park in 1909 and resided in Europe for a year. When he returned he established a new home in Wisconsin that he shared with his lover, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a former client. Like the hill towns he admired in Tuscany, his new complex would be a hilltop refuge, complete with a tower.

Initially referred to as a cottage for his mother, Taliesin I was constructed on thirty-one acres adjoining his sister Jane Porter's property in Spring Green in Wright's beloved Wisconsin River valley, where his ancestors had settled. His house, built of plaster, wood, and stone from a nearby quarry, was called Taliesin after a Welsh poet whose name meant "shining brow." Wrapping around the crest and into the slope of a large hill near his grandfather's homestead, it marked a return to the landscape that he had learned to love as a boy.

The driveway curled around the house, passing through stone piers between the hill and the residence. With its sculptures, pool, terraces, and stone walls, the garden was an integral continuation of the building's design. The entry was hidden within a sheltered stone loggia, establishing an intimate welcome. Perpendicular to the residential wing, which included a master bedroom suite, a guest room, two bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living-dining room, was the long drafting studio. Beyond and perpendicular to that was the farm unit, with its anchoring tower. Each zone of the U-shaped complex was connected to the others by open terraces or courtyards. Wright hoped to make Taliesin self-sustaining as a farm, a home, and an architectural studio, integrating and unifying all aspects of his life.

Inside the residential wing and studio, huge stone fireplaces served as the focal points of the main rooms, while panoramic views of the valley through ribbons of casement windows energized the spaces. Wright had taken elements of his Prairie Style concepts, enriched them with his European experiences, and produced an intimate and imaginative retreat that reflected his new-found freedom -- his first natural house.

One afternoon in August 1914 Wright's new life suffered a terrible setback when a crazed houseman served lunch and then set fire to the house, murdering seven people with an axe as they tried to flee. Wright, working in Chicago at Midway Gardens, was called home to find Mamah Cheney, her two children, and four employees dead and his home partially destroyed. As he wrote in Liberty magazine in 1929, "In 30 minutes it had burned to the stonework or to the ground. The living half of Taliesin violently swept down in a madman's nightmare of flame and murder."

TALIESIN II

Ever resilient, Wright immediately rebuilt his house after the 1914 fire and tried to put his life back together. Although only the residential portion had been destroyed, Wright used the opportunity to make alterations to all parts of the complex, enlarging and adapting them to suit his expanding vision. The new house fell short of his ideal plans, but such was the reality of the everevolving Taliesin.

The rebuilding of Taliesin I to create Taliesin II was undertaken using the same materials -- limestone, plaster, and wood -- but the execution was more refined and less rustic than the earlier version. The masonry masses that survived were reworked so that the fireplaces received new mantel stones. Elevations became more complex. The rooflines of the living room and the studio were changed. In place of its pitched ceilings, the living room gained a recessed panel and the drafting room a shed roof with a reverse pitch section over the fireplace, which partially concealed a pocket art glass window.

The building and refurnishing of Taliesin II coincided with a period when Wright traveled frequently to Japan during construction of the Imperial Hotel, so the house was filled with his new art collections. Between 1917 and 1922 he brought home not only Japanese prints but also Japanese screens, textiles, metalwork, and sculptures and Chinese ceramics. Many pieces were built into the structure or strategically placed as integral parts of the architecture. The richness of the interiors was a result of the combination of these artworks and the simplicity of his own imaginative architecture.

But once again -- eleven years later -- fire destroyed Wright's home, again leaving his studio untouched. He described the event in Liberty magazine: "At twilight, the lightning of an approaching storm was playing. I came down from the little detached dining room on the hilltop to find smoke pouring from my bedroom. Again? There it was -- Fire!"

Many people rushed to help, but the storm winds only made the fire worse. Miraculously, just as the fire reached the drafting room, the wind changed and blew it out. No lives were lost, but many valuable works of art were destroyed along with the house. Wright walked through the ruins, collecting fragments of the art, and then he wove these into Taliesin III, construction of which began immediately and formed the basis for the house that stands today.

IMPERIAL HOTEL ANNEX

Before Wright was contacted about creating plans for the luxurious Imperial Hotel (1915-23) in Tokyo (see pages 126-29), a simple frame building with forty-two guest rooms had been built next to the proposed hotel site. In 1919, just three months after work on the new Wright-designed hotel had begun, a fire broke out, entirely destroying the old wooden building in one and a half hours.

Because this auxiliary space was needed until the new structure could be completed, Wright was immediately called on to build a replacement. He designed a simple three-story, wooden building with a square central court and a connecting link to the new building. It was put up quickly and sparingly. Because Wright was allowed to live on site, using hotel services, he also created his own residence, a two-story apartment, in the new annex. During the next three years he and Miriam Noel, who would become his second wife in 1923, lived there during their extended stays in Tokyo.

Wright's quarters overlooked Japanese gardens below and consisted of a living room with a balcony, a bedroom, a dining room, and an upstairs studio in which he could also sleep. It was beautifully furnished with a grand piano, many Wright-designed wooden furnishings, and artwork he had collected. Notable were the innovative lighting fixtures that began as freestanding floor lamps and then joined the wooden arms projecting from the walls. Within the distinctive brick and stone fireplace a fire burned constantly. The carved wooden door at the entry was eventually moved to Taliesin to be used as its front door.

Beyond Wright's apartment, little is known of the annex. Reportedly it was on the verge of being condemned in 1922, when the north wing of the hotel was finished, but it was still needed for guests until the south wing could be completed. It was then abandoned. Amazingly, the annex withstood the great 1923 earthquake that undermined the hotel and the fires that followed, but it was weakened and no longer required. It presumably was demolished soon after.

TALIESIN HYDRO HOUSE

Self-sufficiency was a goal at Taliesin. Wright, his family, and the apprentices raised their own food, had their own well and windmill, and supplemented the steam heat with fireplaces in most rooms. Taliesin relied on gas for lighting until 1920, when Wright decided to install his own hydroelectric power plant on the property.

Wright had reshaped and dammed the creek running through Taliesin to create a water garden at the base of the hill below his house. The hydroelectric plant, covered with a protective shelter, was placed on the lower dam. This turbine generated power for the house and pumped water up the hill to a reservoir. The pond water could not be used for drinking but was suitable for other purposes: feeding the pools and watering the gardens near the house and some tasks in the house.

Each morning, even on cold winter days, one of Wright's apprentices would rise at dawn, hike down the hill to start the turbine, hike back up, and fire up the wood stoves. Despite all the effort, the turbine was not powerful and was certainly undependable. The lights would often go dim, especially if a turtle, for instance, got caught in the mechanism. By the 1930s this power was supplemented with diesel-fed electric generators, which were used until the property received public power.

The shelter for the hydroelectric plant was built of boards and battens beneath a shingled roof. Its sloping rooflines and functional simplicity gave it the appearance of a Japanese temple sitting on a waterfall. The stone foundation was a part of the composition of retaining walls that worked their way from the dam and up the hillside to the house.

Years of struggle against the rushing waters eroded the structure, washing away one part after another. The remainder was removed during reconstruction of the upper and lower dams in 1946.

OCATILLA

Responding to a request from Alexander Chandler to design a desert resort (see page 131), Wright gathered a fifteen-member entourage, left Wisconsin on a frigid January day in 1929, and headed for Chandler, an eponymous new community in central Arizona. Wright had met Dr. Chandler, a veterinarian-turned-development visionary, through his old friend and former apprentice Albert McArthur, who was building the Arizona Biltmore Hotel nearby (see page 130).

When they arrived, Wright's band of apprentices began to build a desert camp on Chandler's land to house themselves for the next five months. While others would come and go, the core group at Ocatilla, as the camp was called, consisted of George Kastner, Cy Jahnke, Henry Klumb, Vladamir Karfik, Don Walker, the William Weston family, Mrs. Taggertz (the cook), Wright, his wife, Olgivanna, and daughters Svetlana, twelve, and Iovanna, three.

The camp structures consisted of simple board-and-batten boxes made of box board and covered with triangular white canvas roofs. The boards were painted a dusty rose like the desert sand, while the red triangles on the ends were the color of the ocotillo cactus flower. (Wright's misspellings of the word have resulted in the camp's being known variously as Ocatilla and Ocatillo.) The canvas-over-wood-frame wings of the roofs were hinged with rubber belting to open and close.

The fifteen camp buildings included sleeping boxes, a living room, a drafting room, a dining room, a kitchen, a garage, and an electrical plant. They rambled like a dotted, zigzag line around the natural flora, creating a central court for a campfire.

It was here that Wright fell in love with the desert light, especially when filtered through canvas. In his 1932 autobiography he wrote, "Since they will be temporary, call them ephemera. Y...

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Book Description Simon & Schuster October 1996, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Despite Frank Lloyd Wright's renown as America's most celebrated architect, more than one hundred of his buildings -- one of every five built -- have been destroyed. Thirty-one burned, two fell to natural disasters, four were shops or offices that changed use, and twenty-two were meant to be temporary. But the majority were razed either for economic reasons or because fashions changed. Gone are his majestic Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the playful Midway Gardens in Chicago. Buffalo, New York, has lost the innovative Larkin Administration Building. Residents of Madison, Wisconsin, near Wright's own home, no longer have his delightful boathouse on Lake Mendota. Gone, too, are notable residences such as the palatial Little house in Minnesota and the stables in Mississippi he designed for his mentor, Louis Sullivan. Ocatilla, his ethereal camp in the Arizona desert, was meant to be temporary, but it is gone nonetheless. Apartment buildings, houses large and small, retail spaces, resort colonies, garages, garden structures, and monumental high-profile commissions -- all have been lost to future generations. 'How could it happen?' asks author Carla Lind in 'Lost Wright.' She then proceeds to show exactly how and why each of these buildings is no longer here. Illustrated with fascinating and often rare photographs, descriptions are arranged by building type from houses to apartments, recreation to business, even some of Wright's own properties that have not survived. Gone but not forgotten, these revolutionary buildings come back to life in the pages of 'Lost Wright.' The majestic Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, the stunning Midway Gardens in Chicago, and the innovative Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York, are among the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces lost to us forever. With color photos, architectural illustrations, and black-and-white period photographs, Carla Lind gives these glorious works the attention they deserve. 150 photos. Bookseller Inventory # 118766

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