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Universal Portland Cement Co. Exhibition

Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:02 pm
by Meisolus
I've become interested in a tiny project of Wright's: The Universal Portland Cement Co. Exhibition Pavilion. It was a temporary pavilion that only stood for a few months. Wright liked it enough to include it in the so called Little Wasmuth and it's a fun little design. I'm thinking of modeling it, but there is precious little information. All I've found so far is the Wasmuth perspective and a single sheet with plan, elevation, and section on it. The drawing sheet was published in Frank Lloyd Wright: The Complete Work 1885-1916. Does anyone have anything else?



I'm a little fuzzy on what exactly the exhibition was, but it was in 1910 and held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (And I'd love to know what Wright thought of McKim, Mead, & White's Beaux Arts/Moorish masterpiece.)

As always, all thoughts are welcome. Thanks everyone!

Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:50 pm
by SDR
If you got that plan sheet from Taschen, then you have what I have. Pfeiffer omitted the work from Monograph 3, and gave it little room in Taschen. Here's his text:


The project is missing from Manson and from Hanks ("The Decorative Designs of . . ."

I imagine Roderick is rummaging as we speak. You have the overall dimensions from the plan (12' x 24'), so a model is conceivable ? It would be fun to "walk around in" this little exhibit.

The "obelisks" as seen in the photograph vary in form from the drawing . . . and the tile colors would be speculative, unless a description survives.


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:34 am
by Meisolus
I need to scour my own library. I specifically remember reading that the tiles were pink, green, and white, and that the flooring was green marble tile and I feel like I even saw that called out somewhere on a sheet. I'll see if there is more to post...

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:02 pm
by Roderick Grant
The Madison Square Garden exhibit was an offshoot of a grander exhibition in Buffalo in 1901 (Storrer 63) for which no information has ever turned up.
If it's just the above tidbit you're interested in, as opposed to the entire shebang, there should be enough information to work with.

If it's the entire building, perhaps another exhibition building of 1907 would be of interest. The Larkin Exhibition Building for the Jamestown Tercentennial Celebration (Mono 3/46; Tasch 1/297) has surviving perspectives and elevation, though no surviving plans. Then there's also the Women's Building in, I believe, a Canadian exposition. There is something about it floating in the WC ether. All those exposition buildings were alike: blank space for displays. Only the envelope counted as design.

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:50 pm
by PrairieMod
The reason there are no photos or drawings for the Buffalo pavilion in 1901 (Storrer 63) is because it never existed.

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:49 pm
by Reidy
A Google search on universal portland cement company frank lloyd wright turns up nothing much on this design, but some interesting photos of Midway.

(If you get only half-screen images, click on the full-screen icon at the right edge of the toolbar at the bottom of the image portion.)

Jack Quinan has written a book on all the Buffalo designs. You might find information there.

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:59 pm
by SDR
Interesting, Eric. Can you elaborate ?

I'm going to look at a PDF of the document Reidy linked.


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:12 pm
by SDR
Mmm. Some photos of Midway that may not have been published elsewhere ?


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:00 pm
by PrairieMod
SDR--it's a little too much to post here so I sent you an email.

One of the past "Explore Wright" newsletters explained the details of busting this Wright myth, if anyone has a copy.

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:03 pm
by SDR
Heh. Thanks ! Another Wright mystery . . .


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:02 pm
by Meisolus
Some photos of Midway that may not have been published elsewhere ?
Unfortunately, they have all been published elsewhere. I'm pretty sure they are all, or nearly all, by Fuermann and the vast majority are in Paul Kruty's Frank Lloyd Wright and Midway Gardens.

I found a reference to the colors, though I thought I had seen a note on a drawing saying the same thing (I could have dreamed it though - stranger things have happened.) In Lost Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright's Vanished Masterpieces by Carla Lind, she mentions that the tabletop and floor tiles were dark green marble and that pink, green, and white unglazed tiles were supposed to be set into the concrete.

While some of the colors would have to be conjectural, it seems from the photograph that you should at least be able to tell the white tiles. It looks to me as if the picture was retouched specifically so they stood out. Incidentally, I'd love to see a version of the photo without the retouching. I'm sure it's drastically different.

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:15 pm
by Meisolus
Reidy, I'm going to order the Quinan book, thanks. I've liked his other work so I'm sure this one will be enlightening as well.

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:52 am
by Paul Ringstrom
PrairieMod wrote:One of the past "Explore Wright" newsletters explained the details of busting this Wright myth, if anyone has a copy.
Please explain what the "Explore Wright" newsletters are. When were they published and by whom. Are copies still available?

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:09 am
by SDR
Eric O'Malley is to be credited with unearthing what must be the source of the phantom Universal Cement exhibit for Buffalo of 1901: H-R Hitchcock, and Wright himself, unintentionally conspired to create a work which never
was, by listing the project both in the Chronological List, the backbone of Hitchcock's 1941 "In the Nature of Materials," and in the book's index. Mr Wright himself has to be the source of this phantom; Hitchcock wouldn't
have had material or the notion, surely, to concoct it.

But the die was cast by the author's mention of the exhibit design in the text of the book, in a paragraph discussing Wright work that took place in the early 'oughts of the century, in particular the uniquely forward-looking
Yahara Boat Club of 1902. Page 49, paragraph 2:

"It is, however, the boldly cantilevered roofs, providing long before the Gale house a premonition of the more abstract plane composition of much of Wright's later work and the work of the young Europeans in the twenties,
which gives the Boat House its particular significance. One wonders if this motif might not have been introduced the previous year in the Universal Portland Cement pavilion at the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo. Of this
no trace in photograph or drawing seems to be extant." In the Chronological List of Hitchcock, the work is described as “demolished.�

And yet, there it is in print. In the Chronological List of Hitchcock, the work is described as “demolished.�So, Storrer included the project in his earlier catalog and eventually in the first edition of the Companion. To read all
about it, and the sequence of inquiries which uncovered the source of the error, one should find the publication mentioned in Eric’s and Paul’s post . . .

(Note Hitchcock, in that quoted passage, seemingly equating Wright's more overtly modernist work with that of the "young Europeans in the twenties" -- pretty cheeky, considering Wright's stated aversion to that work . . .!)


Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:22 am
by Roderick Grant
PrairieMod, that is a tantalizing bit of bombshell. How about a summary of the salient parts of the story? How did it get started? Why has Storrer kept the entry in his books?