Article: New visitor's center planned for Home & Studio

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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Taliesin had a similar situation 20-some years ago. They needed a building to accommodate the huge numbers of visitors that would fit into the site without causing alarm. Anthony Puttnam had designed a Wright-like building on a triangular grid that was quite handsome. The objection was the obvious one: No matter what they said to the contrary, such a building would be assumed by most, if not all, visitors to have been designed by FLW himself. At a reunion dinner, the discussion was headed toward building a barn-like structure near Hillside that would obviously not be FLW, but would blend in with the omnipresent generic Midwestern barns. Fortunately, the Riverview Terrace Restaurant closed around that time, and a perfect solution presented itself.

In a way, that is what is happening at Oak Park. There is a need, and the solution is obvious. Fussing about how any addition should be detailed is of minor concern, since it would fit nicely in the back yard of 925, out of view from the street. Make the building as bland as possible and at least semi-detached from the old house, and it's done ... at a fraction of the price.

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

With whatever respect Ronan deserves, it must have taken minutes to come up with the design proposed for Chicago Avenue. It is the antithesis of the H&S, more than a disquieting contrast. It also is an affront to the entire neighborhood, perhaps as important a consideration.

The look of any new structure that keeps the existing houses intact (with that confounding wall wrapped around Anna removed!), while it obviously should not ape FLW, nor pretend to be 21st century Victorian, is not of great importance, since it would cower behind the old houses. A better effort would be to ensure that the two old houses look as much like they did while FLW was in residence as possible. That would require nothing more than a paint analysis.

outside in
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Post by outside in »

I agree Roderick - its a non-building if I ever saw one. All of this huffing and puffing about the need for it to be a great building "fitting" for FLW's home and studio is unwarranted.

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Post by SDR »

I'm with you in spirit. But I wonder if a (true) "non-building" is what is actually wanted, there ? It wouldn't take much to overpower those two non-Wright houses ...!


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Post by pharding »

It was a major win for the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and historic preservation that the Anna Lloyd Wright House and the Italianate House will both be kept intact with the possible exception of non-original minor additions to the rear of each. Kudos to the FLW Trust for listening to what the community, highly respected preservation organizations, preservationists, restoration architects, and FLW Homeowners had to say. The OP Historic Preservation Commission received 90 letters and emails regarding the matter. 87 were in opposition to the demolition and 3 were in favor.

John Ronan is a fine architect who presented several schemes to the FLW Trust. It is unfortunate that the FLW Trust chose the wrong one and proceeded in a very overconfident manner. They think very highly of John Ronan. The FLW Trust was undoubtedly extremely frustrated with what transpired and they blame me and the fine efforts of my staff. To their credit, they heard the opposition and graciously retreated. People respect their willingness to change course. It is commendable the FLW Trust wants to do a visitor center. I look forward to seeing what the FLW Trust and John Ronan come up with. For my taste, an understated design that is some variant of what John Ronan previously developed will be a fine solution. As Roderick stated something that aped the architecture of FLW would not be appropriate. I hope that John Ronan will amp up the design somewhat to create something that will be more visually rich.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | | LinkedIn

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Post by KenDahlin »

outside in wrote:I have to admit, I'm baffled by discussions that somehow pit Wright vs. Mies. They're both long gone, as are most of the people that worked under them. Should this discussion also include a condemnation of the Beaux-Arts? lol There is no "European Modernism" that is somehow at odds with today's (non-existent) Organic Architecture. Although Wright had some strong and lasting design concepts, many of his admirers find it difficult to accept that some of his ideas no longer apply, or are just flat out wrong. Same goes for Mies. Its time to move on and solve current issues, rather than set up a false debate/narrative about something from the past. We should be advocating retaining our urban context, such as these historic homes, and finding ways to preserve and reuse them keeping the welfare of our planet in mind (i.e. sustainable technology). New buildings should respond to these issues, and NOT try to continue the "architect as hero" monumentality of the past. It's not an issue of style, but rather FIRST responding to the context, sustainability and making our world better. FLW- " Every great architect is-necessarily a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age. (ignore the * gender descriptions please). The last thing the Home and Studio needs is someones bad interpretation of Wright. To quote Wright “Imitation is always insult--not flattery.�
No need to be baffled. Regarding Wright and Mies being dead, this misses the point. As does the hero reference. This is in the realm of ideas (sorry for the pun) and ideas have consequences. To the point here, does it matter what is proposed for the visitor center? Does it matter what it looks like? Is it sufficient for the building to retain the urban context and be sustainable, or is more necessary? Will any style do, if style is unimportant? Wright and the Modernists of the International Style thought this issue was important, even if this seems anachronistic to much of today's reductionist mindset. Wright thought that aesthetics and beauty were not peripheral but were organic to a philosophical stance from which a better architecture could be forged. A visitor center such as this should engage culture and the historical context of this architect rather than dismiss it as invalid today. Wright himself made very clear that his architecture was not of the same cloth as the European Modernists with which he interfaced with. It is when we ignore the theoretical differences that we allow schemes to surface such as we just saw. It is interesting that most in this group seem to have an intuitive rejection of it, but rather than simply saying, "I think its ugly", etc, I wanted to address the underlying principles of the matter.

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