Wright in Italy

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flwright
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Wright in Italy

Post by flwright »

Wright's 1910 sojourn (self-imposed exile?) to Italy with Mamah Cheney seems to be an area in Wright's life that doesn't seem to be discussed in great detail.

Is there much known about Wright's time in Europe? Does anyone know of any pertinent details? Are there any books on Wright's European adventures? Does Wright have any writings during his time in Italy? Does anybody know the location of the building he proposed to build for he and Mamah in Fiesole? How did his time in Italy shape his future projects back in the U.S.?

Certainly Wright took in some inspiration from all of the architecture there (although he certainly wouldn't admit it). I will be in Italy in a little more than 5 months and I'd like to finish planning the voyage, brush up on some related reading and maybe see some of the things Wright may have seen; to retrace some of his steps, so to speak.

Although self-serving for my trip, I think this might be of greater interest to the readers of the forum to learn a little more about this little discussed period in Wright's career ... that is if there is anything else to be learned. Please enlighten me!
Morgan

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Post by Wrightgeek »

From what I can recall, at some point Wright was hired to design a memorial building on the Grand Canal in Venice, but the specifics of this plan are escaping me at the present time. I'm sure someone else here on the forum can supply more of the details of this unfulfilled project.

Jeff Myers
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Post by Jeff Myers »

The Frank Lloyd Wright Complete Works has it.
JAT
Jeff T

peterm
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Post by peterm »

I feel that the influence of Italy is at its strongest in the design of Taliesin itself. The colors, materials, and way in which the house naturally steps down the hillside evokes the antiquity and honesty of a rural Italian village, at the same time clearly stating its modernist intentions. Is there another Wright work which is more "Italian"?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Image

As seen in "Frank Lloyd Wright: Architect" (MoMA, 1994; Riley, ed.)
This drawing contains an example of the perspective layout method employed at Wright's studio. . .


Image

Another version of the same drawing, as published in Pfeiffer's "Treasures of Taliesin." Pfeiffer: "The villa for Fiesole shows his understanding of how
to build in this Italian setting. The building is brought directly to the street edge, as a wall, permitting an enclosed and secluded garden within. The
roof line seen over the street wall is actually set back on the other side of the garden, while a projecting section comes to the wall with its grouping
of three window and a decorative frieze above." The triple windows sport odd little "Christmas trees" in both versions of the drawing; note the
unusually prosaic shuttered window below.



Masieri Memorial, Venice, Italy, 1953

Image

Also published in "Treasures of Taliesin." While in Italy in 1951 Wright met a young architect. Angelo Masieri visited Taliesin two years later with
his wife; in a subsequent accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike [?] Masieri was killed. His widow proposed the memorial and commissioned
Wright; family in Italy owned property on a canal there. Controversy over a new building in the ancient city apparently doomed the project.

george nichols
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Masieri Memorial

Post by george nichols »

A good study of the noted building is contained in "Memorial Masieri,
Venecia 1953" by Rafael Moneo,#23,
Arquitecturas Ausentes Del Siglo XX
Also see "Frank Lloyd Wright,Europe and Beyond",edited by Anthony Alofsin.

G.N.

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Can you imagine that building on the canal? It would have fit perfectly. No one can say he was not sensitive to the scale of the neighboring structures and beauty of the site. It appears from the drawing that it was intended to be built of marble. Too bad the the memorial was never built.

For all of Wright's rhetoric in regards to an "American architecture", he clearly would have built appropriately no matter which continent or country he would have found himself in. Just think of this Venice design contrasted with the Imperial hotel. Completely different solutions, perfect suited for their environment. No "one size fits all" International Style for Mr. Wright...

SDR
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Post by SDR »

The Old Man's solution for the Imperial, occurring just past the first third of his career, seems to me as much European as Oriental. It would be
interesting to see how he would have approached a comparable commission in Japan, in his maturity.

For Wright, just being different, following his own star, seems to have been enough. But I do not dispute that he was exquisitely sensitive to what we
now call "place."

SDR

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

Anthony Alofsin's The Lost Years has a lot of detail about Wright's time in Europe, though it concentrates on what he saw in Germany and France.

An interesting footnote to Masieri is that one of the local beauty-lovers who rose up to squelch the project was Ernest Hemingway, who was a child in Oak Park when Wright lived and practiced there.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

FLW liked the small Italian villages, but was not overly impressed by the graniose Renaissance cities. The site of the villa he rented in Fiesole is known and has been published, but I'm not sure he had a specific site for the studio he planned to build there. Taliesin is a very Italianate structure from the outside, though the interior doesn't seem at all Italian to me.

The site of Masieri is still vacant. Ginny Kazor visited Venice a few years ago, and saw it. Hemingway should have kept his opinions to himself.

SDR, the reason Imperial is European in aspect is because that's what the Japanese wanted. They were courting foreigners, and wanted a hotel that would be at once exotically Japanese and comfortably European/American. This was a calculated effect. The interesting story of Imperial is the little-known annex FLW designed. In 1919, an annex to the original hotel (1890 - 1922) burned to the ground, and within four months, FLW designed and built the new annex, which survived until the construction of the main building was completed, then demolished. He included a luxurioiusly appointed apartment for himself. For a building intended to be temporary, one might expect something about as inviting as Hotel 6, but the annex was carefully designed and detailed. Kathryn Smith wrote a superb article about it in "The Art Bulletin", June 1985 (which also contains an article by Lloyd C. Englebrecht on "Adler & Sullivan's Pueblo [CO] Opera House").

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Thanks, Roderick. I had been ignorant of the annex. Do you know where pictures (if any) are to be found ? I suppose the "Art Bulletin" article. . .

SDR

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

SDR, there are no exteriors that I have seen, and not many interiors. Kathryn's article includes just six interior shots, one of a lounge, four of FLW's suite, and one of his bathroom. Bruce's new book, "FLW, The Heroic Years: 1920 - 1932" includes (despite the title) some info on Imperial including on pp 46 and 47, the second floor lounge and FLW's living room. The photos in Kathryn's article show that the published floorplan was changed considerably during construction, so there is likely no definitive plan in existence.

Bruce's book also includes an early photo of Jiyu Gakuen (pg 51) proving that the large window wall in the Main Hall has been altered. As shown in Mono 4, pg 185, There are solid wood panels in some parts of the fenestration and a major transom across the whole composition, neither of which is original.

RonMcCrea
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Post by RonMcCrea »

I visited Fiesole with my spouse in 2004 and wrote an illustrated article for The Capital Times of Madison, Wis., titled "In love, in Italy: Frank Lloyd Wright's romance in the Tuscan hills." It was published on May 29, 2004, if you want to find a link. I couldn't. I found it on Nexis and will send the original requester a PDF. I'll also try to dig out my photos of the Villino Medici where Frank and Mamah stayed.

It's easy to find -- just take a bus or taxi (20 minutes from Florence) up the hill to the Fiesole town square. The Via Verdi is right there and the Wright place is about a block up the hill, overlooking Flprence and the Arno River valley below. It's just as Wright describes it in his lyrical memoir, "In Exile," which is on pp. 164-165 of the Barnes and Noble reproduction of the 1943 Autobiography. There's a plaque on the wall of the corner building, but the actual little house is next door, connected to a walled garden.

Historic photos of the interior and garden of the place (which can only be glimpsed from the path) were taken by young Wright apprentice Taylor Wooley and can be seen online in the University of Utah archive: http://db3-sql.staff.library.utah.edu/l ... /P0025.xml

A Florentine fan, Giampaolo Fici, worked out a series of drawings of how he imagined the finished home/studio project that Wright drew would look, and his son Filippo Fici, also an architect, finished the job and published a little booklet, "Frank lloyd Wright -- Fiesole 1910." I visited Filippo in Florence and he was nice enough to give me a copy. I'll try to scan and post a couple of images.

On the other side of the town square is a must-see archaeological museum park that was there in 1910. It has both Etruscan and Roman features, including an amphitheater (that is still used in summer festivals), the relics of baths (including one that looks just like a lap pool) and a temple base that is pictured in a scene in the film "Tea with Mussolini," where Lilly Tomlin, who plays an archaeologist, meets with Cher.

We went in early May and it was all in bloom and enchanting. You can see why Frank and Mamah loved it. Take a table at and outdoor cafe, order some bruschetti and a mezzo of wine, and soak it in!

As for Taliesin and Tuscany: In an article published in Wisconsin magazine in 1932, titled "Why I Love Wisconsin," Wright says of Jones Valley: "So 'human' is this countryside in scale and feeling. 'Pastoral' beauty, I believe, the poets call it. More like Tuscany, perhaps, than any other land, but the Florentines that roamed those hills never saw such wildflowers as we see any spring if the snow has been plentiful."

So it's likely he had Italy on his mind when he was building Taliesin just months after he and Mamah returned from their sojourn.

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

Italy was still with him when he started to design for LA. Hollyhock was "a California romanza" with a loggia and a pergola. His next building was "La Miniatura."

JimM
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Post by JimM »

SDR wrote:Thanks, Roderick. I had been ignorant of the annex. Do you know where pictures (if any) are to be found ? I suppose the "Art Bulletin" article. . .SDR
There are interior pictures of the annex in "Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan" (Julia Meech). There are also a ton of great contemporaneous pictures of Taliesin at the time and details on his manic involvement buying and selling Ukiyo-e. It's a little known period, and the book makes for fascinating reading.

Any Wright aficionado who does not have this book is missing considerable information regarding a phase of his life which was more interesting than most of his architecture at the time.

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