Chahroudi / Massaro residence on Petre Island

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Randolph C. Henning
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Chahroudi / Massaro residence on Petre Island

Post by Randolph C. Henning »

I just last night viewed a short DVD titled, Walking Wright: An Architectural Field Trip. It was produced by Petra Productions (Mahopac, NY) who is producing a promising and what could prove to be a provocative PBS documentary that will be titled Building Wright, focusing on the construction of the Joe & Barbara Massaro residence on Petre Island, a house that is being openly characterized as a modern day construction of the 1950 Frank Lloyd Wright designed A. K. Chahroudi residence for the exact same site. From what I could see on the video, I think that the Massaro residence will go along way to violently stir the controversy pot regarding building Frank Lloyd Wright designs posthumously. This one will be a great example of people doing the wrong thing, not the (W)right thing! No need to go any further than the pseudo desert masonry walls, the so called embossed copper fascia panels and the seemingly overbearing skylight structure. It may very well turn out to be a very nice house but, with due respect to those innocents involved, its just not (W)right and never will be. Massaro has been quoted as saying, It was like Frank Lloyd Wright was there, pushing me all the way. Check it out yourselves and see if you agree with me that if Wright is still there pushing, he'd push him in the water.



Randolph C. Henning

pharding
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Post by pharding »

A substantial amount of design work occurs while any architect designed building is under construction. This is especially true of FLW whose working drawings were not particularly thorough. A regurgitated FLW design does not make a building a Frank Lloyd Wright Building. The only reason to build a regurgitated FLW design is for somebody to make a buck in a misguided, desparate manner. It certainly isn't beneficial to FLW's legacy or our culture.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

EJ
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Post by EJ »

I disagree. The more Wright pedigreed designs out there, the better. Would we want another piece of crap McMansion out there?



Many people argue that the Legacy Program Taliesin offers should not be considered authentic Wright projects because of the change in site from original design, clients, and a host of other changed variables. This would be a much more convincing argument but for the fact that Wright often recycled his designs. The Beth Shalom Synagogue, Jacobs I, and the Johnson Wax Building were all derived from previous Wright designs that did not get built. Surely there are many others I can't think of at this moment.



Whatever the scholars characterize these buildings as, I think putting them up is great. I would say to the owner "go for it, and enjoy it when you're done".
"It all goes to show the danger of entrusting anything spiritual to the clergy" - FLLW, on the Chicago Theological Seminary's plans to tear down the Robie House in 1957

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The suggestion that that fake FLW architecture is good is ridiculous. This is just another awful decision by Taliesin that creates a serious creditibility problem for them. By accepted Preservation and architectural standards the Legacy Program is very wrong and totally misguided. Taliesin does many good things, however they have had some awful misjudgements that have totally undermined their primary mission. In addition to the legacy program, selling irreplaceable FLW drawings, and the incestuous academic standards for their architectural program have been monumentally awful decisions. What they need is positive leadership willing to make tough decions and get their programs moving in a respected manner. They need to reverse their present course before it is too late. Bagging the legacy program would enhance their standing in historic preservation, architectural, and academic realms. Just because their past leadership made some awful decisions does not mean that their current leadership should mindlessly let those decisions stand.



Furthermore the FLWBC should take a position on fake Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings. Why bother to preserve and restore FLW buildings? It is cheaper to tear them down and build a fake FLW Building. Why go to Oak Park and see real FLW buildings in the original context when we can go to Buffalo and see Wright Disneyland? What is needed is moral leadership that is willing to take a stand on fake FLW buildings because it undermines the very reason that the FLWBC exits.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The Legacy ripoff is not only an affront to Frank Lloyd Wright's reputation, but the quality of the finished product betrays the lack of comprehension of FLW's philosophy by those at Taliesin who perpetrate these misdeeds. One such that I find especially galling is the country club of stone based on the Nokomis design in textile block. The Conservancy has no connection to the buildings that are not authentic Wright designs.



As far as Taliesin improving its image by upgrading its school, I think that ship sailed 47 years ago. I would rather see Taliesin turned into a retreat for artists along the lines of Yado or the MacDowell Foundation ... a place where working artists of all types could go for inspiration ... as well as the repository for FLW's archives. As rewarding monetarily as the tours may be, I would also like to see them ended before they add a roller coaster behind Romeo & Juliet.

dkottum
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Legacy program

Post by dkottum »

When I walked into our small-town lumber yard this morning with a plan rolled up under my arm, everyone scrambled for cover. Or so it seemed. Here was the guy who gets his ideas from FLLW and they are unconventional as hell. But the people who live in them love them.



So this is another legacy of FLLW besides old buildings. It is a legacy of ideas. Maybe we should not concern ourselves so much with the authenticity of a building, but think more of the beauty and joy we can bring to people if these buildings are well-designed.



The Chahroudi house is not authentic historically, but here is an opportunity to see how FLLW would set a house into a very difficult site that abounds with natural features. There are only a few built examples with such difficult siting. Perhaps we can learn from it, if we open our minds.



We would lose a great treasure if the Taliesins were to close tours to the public for such a screwy idea as an artists retreat.



Doug Kottum, Battle Lake, Minnesota

JimM
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Post by JimM »

EJ wrote:This would be a much more convincing argument but for the fact that Wright often recycled his designs.


Surely you don't imply a design "reassigned" by Wright is comparable to the Legacy program, or any other "Wright inspired" building?



While the more organic the better (even the Wright emulators), none have the spark or soul of his genius. They certainly do not have credibility as being designed by Wright, which is the usual subtext.



I am always fascinated that people settle for faux Frank as others settle for faux Colonial or faux Tudor.

JimM
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Post by JimM »

pharding wrote:Why go to Oak Park and see real FLW buildings in the original context when we can go to Buffalo and see Wright Disneyland?


I have to assume you referred to the gas station, mausoleum and boat club projects; all which I agree should be scrapped. The restoration of Martin is certainly worthwhile. Oak Park and River Forest do not have proprietary rights to "real FLW buildings" and "original context".

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Neither Yado nor MacDowell are "screwy." They have hosted some of the most creative artists in America for over a century. The problem with having tours open to any passerby with 50 bucks in his pocket is that these are very delicate structures (especially Wisconsin) that are easily damaged by excessive traffic. To close Taliesin or Taliesin West completely would be unthinkable and would make their existence pointless, but there should be limitations to minimize the stress, limitations that cannot be imposed as long as they are run like House on the Rock. There ought to be some sort of requirement other than loose change to gain admittance. That sounds elitist, but I don't care. They are too valuable to squander just for the bottom line.



As for building new structures, build whatever you like, but don't call it anything other than what it is. Appropriate attribution is what's important. Frank Lloyd Wright is gone, and nothing built today can claim authenticity, even Chahroudi if they built it exactly according to plan. It's like calling asphalt tile "inspired by marble." An empty gesture.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

JimM wrote:
pharding wrote:Why go to Oak Park and see real FLW buildings in the original context when we can go to Buffalo and see Wright Disneyland?


I have to assume you referred to the gas station, mausoleum and boat club projects; all which I agree should be scrapped. The restoration of Martin is certainly worthwhile. Oak Park and River Forest do not have proprietary rights to "real FLW buildings" and "original context".
Agreed. I misspoke and I apologize. I did intend to diminish the tremendous restoration work that is being done on the Darwin Martin House and its campus, the new visitor's center, and Greycliff. The restoration of those Frank Lloyd Wright projects, alone makes Buffalo an important destination for anyone who enjoys great architecture or great FLW architecture. The boathouse and gas station should not be regurgitated pseudo Frank Lloyd Wright architecture because it diminishes the two truly great FLW projects. The boathouse and gas station should morph into projects with the same program and designed by two great architects of our time. Maybe do an invited design competition of great architects. Possibly the build the FLW mausoleum project.
Last edited by pharding on Mon May 22, 2006 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

pharding
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Re: Legacy program

Post by pharding »

dkottum wrote:.... So this is another legacy of FLLW besides old buildings. It is a legacy of ideas. Maybe we should not concern ourselves so much with the authenticity of a building, but think more of the beauty and joy we can bring to people if these buildings are well-designed...
It is wonderful that well-designed buildings are inspired by FLW or are based upon his principals. Architects have done that for centuries without literally copying the original work. I believe that many architects, academics, and preservationists have a problem with a regurgitation of a FLW building for a different client and a different site.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

flwright
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Post by flwright »

I like to compare this continual argument to movies that are "based upon a true story." The movies are always a little more grandiose than the original story and there a number of liberties that are taken by the director and cast. But that isn't to say that the story isn't a good one or that there isn't something to be learned or appreciated by the retelling of the story. In fact some movies based on a true story become box office blockbusters!



I believe that the Legacy Program is good for many things, the least of which is the development of new ideas and the refinement of existing ideas. Mr. Wright believed himself an architectural educator and I strongly believe that his remaining sketches can continue to educate the architectural community. These unbuilt designs are a valuable tool in learning more about his thought process and forwarding some of his principles.



Are these buildings true Frank Lloyd Wright buildings? Probably not, but they are "based upon a true story." There may be liberties taken in the interpretation, but there may also be concrete ideas, theories and facts etched into each and every one of those sketches; it is only a matter of trying to unlock what may be hidden. Do we really know what happened on earth during the last ice age? No, but historians and palentologists can take two pieces of concrete information millions of years apart and draw conclusions as to what happened in between. This may be an extreme example, but this is how we learn more, and perhaps guide us toward uncovering even more useful information. I am certain that there is more to learn about Wright and his theories than what has been written to date.



I strongly agree with dkottum that we are too concerned with the authenticity of these buildings. Is it designed by Wright, inspired by Wright, attributed to Wright? Who really cares anyway?! Perhaps it is a misnomer to say those phrases, but I am not really interested in that argument -- we can leave that one for the scholars. I am more interested in a well-designed building. Those of us that can differentiate between what is or what isn't "good Wright" can do just that and debate it until the cows come home.



The only buildings that are designed by Wright and can be said to be designed by Wright are those that he completed himself. Everything after that is an interpretation no matter how well documented. There is no argument there, just varying degrees of success. But that is not to say that anything built after 1959 are not good buildings in themselves! Just appreciate them for what they are, whether they contain a small fragment or a large fragment of Wright's ideas. This is not just a regurgitation, but an opportunity to learn.



To continue to debate whether these are or are not Wright is just non-sensicle. Nobody can be Mr. Wright except for Mr. Wright so it goes unsaid that there will be a lack of full comprehension of what Wright intended. That is inherent, but is it wrong to try and figure out what his thoughts may have contained? Why not have a couple of interpretations of each building to see who can best interpret it? Or perhaps we just put a large plaque with an elborately worded disclaimer on the front of each building? Although the answer is clear to me, I am sure this discussion is far from finished!
Morgan

Randolph C. Henning
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Post by Randolph C. Henning »

The Massaro construction of the Chahroudi residence design is not a result of the Legacy Program. My initial post did not suggest it was. (In fact, I've heard that the Legacy Program has in fact been discontinued.) So please leave Taliesin out of this.



The bottom line that I'm trying to point out is that here is a case where a FLlW design is being built by someone who has no problem mentioning Wright's name in relationship to what he is doing but will not go the distance making it truly Wright. That is wrong.

dkottum
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Chahroudi project

Post by dkottum »

The Chahroudi project must be one of the most important works of FLLW to those interested in organic architecture. He loved these rugged, natural sites and could release their excitement into astounding and beautiful structures.



I looked over drawings of this project and see that the desert masonry, stamped copper fascia, and skylights were all part of FLLW's concept from the beginning. Attribution and such aside, is it the execution of these elements that is wrong?



I saw an earlier photo of the stone being bolted to the poured walls, apparently with voids to be filled with concrete to achieve desert masonry. Seems like that should work. I also read that Mrs. Massaro had made some art glass and was picking some fabrics and colors. That made me nervous, although she may be perfectly capable. After all, it was Olga who did this sort of thing as TAA built or completed most of FLLW's projects from mid-fifties on, after his death.



Doug Kottom, Battle Lake, Minnesota

Randolph C. Henning
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Post by Randolph C. Henning »

Yes, its the execution that is obviously not Wright. The desert masonry stones should only break the surface, not protrude as ledges as they do at the Massaro house. The stamped copper fascia panels should be more deliberate but they couldn't afford to do it right so they embossed the surface only ever so slightly. And the Chahroudi skylight roof structure was not intended to be as deep as it is at the Massaro house (as is admitted to in the video).

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