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an element that Wrightians would presumably long for, as it carried out Wright's fabled "compression and release" program in this most important of
Prairie houses . . .
Recreated plaster finishes I've seen -- one thinks, for instance, of the Westcott residence -- tend to overdo the dappled or variegated visual texture.
It seems to me that the planes should read as attempts at uniformity (a Wright signature ?), with the slight discontinuities appearing, correctly, as
unavoidable consequences of the coloring or texturing process, rather than intentional "distressing."
It would be unfortunate if the efforts at accuracy would have depended on one or more samples that were aberrations rather than typical examples of
the original surfaces. But I suspect that the worst results we see are simply the result of overzealousness.
Where the original surface irregularities were owing to the inevitable variations present despite the best efforts at uniformity, those variations would be
relatively few, and might appear near edges of panels, where working conditions sometimes compromise the effort at uniformity. It doesn't take much to
create the impression of hand-work. When the surface is simply dappled all over, as uniformly as possible, the result is apt to look like a face with too
much make-up: clownish.
Look at a photo of a Wright sand-plaster ceiling, uncolored. The swirled texture is the direct result of the only means available to spread and smooth
the material. It is not "an effect"; it is the inevitable texture. I recognize that Wright experimented with all kinds of visual textures on walls of Prairie-
period houses, with metallic powders, etc. Surely the intended effect was not meant to draw the eye from the forms and planes, the space-defining
elements highlighted by artfully-placed moldings.
When the surfaces draw the eye, they defeat Wright's intention -- as I see it -- of bounding space in an ambiguous way, keeping the eye moving as in a
good painting. The ceiling is formed, colored and lit so as to disguise its true dimension, as if the effect of boundless sky were the intended result. Walls
should do the same thing, colored planes which can recede behind their moldings, opening the space. Cloying and demanding visual texture to these
surfaces defeats that aim -- I believe.
"The highlight of the restoration project is the return of Wright's signature inglenook to the living room. Removed during a time when the Robie House was used for institutional purposes, including as a dormitory and administrative
offices, the inglenook is a crucial component of the main floor's aesthetic. Its restoration brings back the Wright-envisioned low, narrow space that explodes into an expansive living room, illuminated by the tint of Wright's abstract
leaded glass windows."