Wright Furniture: Barrel Chair, Frank Lloyd Wright circa 1904

Posted by George Pudlo on March 14, 2012 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)


This Barrel Chair was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, circa 1904, with oak. It was originally designed for the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, New York. Frank Lloyd Wright and the Martin Brothers -Darwin and Martin, had a long lasting relationship that resulted in numerous commissions. Darwin Martin was Wright's ideal client, with deep pockets.

Live In A Frank Lloyd Wright Structure After You Die -The Blue Sky Mausoleum, Frank Lloyd Wright 1928, 2004

Posted by George Pudlo on January 4, 2012 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Photo Courtesy of Forest Lawn

Blue Sky Mausoleum

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Buffalo, NY 14214

Now you can be encrypted in a Frank Lloyd Wright structure for all of eternity. The Blue Sky Mausoleum in Buffalo, New York is the only executed memorial sculpture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Originally designed in 1928, the Blue Sky Mausoleum was not built until almost half a century after Wright's death. 

The original commission for the Buffalo mausoleum came from none other than Frank Lloyd Wright's good friend Darwin Martin. Darwin first became aware of Wright's radical modernism when he visited his brother William Martin in Oak Park. The house that Frank Lloyd Wright built for William Martin in 1902, led to commissions for the Darwin Martin House, the Larkin Administration Building, and the EZ Polish Factory for the Martin Brothers.  

Documents reveal that Frank Lloyd Wright and Darwin Martin made correspondence concerning the Blue Sky Mausoleum between 1925 and 1928. It is likely that the stock market crash and subsequent depression halted the construction of the mausoleum. Martin had planned the mausoleum to be a memorial where his family could be laid to rest. The Martins funded many of Wright's creative pursuits, and Wright reciprocated by producing remarkable designs for all of the clients' architectural needs. The Blue Sky Mausoleum was no exception. 

Wright never ceased to corrupt the orthodox methodology of any given form of architecture. When asked to imagine a mausoleum, one would commonly envision a temple-like box, the antithesis of burial. A mausoleum equates to a coffin within a room, opposed to a coffin in the ground. In the Blue Sky Mausoleum, Wright created a room of nature. There are no walls. There is no roof. The floor of this invisible room is the only tangible manifestation of the architect's vision. It exists as a granite staircase with a shallow incline, gently scaling as one with the hill. The top of the staircase meets the top of the hill and is mounted by a stone hedge, vaguely reminiscent of the Hollyhock House in geometric simplicity. A path is carved deep in the center of the monument, with one crypt on either side of the escalating path, resembling twelve stairs. The plateaued termination of both the hill and the monument overlook a small pond beyond the low hill.

In total, twenty-four crypts are contained in this outdoor mausoleum.  It was Wright's intention that the mausoleum exist as a room made by nature. The walls are created by the surrounding trees and the sky symbolically functions as the ceiling. The engraving on the stone hedge describes the essence entirely : "...A BURIAL FACING THE OPEN SKY....THE WHOLE COULD NOT FAIL OF NOBLE EFFECT....FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, ARCHITECT 1928" 

Darwin Martin died in 1935, and the plans for the mausoleum were permanently set aside. In 2004, Forest Lawn Cemetery, the cemetery for which Blue Sky was specifically designed for, took on the challenge of bringing Wright's vision to life. With the help of a Wright-trained architect, they were able to make it a reality and the mausoleum was built. A unique consequence of this discarded Wright structure brought to life is that it had no intended recipient when built, and offered a rare opportunity to be encrypted in a Frank Lloyd Wright structure for all eternity. Forest Lawn Cemetery has also created twenty-six limited edition Steuben Glass sculptures modeled after the mausoleum. These crystal objets d'art will be given to each of the twenty-four purchasers of the Blue Sky Mausoleum crypts, one is permanently displayed at Forest Lawn, and one has been made available for museums and exhibitions. 

Larkin Administration Building, Frank Lloyd Wright 1903

Posted by George Pudlo on December 28, 2011 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Larkin Administration Building 

680 Seneca Street

Buffalo, NY 14210

The Larkin Administration Building was Frank Lloyd Wright's first large scale commercial commission. The commission came from Darwin Martin, who was visiting his brother William Martin in Oak Park, Illinois. Wright had just completed William Martin's House, and Darwin Martin was so enchanted that he commissioned Wright to build his own home in Buffalo, New York, the Darwin Martin House, as well as the new headquarters for the Larkin Company, of which Darwin Martin was secretary. Wright would also design the EZ Polish Factory for the Martin Brothers.

The commissions for the Larkin Administration Building and the Unity Temple, which occurred in 1903 and 1905 respectively, launched Frank Lloyd Wright's career to a national level and marked him as a serious architect.  The Larkin Company manufactured soap, and after introducing a mail order business, needed a large administrative building. The Larkin Building was to be surrounded by existing factories, and it was Wright's challenge to create a serene working environment, pleasant for its employees by blocking out the smoke filled exterior factories. 

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Larkin Administration Building as a seven story structure, including basement and roof top garden. As was typical of Wright, he designed every element of the Larkin Building, including the furniture. From a design perspective, the interior of the Larkin Building was arranged in such a manner that each floor surrounded a large open aired, central atrium. The first floor was used as the main work floor. Where we would commonly see a lobby on the first floor, this skylit interior featured a bright, open area for the Larkin employees to process thousands of mail orders a day. Wright would use the same skylight tactics in the Unity Temple. With both structures, a passerby may assume no natural light enters the building. But the trick that Wright played came from skylights above. Wright would carry this concept into the SC Johnson + Wax Administrative Building he designed more than thirty years later in Racine, Wisconsin, also a milestone in factory design.

The Larking Building remains a modern icon of twentieth century building, despite it's unfortunate demolition in 1950 to make way for a trucking terminal. Today, the site of the Larkin Administration Building is a parking lot -the sad fate of innumerable historic structures in the United States. 

Darwin Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1904

Posted by George Pudlo on December 27, 2011 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Darwin Martin House

125 Jewett Parkway

Buffalo, NY 14214

The story of the Darwin Martin House begins, not in Buffalo, where the complex would stand, but in Frank Lloyd Wright's own neighborhood of Oak Park, Illinois. Frank Lloyd Wright had designed a house for William Martin, brother of Darwin, in 1902. The house created such an impression on Darwin that he hired Wright to design his own home that same year. In addition to the Darwin Martin House Complex commission came a commission for a commercial building, the Larkin Administration Building (1903) in Buffalo, and a factory, the EZ Polish Factory (1905) in Chicago.

In the Darwin Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright was responsible for the design of six buildings occupying just under 30,000 square feet. The cost was more than $170,000. By 1907, the complex was considered complete, with the exception of the gardener's cottage, that would come in 1909.

The Darwin Martin House is celebrated for its modernity. The sight of the house would have come as a shock to neighbors and visitors, much as Wright's Prairie Houses were received in Oak Park. A client with money is always an asset to an architect. Wright, especially, was no exception. He was able to fully realize his visions when there was money. Between the six structures, Wright employed 394 art glass windows; The Tree of Life among them. The largest component of the complex was the Darwin Martin House proper, at nearly 15,000 square feet. A sheltered pergola connects the house to the Darwin Martin Conservatory, which is then joined on either side by the Darwin Martin Carriage House and the George Barton House for Martin’s sister Delta and her husband. The gardener’s cottage was built far detached from the main complex in 1909. Martin asserted Wright's genius by remaining in the house until his death in 1935, at which point the story of the house saddens.

The remaining Martin family members abandoned the Martin House after 1937, and it was owned by the City of Buffalo by the end of the decade. Slowly the house began to fall apart, as any structure will do without humans to care for it. In 1962, the Darwin Martin House pergola, conservatory, and carriage house were demolished to make way for an apartment building. The fate of the Martin House Complex was unclear as it slowly began to deteriorate.

In 1992, the Martin House Restoration Corporation formed to save and restore the Darwin Martin House Complex. A decade later, the house was in their ownership, and the MHRC was well into their second phase of five restoration phases scheduled for completion soon. The process included acquisition of the properties; restoration of the roofs and gutters; foundation waterproofing; and complete reconstruction of the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house. The Darwin Martin House stands open to the public.

Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright 1943-1959

Posted by George Pudlo on November 15, 2011 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, in New York City, is perhaps the most visited Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure in the United States. The Guggenheim Museum, is also surprisingly the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed building in New York City. Though, this shouldn't come as a surprise if one considers the lack of natural sites in New York City. Wright never liked cities and had a few things to say about New York City in general, saying he didn't see an idea in the whole thing, and that it was developed as a race for rent, and is a monument to the power of money and greed. In an interview with Mike Wallace in 1957, at the age of 90, Frank Lloyd Wright suggested building two mile high skyscrapers in Central Park, destroying the rest of the city, and planting green -"wouldn't it end the agony?"

As with many of Frank Lloyd Wright's projects, the Guggenheim Museum concept took an unusually long time to plan and build. The contract was signed with Guggenheim in 1943, though without a site selected until 1944, this set the trend for a long adventure with the Guggenheim. One of the issues with the design of the Guggenheim Museum, pointed out to Wright well before construction began on the tapered, helix shaped concrete building was the curved walls. How could paintings be hung on walls that curve? This of course was no reason to fret for Wright, as he saw the building itself as the work of art. 

The Guggenheim Museum is Wright's greatest expression of the nature of concrete, with its fluid walls circulating and expanding as the building climbs upward. One walks into the museum to find that what is viewed on the outside is not a fancy facade, but rather a clear expression of how the interior space flows. Form follows function. A giant skylight brightens the interior with natural light, while the paintings are protected from the light by the progressive sets of floors above, shading the works of art. 

More than 700 drawings were created for the lengthy Guggenheim Museum project. In 1955, Frank Lloyd Wright occupied a suite in the Plaza Hotel, that they allowed him to renovate, and which he dubbed "Taliesin East". Neither Frank Lloyd Wright nor Solomon Guggenheim lived to see the opening of the museum in October of 1959. Not surprisingly, and to Wright's certain posthumous pleasure, recent data has suggested that more people visit the Guggenheim to see the building itself, and that the art contained within is secondary.


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