Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium at Arizona State University, Frank Lloyd Wright, Tempe, Arizona 1959

Posted by George Pudlo on April 15, 2013 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium
Frank Lloyd Wright
Tempe, Arizona

The Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's last, large-scale commissions. Wright designed the auditorium in 1959, and did not live to see it come to fruition. After Wright's death in 1959, construction was supervised by Frank Lloyd Wright's successor firm, Taliesin Associated Architects, with William Wesley Peters as the leader. Wes Peters, as he was known, worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright for decades. Peters assisted with the construction of both Fallingwater and the Johnson Administration Building, among many other Wright projects. Peters became Frank Lloyd Wright's son-in-law when he married Wright's adopted daughter, Svetlana, who was the biological daughter of Wright's third and final wife, Olgivanna. Sadly, Svetlana and her son Daniel (Peters was the father) died in a car accident in 1946. Interestingly, Wes Peters then married another Svetlana, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. 

Under Wes Peters' supervision, the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium opened in 1964 on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Wright's auditorium is circular in form, and comprised primarily of concrete. The stylized ornament surrounding the exterior of the Gammage Auditorium resembles curtains opening, appropriate for the function of the building. 


Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Albert McArthur and Frank Lloyd Wright, Phoenix, Arizona 1927

Posted by George Pudlo on April 10, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Arizona Biltmore Hotel
Albert McArthur
with Frank Lloyd Wright as consulting architect
Phoenix, Arizona,

One of the most common misconceptions about the Arizona Biltmore Hotel is that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, the architect of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel was Albert McArthur, with Frank Lloyd Wright as a consulting architect. Albert McArthur designed the Biltmore using Frank Lloyd Wright's method of concrete block construction that was first introduced in Wright's La Miniatura commission in Pasedena, California, and subsequently refined in the Ennis House, Storer House, and Freeman House - all built in Los Angeles, California in the early to mid 1920's. The pattern on the concrete blocks of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel was designed by a local artist, Emry Kopta.

Frank Lloyd Wright first met Albert McArthur when McArthur was a child. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house in Chicago for Warren McArthur, Albert McArthur's father and a friend of Wright's, in 1892. The Warren McArthur House was one of Wright's earliest designs, and was built while Frank Lloyd Wright was still employed by Louis Sullivan. The Warren McArthur House is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's "bootleg houses" -designed without the consent of Sullivan. Albert McArthur later worked under Frank Lloyd Wright in Wright's Oak Park studio from 1907-1909.

When the Arizona Biltmore Hotel opened in 1929, the surrounding area of Phoenix was still largely undeveloped, and the Biltmore hotel was dubbed "The Jewel of the Desert".  In 1930, the Arizona Biltmore Hotel was purchased by one of the original investors, William Wrigley Jr. of the chewing gum empire. The Wrigleys owned the Arizona Biltmore Hotel until 1973. Today, the area around the hotel is mixed residential and commercial, but it is still a fine hotel in superb condition. One absolutely feels the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright when viewing and experiencing the Arizona Biltmore. 

Marin County Civic Center: Frank Lloyd Wright, 1957-1969.

Posted by George Pudlo on January 27, 2013 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Marin County Civic Center

Frank Lloyd Wright was selected to be the architect of the Marin County Civic Center in 1957 after Marin County Supervisor Vera Schultz read a House Beautiful magazine dedicated entirely to Wright. It was a lengthy project, and one that Wright would not live to see completed. 

In July of 1957, Frank Lloyd Wright spoke at a public meeting at San Rafael High School. The following day Wright visited the future site of the Marin County Civic Center for the first time, and in typical Wright fashion, announced that he already had a plan for the building. Preliminary plans for the civic center were presented to and approved by the Board of Supervisors in the following year, and a model of the campus was displayed. 


Model of Marin County Civic Center

In 1959, Wright was selected to design the United States Post Office -the only federal building executed by Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright died the following month on April 9, but the board voted to continue on with Wright's plans, which were then handled by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, specifically Wesley Peters and Aaron Greene. Construction of the multi-million dollar civic center began in 1960, and the Administration Building was dedicated in 1962. Construction of the second phase of the civic center was approved in 1963, with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation commissioned for the Hall of Justice. The Marin County Civic Center was completed near the end of 1969. 

United States Post Office designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

The Marin County Civic Center is an example of Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture -it considers not only the client, but the site as well, the civic center is integrated with its hilly landscape. The Administration Building is 580 feet long, and intersects with 880 foot long Hall of Justice at a 120 degree angle. The Marin County Civic Center was not only Frank Lloyd Wright's last commission, but his largest completed project. 

Exterior view of the Marin County Civic Center

Rooftop of the Marin County Civic Center Hall of Justice

 Interior view of the Marin County Civic Center Hall of Justice

First National Bank of Dwight, Frank Lloyd Wright 1905

Posted by George Pudlo on October 4, 2012 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Frank L Smith commissioned Wright to design the First National Bank of Dwight, located in Dwight, Illinois, in 1905. The building originally housed two separate businesses when it opened in 1906. The exterior is clad in various cuts of Bedford limestone, with limestone features and oak trim in the interior. Wright used his favorite brick, Roman brick for the fireplace.

In the 1950's, the building was remodeled and the interior substantially modified when the beamed ceiling possessing skylights was lowered to install air conditioning. A 1960's remodeling restored the building's original appearance, and original plans were used to recreate the skylit ceiling.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house for one of Frank L Smith's partners, though the house was never built. 

VC Morris Gift Shop, aka Xanadu Gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright 1948

Posted by George Pudlo on January 18, 2012 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (1)

VC Morris Gift Shop

140 Maiden Lane

San Francisco, CA 94108

San Francisco's only Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure was originally named the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, and was designed by Wright in 1948. The V.C. Morris Gift Shop was originally a warehouse that Wright remodeled into this renowned building. It is quite unlike any of Wright's other structures, yet it retains characteristics that cross different periods of Wright's extensive career. The outer facade is unassuming, and would not stand out as a Wright designed structure to the common fan, but there is a certain complex modernism in its simplicity. The vast span of windowless, uninterrupted brick would normally strike the viewer as plain, but Wright's use of bold, yet simple geometric shapes creates a visually exciting experience. The arched entrance is the most identifiable feature of the building, and is reminiscent of Wright's employer of more than half a century earlier, Louis Sullivan, as well as the Arthur Heurtley House of 1902 in Oak Park, IL. The precise curves against a wall of sharp lines invite the viewer to enter this mysterious building, unmarked and unrecognizable as any particular form of establishment.

The interior of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop in San Francisco is not unlike a unrefined version of the Guggenheim Museum. Here is one of Wright's earliest tangible expressions of the spiral ramp, which would culminate in the Guggenheim. Wright would have already been well into the design process of the Guggenheim Museum at the time of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop design, but Wright's origin of this type of spiral ramp came from his design of the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective. An unbuilt project that looked like an inverted Guggenheim Museum, the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective was originally designed for Sugarloaf Mountain, Florida, and was built as a destination reachable only by car. 

In 1979, the V.C. Morris Gift Shop building was reestablished as the Xanadu Gallery, an upscale purveyor of Asian art. 

Beth Sholom Synagogue, Frank Lloyd Wright 1954

Posted by George Pudlo on January 13, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Special thanks to the Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation for providing the photographs.

Beth Sholom Synagogue

8231 Old York Road 

Elkins Park, PA 19027

One might question how a Gentile could have the ability to effectively design a Jewish synagogue, but Frank Lloyd Wright did just that in his modern abstraction of Beth Sholom Synagogue. 

In 1957, Mike Wallace interviewed Frank Lloyd Wright on a number of topics related to his architectural philosophy, including the topic of religion:

Wallace: You write, at some small length any anyway, in your latest book A Testament, published by Horizon Press, you write about your religious ideas. I understand that you attend no church.

Wright: I attend the greatest of all churches.

Wallace: Which is?

Wright: And I put a capital "N" on Nature and call it my church...and that's my church.

Wallace: You uh- Your attitude toward organized religious is... 

Wright: That's what enables me to build churches for other people. 

Wallace: Well I want to...this I do want to understand.

Wright: If I belonged to any one church, they couldn't ask me to build a church for them. But because my church is elemental, fundamental, I can build for anybody a church.

The story of the Beth Sholom Synagogue begins in 1918, with the establishment of the congregation. It was named Beth Sholom -House of Peace in Hebrew - to signify the end of World War I. The congregation was originally based in the Logan section of northern Philadelphia, but moved out to the suburb of Elkins Park after World War II. Wright was commissioned by Rabbi Mortimer Cohen in 1953 to design a new synagogue, after a referral from Boris Blai, the dean of the Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and master sculptor.  

Blai was a friend of Wright's, and had worked with him on Florida Southern College. He was one of only two living students of Rodin at the time, and spent six weeks sculpting a bust of Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1962, three years after Wright's death, severe coastal storms on the Atlantic swept away Blai's Long Beach Island home, where $45,000 worth of sculptures were housed. All of the sculptures were swept to sea, with the exception of one sculpture -that of Frank Lloyd Wright, which Blai then donated to Florida Southern College. 

The planning of Beth Sholom Synagogue began in 1953, with the final design submitted by Wright in 1954. Rabbi Cohen played an unusually large role in the design process of Beth Sholom. Rabbi Cohen wrote to Wright with admiration of the architect's work, but also with ground rules of how the synagogue should be designed, complete with relevant aspects of Judaism to be incorporated into the synagogue. He envisioned an abstract tribute to Mount Sinai in a triangular formation, symbolic of "the hands of ancient priests, outstretched in blessing".

A number of financial setbacks delayed the construction and completion of Beth Sholom. Frank Lloyd Wright himself attended a fundraiser for Beth Sholom in 1954, a rare move on behalf of the architect. To magnify the financial problem, they were unable to find a Philadelphia contractor who could build the synagogue for less than twice what they were hoping for. As a result, Frank Lloyd Wright contacted Haskell Culwell, the contractor responsible for Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, who agreed to build the synagogue at their asking price of $750,000. The final price tag was more than this, of course, as Wright typically went well over budget with his projects.

Groundbreaking began in 1955. Construction workers poured concrete in wooden casts on site, fitted with steel reinforcing beams. The steel window frame was erected, not without difficulty, and glass was inserted to create glowing walls, as natural light pours through the walled ceiling. As with the vast majority of Frank Lloyd Wright's projects, the architect was responsible for total design, including the interior furnishings of the 1,030 seat synagogue. The recurring theme throughout Beth Sholom Synagogue is the use of triangles, seen in the overall massing of the building, and in detail throughout.

Beth Sholom is comprised of four primary materials: concrete, steel, glass, and copper. The foundation and lower walls are made of steel reinforced concrete, while the bulk of the building rises in sheer exaltation, with walls of glass and copper converged to form a tent like interior. As stated in the Torah's Book of Numbers 3:8 "They shall keep all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, and the obligations of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle."

The Beth Sholom Synagogue was dedicated in 1959, five months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, and continues to be an icon of Jewish American Architecture. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, and was singled out by the American Institute of Architects as one of Wright's seventeen most important structures for preservation. 

For information on visiting the Beth Sholom Congregation, visit the Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation.


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. 

Johnson Wax Company Administration Building Furniture, Frank Lloyd Wright 1936

Posted by George Pudlo on December 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Desk and Chair from Johnson Administration Building, 1936

Johnson Administration Building, Frank Lloyd Wright 1936

In 1936, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the ultra modern Johnson Administration Building in Racine, Wisconsin. It was typical of Wright to design not only the building itself, but to handle the interior decorating, including furnishings, and the Johnson Administration Building commission was no exception. This matching desk and chair were originally a part of the daily lives of the Johnson workers. They were manufactured by Steelcase, Incorporated in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The furnishings are made of steel and formica, a smooth, heat resistant plastic laminate with melamine resin. The desks and chairs were intended to match not only the color scheme of the Johnson Administration building, but also its curvaceous form. The story goes that many of the new employees of the Johnson Wax Company would tip over in the chairs because they only have three legs, often to the mischievous pleasure of senior workers. 

Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and the Auditorium Building

Posted by George Pudlo on December 22, 2011 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Auditorium Building (now Roosevelt University)

50 E Congress Parkway

Chicago, IL 60605

The first major architectural project that Frank Lloyd Wright worked on was the Auditorium Building. There should be no confusion that the building officially belongs to the firm of Adler & Sullivan, however, this was the project Louis Sullivan initially hired Frank Lloyd Wright for. The Auditorium was well under way when Sullivan hired Frank Lloyd Wright in 1887 as a draftsman, and undoubtedly could have and would have gone up without Wright. It was one of the largest cultural undertakings the city had seen, and one of the first multi use building the nation had seen. The primary function of the Auditorium, as the name implies, was its theater.

The conception of Chicago's Auditorium Building dates back to 1885 when the Old Exposition Building, previously located on the land that now accommodates the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park, hosted a wildly successful Opera Festival. Ferdinand Peck, who was one of Chicago's leading real estate developers in the 19th century, envisioned a massive, permanent theater that would trump the 3,800 seat Metropolitan Opera House in New York City by nearly 1,200 hundred seats. The final seat count of the Auditorium theatre in Chicago would be 4, 237. Ferdinand Peck, though, was not oblivious to the fact that it wouldn't be easy to sustain a 4,000 plus seat theatre. Thus, the idea of a multi-use building was born. A commercial aspect of the Auditorium Building would help subsidize the cultural aspect, the theatre itself, and the Auditorium Building became one of the first large scale, multi use buildings in America, housing not only a theatre, but commercial office space and a hotel as well.

Peck selected Adler & Sullivan as the architecture firm to build the Auditorium because of Dankmar Adler's reputation as a superb acoustical engineer. When the building was completed, it boasted perfect sound. Louis Sullivan, Adler's partner, was responsible for the design of the building itself including the interior ornamentation. At the same time Adler & Sullivan were preparing plans for the design of the Auditorium Building, a young architect by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright was looking for a job, and after presenting detailed ornamentation modeled after Sullivan's own ornament, he was given a job. Thus began the professional relationship of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright would eventually be credited with detailing much of the ornament for the Auditorium Building, though the initial sketches and ornamental conceptions are attributed to Louis Sullivan.

For the exterior of the building, two preliminary designs were completed by Louis Sullivan, before the final design of the Auditorium came to fruition. The first design was that of a Gothic nature, and the second a more highly stylized, ornamented building that Sullivan would strip down for the modern Auditorium. It is said that John Root, upon learning of Adler & Sullivan's commission for the building, proclaimed Sullivan would "smear another facade with ornament". Sullivan may have taken this to heart, and the final design was highly influenced by the work of Henry Hobson Richardson, who had recently completed the John Glessner House and the Marshall Field Wholesale Store. These two buildings by H H Richardson were cutting edge in that they were void of historical ornament. Sullivan went above and beyond Richardson's style with the Auditorium, presenting an evolved version of a Richardsonian Romanesque structure. The exterior of the Auditorium is monumental in its solidity. The base is made of rough faced granite and marked with a series of massive arches for the entryways. The upper portion is Indiana Limestone with a smooth ashlar finish. There are arched windows above the base, and smaller arched windows above those that carry the eye upward and lend a vertical illusion to the building. Louis Sullivan’s signature ornamental features are primarily on the interior of the Auditorium Building, with the exterior relatively unadorned.

The Auditorium Building took three years to construct. In March of 1888, though the building was unfinished, the theatre was completed to host the Republican National Convention where Benjamin Harrison was nominated for president. On December 9th, 1889, President Harrison dedicated the Auditorium Building in Chicago. The final cost for the structure was more than $3,000,000. The office tower of the Auditorium, reaching seventeen stories, was the highest point in Chicago at that time. Adler & Sullivan, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright, when he was employed by the firm, both had offices at the top of the tower. The Auditorium Hotel faced the Michigan Avenue and Congress Street facades of the Auditorium Building. The Auditorium Hotel restaurant was the most fashionable restaurant in town, situated on the tenth floor of the Auditorium Building facing Michigan Avenue and Grant Park. The Auditorium theatre was shelled in on all sides by the hotel rooms and offices. The Auditorium theater was remarkable in both its appearance, perfected by Louis Sullivan, and its acoustics, perfected by Dankmar Adler. Frank Lloyd Wright later said of the Auditorium: “It was acknowledged to be the greatest building achievement of the period: and to this day, probably, is the best room for opera, all things considered, yet built in the world.”


Anderton Court Shops, Frank Lloyd Wright 1952

Posted by George Pudlo on November 15, 2011 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Located on famed Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the Anderton Court Sops is the only commercial building Wright designed in Los Angeles. The shopping center blends in with its surrounding buildings in terms of color and clean feel; most of the structures on Rodeo Drive are large, glistening white buildings. There is a certain uniqueness is form and geometry that distinguishes  Frank Lloyd Wright's  Anderton Court Shops from the rest of the high end Rodeo Drive shops. The strongly geometrical spire is the center piece of this Wright creation. The form, color, and materials are similar in composition to the Guggenheim Museum. 

Monona Terrace, Frank Lloyd Wright 1938/1994

Posted by George Pudlo on November 9, 2011 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Monona Terrace, Frank Lloyd Wright 1938/1994

Monona Terrace Parking

Monona Terrace

One John Nolen Drive

Madison, WI 53703

Located off of Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, the Monona Terrace was originally designed in 1938 by Frank Lloyd Wright but failed to pass approval. Frank Lloyd Wright's original plan for the Monona Terrace was to include a rail station, courthouse, city hall, and marina, and the plan failed by just one vote. Fast forward several decades to the early 1990's, and the voters of Madison approved a convention and community center on the same site that Wright originally designed the concept for. Site was always of utmost significance to Wright as every structure was meant specifically for its site and was to be built according to the land and surrounding environment. Construction of Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace began in 1994 and cost more than $64 million. The shell of the building, or the facade, is Frank Lloyd Wright's design. However, because the specific function of the building had been altered by the time it was built, the interior design was modified from Wright's design. Tony Puttnam, a former Taliesin architect of Wright's, was responsible for the modifications in plan.

The Monona Terrace elegantly graces Madison's lakefront with it's beautiful views and connection to nature. Like most of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings, the Monona Terrace has a unique design, but maintains a strong sense of geometry and other underlying Wright themes. The parking structure built for the Monona Terrace is reminiscent of the Guggenheim Museum.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Frank Lloyd Wright 1956-61

Posted by George Pudlo on April 20, 2011 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (1)


Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church


9400 W Congress Street


Wauwatosa, Wisconsin 53225




The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was designed in 1956 and completed posthumously in 1961, two years after Wright's death. Located just outside of the border of Milwaukee in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, the church has a striking appearance, not only for its design features, but because it rests in the center of a very large plot of land. When approaching the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, one is initially drawn to its unique form resembling a flying saucer. What is this thing? A church one finally realizes after focusing in on the small Greek cross on top of the domed structure. Frank Lloyd Wright had a knack for designing churches, unconventional in design, that didn't resemble traditional churches. The only other clear indication, from the exterior, that this is a church is the stained glass windows. These were not originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but were added later on. The slits enclosing these stained glass windows resemble eye lids. The dome at the top of the structure was originally faced in blue, ceramic tiles that were later replaced by a different material. The dome itself rests on a series of small, steel spheres that expand and contract with Wisconsin's ever changing weather to prevent cracking. The base underneath the dome is made entirely out of reinforced concrete. When one gets closer to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, it is seen that the entrance is flanked by two massive, horizontally natured fountains resembling the planters Wright designed for his Prairie Houses. Another, larger eye lid shaped opening is the entrance to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, topped with blue ceramic tiles.




Anyone who looks up is mesmerized by the claw-like overhang screen that fans down from the domed structure. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church with seating for over 1,000 people, thus being one of his largest church commissions. The total cost for the church mounted $1.5 million dollars.




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