Posts tagged with "Frank lloyd Wright":

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Charles Waldheim on the “profound implications” on urban farming for cities today

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sTravel through space-time with the NYPL’s new map tool.”
The agrarian and the urban are two categories of thought that have more often than not been opposed to one another. Across many disciplines, and for many centuries, the city and the country have been called upon to define one other through binary opposition. Contemporary design culture and discourse on cities are, by contrast, awash in claims of the potential for urban agriculture. Enthusiasm for agricultural production in and around cities has grown through an increased environmental literacy on behalf of designers and scholars. Equally this renewed interest in the relation of food production to urban form has been made possible by increased public literacy about food and the forms of industrial food production and distribution that characterize globalization. This renewed interest in food production and consumption has been shaped by a variety of authors and interests, but has been most forcefully felt as a call for more renewable or sustainable agricultural practices associated with local food production, reduced carbon footprint, increased public health, and the associated benefits of pre-industrial farming techniques including increased biodiversity and ecological health. These tendencies have been most clearly articulated through the so-called ‘slow food’ and ‘locavore’ movements. While much has been written on the implications of these tendencies for agricultural production, public policy, and food as an element of culture, little has been written on the potentially profound implications of these transformations for the shape and structure of the city itself. Much of the enthusiasm for slow and local food in the context of urban populations has been predicated on the assumption that abandoned or underused brownfield sites could be remediated and repurposed with productive potential. Equally, this enthusiasm for urban agriculture has been based on the rededication of greenfield sites peripheral to the city, focusing valuable ecological assets on food production rather than suburban sprawl. While both of these remain viable and laudable goals, they shed little light on the implications of such transformations on the shape and the structure of urban form. For those interested in the city as an object of study and subject of design, this suggests the need for further inquiry into the possibilities for an agricultural urbanism. This essay proposes a history of urban form conceived through the spatial, ecological, and infrastructural implications of agricultural production. In the projects that form this tentative counter-history, agricultural production is conceived as a formative element of the city’s structure, rather than being considered adjunct to, outside of, or inserted within traditional urban forms. While this may remain an alternative or even marginal counter- history, it may be useful as architects and urbanists grapple with the implications for urban form attendant to their renewed interest in the agricultural. This alternative history of the city seeks to construct a useful past from three urban projects organized explicitly around agricultural production as inherent to the economic, ecological, and spatial order of the city. Much of the enthusiasm for slow and local food in the context of urban populations has been predicated on the assumption that abandoned or underused brownfield sites could be remediated and repurposed with productive potential. Equally, this enthusiasm for urban agriculture has been based on the rededication of greenfield sites peripheral to the city, focusing valuable ecological assets on food production rather than suburban sprawl. While both of these remain viable and laudable goals, they shed little light on the implications of such transformations on the shape and the structure of urban form. For those interested in the city as an object of study and subject of design, this suggests the need for further inquiry into the possibilities for an agricultural urbanism. This essay proposes a history of urban form conceived through the spatial, ecological, and infrastructural implications of agricultural production. In the projects that form this tentative counter-history, agricultural production is conceived as a formative element of the city’s structure, rather than being considered adjunct to, outside of, or inserted within traditional urban forms. While this may remain an alternative or even marginal counter- history, it may be useful as architects and urbanists grapple with the implications for urban form attendant to their renewed interest in the agricultural. This alternative history of the city seeks to construct a useful past from three urban projects organized explicitly around agricultural production as inherent to the economic, ecological, and spatial order of the city.
Many projects of 20th-century urban planning explicitly aspired to construct an agrarian urbanism. Often these agrarian aspirations were an attempt to reconcile the seemingly contradictory impulses of the industrial metropolis with the social and cultural conditions of agrarian settlement. In many of these projects, agrarianism offered an alternative to the dense metropolitan form of industrial arrangement that grew from the great migrations from farm village to industrial city in the 19th- and early 20th-century cities of Western Europe and North America. The agrarian aspirations of many modernist urban planning proposals originate in the relatively decentralized model of industrial order favored by Henry Ford and other industrialists as early as the 1910s and 20s. Following Ford’s organizational preference for spatial decentralization, industrial organizations tended to spread horizontally and abandon the traditional industrial city. In part as a response to the social conditions of the Depression era, agrarianism came to be seen as a form of continuity between formerly agrarian populations based on subsistence farming and the relatively vulnerable industrial workforce of the modern metropolis.By mixing industry with agriculture, many modernist urban planners imagined a rotational labor system in which workers alternated between factory jobs and collective farms. Most of- ten these new spatial orders were understood as vast regional landscapes, and their representation conflated aerial view and orthographic map. The emergence of these tendencies in the twentieth century might be read through three unbuilt projects advocating a decentralized agrarian urbanism: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” (1934-35), Ludwig Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” (1945-49), and Andrea Branzi’s “Agronica” (1993-94) or “Territory for the New Economy” (1999). [1] While these projects were produced decades apart by three very different authors, taken collectively they illustrate the implications for urban form of agricultural production as inherent to the structure of the city. These projects also form a coherent genealogy of thought on the subject of agricultural urbanism as Branzi explicitly references Hilberseimer’s urban proposals, and Hilberseimer’s work was informed by familiarity with Wright’s urban project. Each of the projects presented their audiences with a profound reconceptualization of the city, proposing radical decentralization and dissolution of the urban figure into a productive landscape. The dissolution of figure into field rendered the classical distinction between city and countryside irrelevant in favor of a conflated condition of suburbanized regionalism. From the perspective of contemporary interests in urban agriculture, both tendencies offer equally compelling alternatives to the canonical history of urban form. Implicit in the work of these three urbanists was the assumption of an ongoing process of urban decentralization led by an industrial economy. For Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi, the decreased density produced through the new industrial logic of decentralization came to depend upon landscape as the primary medium of urban form. These suburban landscapes were embodied and fleshed out with agricultural lands, farms, and fields. These projects proposed large territorial or regional networks of urban infrastructure bringing existing natural environments into relationship with new agricultural and industrial landscapes. Broadacres / Usonia In the depths of the Depression, lacking reasonable prospects for a recovery of his once-towering stature as the dean of American architects, Frank Lloyd Wright persuaded his lone remaining patron to fund a traveling exhibition of Wright’s conception of an organic American urbanism. Broadacre City, as it was referred to, consisted of a large model and supporting materials produced by student apprentices at Taliesin in the winter of 1934-35. While the premises underpinning the project were evident in Wright’s lectures as early as the 1920s and fully informed Wright’s 1932 publication The Disappearing City, the Broadacre model and drawings were not debuted until a 1935 New York City exhibition. Subsequently, the traveling exhibition toured extensively and the remarkably durable project was further disseminated in subsequent publications including When Democracy Builds (1945) and The Living City (1958). [2] Broadacre City offered American audiences the clearest crystallization of Wright’s damning critique of the modern industrial city, positing Broadacre as an autochthonous organic model for North American settlement across an essentially boundless carpet of cultivated landscape. Eschewing traditional European distinctions between city and countryside, Broadacre proposed a network of transportation and communication infrastructures using the Jeffersonian grid as its principal ordering system. Within this nearly undifferentiated field, the county government (headed by the county architect) replaced other levels of government administering a population of landowning citizen-farmers. Wright was clearly conversant with and sympathetic to Henry Ford’s notion of a decentralized settlement pattern for North America and the closest built parallel for Wright’s work on Broadacre can be found in Ford’s instigation of what would become the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). As an autonomous public agency, TVA was charged with the construction of hydro-electric dams and highways along the Tennessee River in the electrification of an entire region as a seeding process for future urbanization. [3] Enjoying ownership of one acre of land per person as a birthright, residents of Broadacre (or Usonia, as Wright would come to refer to it) were to enjoy modern houses set in relation to ample subsistence gardens and small-scale farms. This basic pattern of variously scaled housing and landscape types was interspersed with light industry, small commercial centers and markets, civic buildings, and of course the ubiquitous highway. In spite of the project’s extremely low density, most of the ground was cleared and cultivated. Occasionally this constructed and maintained landscape relented in favor of extant waterways, topographic features, or other pre-existing ecologies. Presumably the extrapolation of Broadacre City from its chiefly middle-western origins to the margins of the continent would have been accomplished with varying degrees of accommodation to local climate, geography, and geology, if not cultural or material history. The status of previously urbanized areas existing outside of Wright’s Broadacre remained an open question; presumably these would be abandoned in place, again following Ford’s lead in this regard. Wright’s critique of private ownership, conspicuous consumption, and accumulation of wealth associated with cities was no small part of the explicit social critique offered by Broadacre, as the worst of the Depression forced bankrupt family farmers to flee their mortgaged farms in the midwest for protest in the east or California in the west. Ironically, given his anxiety over the corrosive effects of accumulated wealth and speculative capital, Wright found in Ford’s notion of regional infrastructure the basis for an American pattern of organic urban development. Wright’s Broadacre provided a respite from the relentless demands of profit associated with the industrial city, even as the American city was well on a course toward decentralization, driven by the tendencies of Fordist production. The New Regional Pattern / The New City Another modernist architect/urbanist grappling with the impacts of decentralization on urban form was Ludwig Hilberseimer. Born and educated in Karlsruhe, Germany, Hilberseimer worked with Mies van der Rohe at the Bauhaus until the rise of fascism precipitated their emigration to Chicago and the Armour Institute of Technology (later IIT) in 1938. While Hilberseimer is most notoriously known for his earlier studies for totalizing rationally-planned schemes of modern urbanism from the 1920s such as Hochhausstadt (Highrise City, 1924), Hilberseimer quickly abandoned those schemes in favor of projects that explored decentralization and land- scape as remedies to the ills of the industrial city. This was evident as early as 1927 in a sketch titled “The Metropolis as a Garden-City.” [4] Hilberseimer’s work over the course of the 1930s was clearly influenced by European precedents for the garden-city and evidenced a strategy for the use of landscape and mixed-height housing in a low-density pattern. This is a pattern that would continue to appear in his work in the U.S. over the ensuing decades. Particularly formative in this regard was Hilberseimer’s project for Mischbebauung (Mixed-height Housing, c. 1930), the principles of which would inform the balance of his career. Hilberseimer during this period was committed to the inevitable decentralization of the traditional city as the resultant of industrial policy. This tendency was evident to Hilberseimer as early as the 1920s in Henry Ford’s decision to relocate industrial production outside the city of Detroit in the previous decade. By the 1940s, Hilberseimer’s notion of the “settlement unit” took clearer form through anticipating the development of an interstate highway system and articulating precise relation- ships between transportation networks, settlement units, and the regional landscape. Hilberseimer’s interest in an organic urbanism for North America was further fueled by civil defense imperatives encouraging decentralization in the years following the war. [5] In the wake of Hiroshima, Hilberseimer adapted his proposals to anticipate the construction of the interstate high- way system as a civil defense infrastructure and an extension of Fordist production logics. In this context —– and conversant with Wright’s Broadacre City as well as the progressive TVA project and its proponents in the Regional Planning Association of America —– Hilberseimer developed his “New Regional Pattern” as a strategy for the urbanization of a low-density North American settlement pattern based on regional highway systems and natural environmental conditions. Hilberseimer disseminated his proposals through a publication: The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (1949). The principles and analysis informing Hilberseimer’s project was published prior to the project itself in The New City: Principles of Planning (1944) and was disseminated a decade later in The Nature of Cities (1955). [6] As with Broadacre, the “New Regional Pattern” was organized around the distribution of transportation and communication networks across an essentially horizontal field of landscape. Within this extensive horizontal territory, housing, farms, light industry, commercial buildings, and civic spaces formed vari- ously scaled networks across a field of decentralized distribution. The organizational pattern of “New Regional Pattern” did not defer to the abstraction of the grid, but was informed by the natural environment; topography, hydrology, vegetation, wind patterns, among others. It conflated infrastructural systems with built landscapes and found environmental conditions to produce a radically reconceived settlement pattern for North America. While Hilberseimer’s exquisite drawings (many are the uncredited work of IIT colleague Alfred Caldwell) did not make an explicit case for the kind of ecological awareness apparent in contemporary landscape urbanism, they clearly inflected urban infrastructure to ambient environmental conditions. [7] In this regard, the project offers a profound critique of traditional nineteenth-century urban form, as well as the architectural and urban practices associated with that that persisted into the twentieth century. Agronica / Territory for the New Economy The work of the Italian architect and urbanist Andrea Branzi might be found equally relevant to the emergent discourse on agrarian urbanism. Branzi’s work reanimates a long tradition of using the urban project as a social and cultural critique. This form of urban projection deploys a project not simply as an illustration or ‘vision,’ but rather as a demystified distillation and description of our present urban predicaments. In this sense, Branzi’s urban projects can be read less as a utopian future possible world, and more as a critically engaged and politically literate delineation of the power structures, forces, and flows shaping the contemporary urban condition. Over the past four decades Branzi’s work has articulated a remarkably consistent critique of the social, cultural, and intellectual poverty of laissez-faire urban development and the realpolitik assumptions of much urban design and planning. As an alternative, Branzi’s projects propose urbanism in the form of an environmental, economic, and aesthetic critique of the failings of the contemporary city. Born and educated in Florence, Branzi studied architecture in the cultural milieu of the Operaists and the scholarly tradition of Marxist critique. Branzi first came to international visibility as a member of the collective Archizoom Associati (mid-1960s) based in Milano but associated with the Florentine Architettura Radicale movement. Archizoom’s project and texts for “No-Stop City” (1968-71) illustrate an urbanism of continuous mobility, fluidity, and flux. While “No-Stop City” was received on one level as a satire of the British technophile of Archigram, on another level it was an illustration of an urbanism without qualities, a representation of the ‘degree- zero’ conditions for urbanization. [8] Archizoom’s use of typewriter keystrokes on A4 paper to represent a non-figural planning study for “No-Stop City” anticipated contemporary interest in indexical and parametric formulations of the city. Their work prefigured the current interest in describing the relentlessly horizontal field conditions of the modern metropolis as a surface shaped by the strong forces of economic and ecological flows. Equally, these drawings and their texts anticipate current interest in infrastructure and ecology as non-figurative drivers of urban form. As such, a generation of contemporary urbanists has drawn from Branzi’s intellectual commitments. This diverse list of influence ranges from Stan Allen and James Corner’s interest in field conditions to Alex Wall and Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s interest in logistics. [9] More recently Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara’s project “Stop-City” directly references Branzi’s use of non-figurative urban projection as a form of social and political critique. [10] Branzi’s urban projects are equally available to inform contemporary interests within architectural culture and urbanism on a wide array of topics as diverse as animalia, indeterminacy, and genericity, among others. Branzi’s “No-Stop City” proposed an explicitly nonfigurative urbanism. In so doing, it renewed a longstanding tradition of non-figurative urban projects as a form of social critique. In this regard, Branzi’s “No-Stop City” draws upon the urban planning projects and theories of Ludwig Hilberseimer, particularly Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” and that project’s illustration of a proto-ecological urbanism. [11] Not coincidentally, both Branzi and Hilberseimer chose to illustrate the city as a continuous system of relational forces and flows, as opposed to a collection of objects. In this sense, the ongoing recuperation of Hilberseimer, and Branzi’s renewed relevance for discussions of contemporary urbanism render them particularly relevant to discussions of ecological urbanism. Andrea Branzi occupies a singular historical position as a hinge figure between the social and environmental aspirations of modernist planning of the post-war era and the politics of 1968 in which his work first emerged for English language audiences. As such, his work is particularly well suited to shed light on the emergent discussion around ecological urbanism. Branzi’s “Agronica” project (1993-94) illustrated the relentlessly horizontal spread of capital across thin tissues of territory, and the resultant ‘weak urbanization’ that the neoliberal economic paradigm affords. Agronica embodies the potential parallels between agricultural and energy production, new modalities of post-Fordist industrial economy, and the cultures of consumption that they construct. [12] More recently in 1999, Branzi (with the Domus Academy, a post-graduate research institute founded in the 1980s) executed a project for Philips in Eindhoven. These projects returned to the recurring themes in Branzi’s oeuvre with typical wit and pith, illustrating a “Territory for the New Economy” in which agricultural production was instrumental in deriving urban form. [13] Branzi’s ‘weak work’ maintains its critical and projective relevance for a new generation of urbanists interested in the economic and agricultural drivers of urban form. His longstanding call for the development of weak urban forms and non-figural fields has already influenced the thinking of those who articulated landscape urbanism over a decade ago and promises to reanimate emergent discussions of ecological urbanism. [14] Equally, Branzi’s projective and polemic urban propositions promise to shed light on agrarian urbanism, and its potential for shaping the contemporary city and the disciplines that describe it. While this brief pre-history of agricultural urbanism raises more questions than it answers, and may do little to convince contemporary readers of the efficacy of organizing the city in this way, it seems a useful (if not necessary) exercise in understanding the broader implications of contemporary food culture for the design disciplines. In this regard, it is significant that each of the three architect/urbanists presented here as pursuing an explicitly agricultural urbanism did so as part of a broader critical position engaged with economic inequality, social justice, and environmental health. Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi, each in their own way, embodied a longstanding tradition of using the urban project as a form of social critique in which the production and consumption of the city, its economy and ecology, are available as tools of analysis and critique. While Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi were responding to different economic and ecological contexts, each of them found the urban project an effective vehicle for critiquing the form of their contemporary cities, and the economic, social, and political orders that produced them.

This article appeared as "Notes Towards a History of Agrarian Urbanism" in urbanNext, and was first published in Bracket 1 [on Farming], 2010.
[1] Frank Lloyd Wright, The Living City (New York: Horizon Press, 1958); Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1949); Andrea Branzi, D. Donegani, A. Petrillo, and C. Raimondo, “Symbiotic Metropolis: Agronica” The Solid Side, ed. Ezio Manzini and Marco Susani (Netherlands: V+K Publishing / Philips, 1995), 101-120; and Andrea Branzi, “Preliminary Notes for a Master Plan,” and “Master Plan Strijp Philips, Eindhoven 1999.” Lotus, no. 107 (2000): 110-123. [2] The principles underpinning Wright’s Broadacre project were published in 1932 in Frank Lloyd Wright, Disappearing City (New York: W. F. Payson, 1932); and subsequently reformulated as When Democracy Builds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945). For an historical overview of Broadacre’s influ- ences and contemporary reception, see Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 285-90. [3] For an overview of the Tennessee Valley Authority, see Walter Creese, TVA’s Public Planning (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990); and Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow, 161-3. [4] For an overview of the origins of Hilberseimer’s interpretation of the garden city, see David Spaeth, “Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Settlement Unit: Origins and Applications,” In the Shadow of Mies: Ludwig Hilberseimer, Architect, Educator, and Urban Planner, ed. Richard Pommer, David Spaeth, and Kevin Harrington (New York/Chicago: Rizzoli/Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), 54-68. [5] Hilberseimer and Caldwell advocated for decentralization as a civil defense strategy in the wake of Hiroshima. See Caldwell, “Atomic Bombs and City Planning,” Journal of the American Institute of Architects, vol. 4 (1945: 289-299); and also Hilberseimer, “Cities and Defense,” (c. 1945) reprinted in: In the Shadow of Mies: Ludwig Hilberseimer, Architect, Educator, and Urban Planner, ed. Richard Pommer, David Spaeth, and Kevin Harrington (New York/Chicago: Rizzoli/Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), 89-93. [6] Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New City: Principles of Planning (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1944); The Nature of Cities: Origin, Growth, and Decline, Pattern and Form, Planning Problems (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1955). [7] For a detailed account of Hilberseimer’s professional relationship with Caldwell, see Caroline Constant, “Hilberseimer and Caldwell: Merging Ideologies in the Lafayette Park Landscape,” CASE: Lafayette Park Detroit, ed. Charles Waldheim (Cambridge/Munich: Harvard/Prestel, 2004), 95-111. On Caldwell’s life and work, see Dennis Domer, Alfred Caldwell: The Life and Work of a Prairie School Landscape Architect (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). [8] Archizoom Associates, “No-Stop City. Residential Parkings. Climatic Universal Sistem,” Domus 496 (March 1971): 49-55. For Branzi’s reflections on the project, see Andrea Branzi, “Notes on No-Stop City: Archizoom Associates 1969-1972,” Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-1976, ed. Martin van Schaik and Otakar Macel, (Munich: Prestel, 2005), 177-182. For more recent scholarship on the project and its relations to contemporary architectural culture and urban theory, see Kazys Varnelis, “Programming After Program: Archizoom’s No-Stop City,” Praxis, no. 8 (May 2006): 82-91. [9] On field conditions and contemporary urbanism, see James Corner “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention,” Mappings ed. Denis Cosgrove (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 213-300; and Stan Allen, “Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2-D,”CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival, ed. Hashim Sarkis (Munich: Prestel, 2001), 118-126. On logistics and contemporary urbanism, see Susan Nigra Snyder and Alex Wall, “Emerging Landscape of Movement and Logistics,” Architectural Design Profile, no.134 (1998): 16-21; and Alejandro Zaera Polo, “Order out of Chaos: The Material Organization of Advanced Capitalism,” Architec- tural Design Profile, no. 108 (1994): 24-29. [10] See Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara, “Architecture as Framework: The Project of the City and the Crisis of Neoliberal- ism,” New Geographies, no. 1 (September 2008): 38-51. [11] Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1949). [12] Andrea Branzi, D. Donegani, A. Petrillo, and C. Raimondo, “Symbiotic Metropolis: Agronica” The Solid Side, ed. Ezio Manzini and Marco Susani (Netherlands: V+K Publishing / Philips, 1995), 101-120. [13] Andrea Branzi, “Preliminary Notes for a Master Plan,” and “Master Plan Strijp Philips, Eindhoven 1999” Lotus, no. 107 (2000): 110-123. [14] Andrea Branzi, “The Weak Metropolis,” Ecological Urbanism Conference, Harvard Graduate School of Design, April 4, 2009.
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Guggenheim Museum to celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday

If Frank Lloyd Wright were still alive, June 8 would be his 150th birthday. Sadly, the architect who is one of America's most renowned is no longer with us, but the occasion can still be celebrated. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, one of Wright's best works, is putting on a series of events to mark the date.

The activities will be about the museum building itself and Frank Loyd Wright's involvement with it. June 8 will kick off with a special open day, starting at 10 a.m. and running through to 5.45 p.m. Admission will be reduced to $1.50 in reference to architect's would-be age. The Guggenheim’s newly renovated Cafe 3 will display large rare photographs of the museum during its construction phase. A special birthday cake will also be on the day's menu.

Between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., an actor-historian will be walking around playing the role of Frank Lloyd Wright. (Hopefully, he will not emulate all of the architect's traits—one of which was to be often aloof and a no-show.)

In case you miss it, further activities will be put on throughout the month including architecture-specific tours of the museum as part of the Art in the Round program, sketch workshops such as Drawing the Guggenheim, and a variety of family programs. In addition to this, the Guggenheim Store will also be selling new Wright-related merchandise, and the museum’s website will feature new content about the architect.

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Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Philip Johnson rivalry plays out in new page-turner

As heroes need rivals, winners require competitors. Champions stay on top only when challenged. The status quo in any area of human endeavor lasts only when staving off oncoming alternatives. While change comes eventually—whether gradual or abrupt, graceful or under siege—habit, doctrine, or tyranny often stall its advent, and when change does come, it is often less than complete. Historic practices and traditional principles underpin progress with lingering connectivity: What’s best from the past informs progress or even pulls it back from misguided tangents when the test of time delivers a failing grade, like elevated highways slashing the urban fabric only to be cursed later as killers of community.

The stakes of such successive challenges to established orthodoxy are especially high in architecture, the most public of artistic disciplines. Shifting design solutions shape the bedrock business of construction and the lives of end users regardless of the relative awareness of polemical origins. Along the way, land-use regulations and profit seek to play their according roles, making change all the tougher.

Such a contentious continuum sets the historic stage for Hugh Howard’s lively depiction of the professional and theoretical rivalry of the two most renowned American architects of the 20th century: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson. Early on in this all-too-rare design-professional page-turner, Howard sums up his premise: “They shared a deep commitment to the cause of architecture, but the two could have hardly been more different, separated as they were by age, region, and sexual orientation…the yin and the yang. In love and in hate, the positive and negative charges that gave architecture its compass.”

The reader might emerge wondering if at times the book tries too hard to portray a tense, ideal dual-personification of a central axiom of the 20th century’s design evolution: The Romantic (Wright) versus the Modern (Johnson), informed as capital “M” Modernism often was at its applied outset by an “enduring fondness for the classical.”

Yet the effort proves pleasurably worthwhile as a way to chronologically measure two legendary careers, enhanced by their silver-tongued exchange of competing visions. A shared penchant for righteous control loosened as their long careers unfolded, if more in deeds than in words. Theirs proves an oddness of mutual gain.

Their rivalry’s defining crucible, as Howard reveals it with justified relish, is MoMA’s fabled 1932 Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, organized by the precocious (and independently wealthy, thereby prematurely well-connected) 26-year-old Johnson, along with certifiable scholar Henry-Russell Hitchcock.

In a none-too-soon nod to the European upheaval in design, museum founder Alfred Barr gave the go-ahead, asking only for some trace of American participation. Despite joint skepticism and caustic distrust, Johnson and Wright finally cooperated with a never-built plan called “House on the Mesa.” MoMA visitor traffic received a boost from the inclusion of the best-known stateside practitioner, and an inspired Wright emerged newly invigorated, with the modernist masterpiece of Fallingwater carrying straight through to the final assignment of the Museum of Non-Objective Art (the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). The currency of polemical sparring started to pay rich creative dividends for all, no less than for Johnson himself who emerged as America’s official boy genius of design connoisseurship.

After his German flirtation with fascism and architectural studies at the GSA, Johnson took his place as Wright’s closely watched rival practitioner as well as critic, with his 1949 Glass House in New Canaan and the philosophical crossfire that it refreshed, according to Howard.

Howard quotes Johnson in response to Wright’s dismissal of the Connecticut retreat: “Was he born full-blown from the head of Zeus that he could be the only architect that ever loved or ever will?” Contrary to Wright’s insistence on originality, Johnson made no bones about his distilled use of precedent ranging from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to Andrea Palladio, who likewise reacted to site in a “formal way that alludes to the classical past.”

What Wright denounced as a mere box or “monkey cage” instead took its enduring place. It represented not only the International Style taking further hold of America’s design imagination and marketplace, but also an architecture based upon ideas and historic interplay: the midwife of modernism. Howard summarizes, “Johnson wrote few melodies but he was a great orchestrator…with the application of a critical and evaluative intelligence rather than the inventions of an inductive creative imagination.”

This tension of romantic originality and New World self-assurance versus the cerebral, globally ecumenical distillation of built excellence both past and contemporary defined the core theoretical crosscurrent during “The American Century.” Howard’s pairing succeeds at personifying this central debate, concluding: “Rather against his will, Johnson evolved into one of Wright’s most important public admirers. As a man who worshiped zeitgeist, he found that his old nemesis’s ideas retained remarkable vibrancy…work that transcended style and even time.”

Like the interpersonal artistic skirmishes enlivened recently by Sebastian Smee in The Art of Rivalry, attention should be given to a book that offers such engaging access to architectural theory and its visible results as sources for future impulse.

Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson Hugh Howard, Bloomsbury Press, $19.99

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VR tour of Wright’s Hollyhock House in the works

As part of a new project orchestrated by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in L.A.’s Barnsdall Park could soon be accessible to the public via virtual reality. The Mayan-Revival style home was built between 1919 and 1921 as Wright’s first Los Angeles–based residential commission and presaged the architect’s experimental “textile block” technology, a system Wright envisioned as a do-it-yourself solution for prefabricated building. The house is also considered the first work in the architect’s post-Prairie Style period. Previously, in Wright’s Prairie Style work, divisions between interior and exterior were stark and emphasized; with the Hollyhock House, that dichotomy gave way to a more fluid relationship between landscape and space, interior and exterior, presaging certain tendencies inherent in the coming modernism movement. The home was also an influential project on Wright understudy Rudolph Schindler. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure was renovated most recently starting in 2010 by architects Brenda Lavin & Associates, a $ 4.4 million modernization and restoration scheme that aimed to bring the structure back to its original luster. The DCA is seeking to make the relic more accessible to the general public and, more specifically, for patrons who cannot enter the building due to its noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The historic status of the work makes ADA-focused retrofits impossible. Instead, DCA is working to transform the interiors of the structure into a virtual reality experience that can be accessed both on-site in Barnsdall Park and via the internet. According to DCA, the virtualization project could potentially increase the accessibility of the house by 210%, an increase that could perhaps boost physical attendance at the site, as well. The push would make the site’s bid for UNESCO status potentially more plausible. The nomination was organized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and submitted as a group nomination including nine other Wright buildings, including the Fallingwater, Guggenheim, Taliesin, and Taliesin West projects in 2015. While the status of the nomination is still pending, the DCA proposal will be working its way toward approval by the Los Angeles City Council's Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, the full L.A. City Council, and ultimately, the L.A. Mayor’s office.
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Fallingwater look-alike on the market for $3.5 million

When an iconic modern house enters the real estate market, one can expect uniform lamentation from architects that a piece of history might be co-opted by an unworthy steward. In the case of 51 Pecksland Road in Greenwich, CT, there is absolutely no fear of that occurring. The house, designed in 1973 by architect Dimitri Bulazel, bears more than a striking resemblance to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, both in overall form and architectural detailing. However, the only scenario where one might see falling water on this site is if the jacuzzi on the upper terrace overflows. Though completed nearly half a century after Wright's masterpiece, the 4,675-square-foot, single-family house is being described by the realty company Berkshire Hathaway as a “truly exceptional, one-of-a-kind home.” While some may be able to debate the “exceptional” nature of this $3.5 million near facsimile, calling it “one-of-a-kind” is veering into alternative fact territory.
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7,000-square-foot Frank Lloyd Wright home in New Canaan goes on sale

Designed in 1955 for Joyce and John Rayward, this Frank Lloyd Wright house was completed by its second owner Herman R. Shepherd, who purchased the property in 1964. (It's variously known as the John L. Rayward House, Rayward–Shepherd House, or Tirranna, which means "running waters" in the Australian aboriginal language.) The seven-bedroom house extends over almost 7,000 square feet in a hemicycle plan. It abuts the Noroton River and features gardens by Frank Okamura and Charles Middeleer; the latter was the first bonsai curator at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. The house itself features a diverse material palette, from various hardwoods to concrete blocks and gold leaf chimneys, as well as a sprawling collection of amenities: "double master baths, a rooftop observatory with telescope, an interior courtyard, caretakers suite, guest studio, pool, tennis court, large barn and sculpture paths through the woods leading down to the river." Vincent Benic Architect worked to restore the project's exterior envelope in 1999. For more on the property, which is listed for $8,000,000, see its property description here.
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Wisconsin establishes its own Frank Lloyd Wright Trail

In honor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday, which will be on June 8th, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism has mapped a self-guided tour through nine of Wright’s most iconic built structures. Winding through nine counties, the trail starts in the southeast corner of the state and ends in the west. As a designated motor route, new signs will guide tourists across the state. The first stop along the new trail will be the SC Johnson Administration building and Research Tower. Along with the SC Johnson corporate campus, the trail takes tourists to the Johnson family home, Wingspread, which Wright completed in 1939. Heading north to Milwaukee, the trail leads to one of Wright’s six remaining American System-Built Homes, built in the nineteen-teens. The American System-Built Homes were meant to be affordable to the typical family. While 16 of these homes have been identified throughout the Midwest, a full six of them are located on Milwaukee’s South Side, along West Burnham Street and Layton Boulevard. The trail then heads east to the state capital of Madison, with its Monona Terrace and First Unitarian Society Meeting House. The Monona Terrace was first proposed by Wright in the 1930s but was not completed until 1997. The First Unitarian Society Meeting House was completed in 1951 and was the home of Wright’s own congregation. The final three stops along the trail are in the picturesque Driftless Region of the state, an area just outside of where glaciers in the last ice age stopped their southern movement. The first stop in the area is the estate Wright built for himself, Taliesin, which also features the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. The epic 800-acre estate is nestled into a ridge, overlooking the dramatic landscape, giving it its name which means “shining brow” in Welsh. The Wyoming Valley School and Cultural Arts Center is located just three miles from Taliesin. Along with offering workshops in music, science, and painting, it also provides youth architecture workshops. The final stop on the trail is the AD German Warehouse in Richland Center. The four-story storage facility once held sugar, flour, coffee, tobacco, and other commodities. Currently, it is home to a gift shop, a small theater, and exhibit space for large murals which depict the Wright’s work. The warehouse is one of the best examples of his sculptural ornamentation, in the form of a cast concrete frieze. For more on the trail, visit TravelWisconsin.com.
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Fallingwater gets new neighbors with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s High Meadow dwellings

Even architects enjoy going to camp, particularly when it involves sleeping in thoughtfully-designed cabins. Such is the case for students of the Fallingwater Institute summer residency programs at High Meadow, the historic farm neighboring Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater house. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania–based firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson recently completed four new residences at High Meadow, adding to an existing 1960s cabin on the site and doubling the capacity of the summer programs. The Fallingwater Institute summer residency programs allow students and educators of architecture, art, and design to study Frank Lloyd Wright at one of his most recognized works, learning about the relationship between architecture and nature in the process. The new dwellings differ greatly from the design originally proposed by competition-winners Patkau Architects in 2010; that scheme would've burrowed the residences into the hillside. Instead, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson chose to expand the footprint of the existing cabin and perch the new dwellings on steel columns atop the hillside. The Norway Spruce used for the horizontal screen running along the complex’s exterior hallways was also harvested and milled on site. "The building's main entry welcomes visitors into a central screened porch, which joins the new architecture to an existing cabin and serves as the outdoor gathering and dining space," said Bill James, project architect from the firm's Pittsburgh office, in a press release. On the interior, the finishes of the residences are durable but minimal to add “a sparse elegance to the space,” the firm stated. Each dwelling features a desk and two twin beds with a full bathroom and closet storage. The project has been recognized by the AIA Pennsylvania chapter, receiving its highest honor, the 2016 AIA Pennsylvania Silver Medal. The jury stated that the building’s contrast to its surroundings made it a “graceful addition to the existing structure.” Bohlin Cywinski Jackson was also responsible for the adaptive reuse of the Barn at Fallingwater in 2006, a project that turned the 1870s barn into educational and event space for the Fallingwater property. For more information about the Fallingwater Institute and their residency programs, visit their website here.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentuck Knob house celebrates its 60th anniversary

Lord Peter Palumbo, outgoing chairman of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, recently looked back on his decades-long ownership of Kentuck Knob, the Frank Lloyd Wright house in western Pennsylvania, not far from Fallingwater, that is celebrating its 60th anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of being open to the public.

Wright built Kentuck Knob—a small, one-story Usonian house on the crest of a knob, or hill, 2,050 feet above sea level, in Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania, in the Laurel Highlands mountain range six miles from Fallingwater—for I.N. and Bernardine Hagan, an ice-cream maker and his wife.

According to Lord Palumbo, Wright asked the Hagans when he interviewed them about their commission whether they were “nesters or perchers,” and that they told him they were nesters. If they were nesters, which Wright preferred, this meant, “you site the house just below the top of the knob and then you walk out to the knob. His reasoning was no man can compete with natural beauty and therefore you should not try to compete with it.” Lord Palumbo finds the view from the knob “quite extraordinary, one of the great views from this part of the world.”

He visited the house in the mid-1980s on a trip from Chicago (he once owned the Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House outside Chicago, as well as Le Corbusier’s Le Jaoul Houses, outside Paris, selling all of them subsequently). “I fell in love with [Kentuck Knob], but I couldn’t get inside it. I fell in love with the outside, and said to myself, ‘If it’s as beautiful inside as it is outside, I must do something about it.’ So I went back six weeks later and effectively bought it then,” he said.

The architectural core of the open plan house—which is built of native sandstone and tidewater red cypress—is its hexagonal, stonewalled kitchen; its two wings are anchored by stonewalls, which rise to penetrate the horizontal line of its copper roof. Cantilevered overhangs and expanses of glass integrate its interior and exterior.

Shortly after Lord Palumbo purchased the house, a fire destroyed the master bedroom and bathroom. He was fortunate enough to find a retired Carnegie Mellon architect, Robert Taylor, who had worked on the home when it was built, to oversee the reconstruction.

Lord Palumbo and his family lived part-time in the house until the mid-1990s, when they decided to open it to the public. “We were getting quite a lot of interest from people, from students, architects, people interested in Frank Lloyd Wright, to visit the house, so it seemed like an obvious move to open the place to the public,” he explained. “It was also one way of ensuring that if anything happened to me, the house would be self-sufficient financially.”

Visitors, he added, “love the situation, love the house, and find that it has a human dimension because they can go through the house and see more or less how we live; they can see the toothbrushes, hairbrushes, family photographs. I think that family dimension is appreciated.”

Lord Palumbo originally bought 89 acres of land in Chalk Hill from the Hagans and now owns 600 acres and a 1920s farmhouse at the foot of the knob where he and his family stay when they visit. At Kentuck Knob, he has put out an eclectic array of fine and decorative arts and natural objects. On display is a wide array of decor, from Native American, Middle Eastern, and Chinese pottery to furniture by Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, Tapio Wirkkala, and George Nakashima (the last commissioned by the Hagans), as well as drawings and a collection of birds’ nests Palumbo found nearby. “I’ve always thought that quality goes with quality. I’ve never felt that a ball and claw foot by Chippendale, for example, does not sit anything other than easily with a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair. I think they acknowledge one another as equals and have a good working relationship by being next to one another, because they are all the top quality of their time.”

Another change wrought by the Palumbos at Kentuck Knob is the addition of outdoor sculptures: Over 30 works by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Sir Anthony Caro, and Claes Oldenburg have been placed in the landscape around the house and along the trail to the visitor center. They have also converted Kentuck Knob’s greenhouse—which once stood at Fallingwater and was brought to Kentuck Knob by the Hagans in the early 1960s—into a gift shop and cafe, and have restored the house’s original, triangular, man-made pond, built from boulders by Taylor.

The “great message of Kentuck Knob,” according to Lord Palumbo, is “the relationship between the art of Frank Lloyd Wright and nature—as it is at Fallingwater. It is the interaction between the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright and the beauty of nature. It was something that he always put great store by.”

A National Historic Landmark, Kentuck Knob can be seen only by formal tour, offered in 40- and 90-minute lengths from March through November and on a limited basis in December.

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Frank Lloyd Wright School works towards independence from Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

The Scottsdale, Arizona–based Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is currently working toward achieving independence from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to maintain its accreditation as an institution of higher learning.

Architecture schools are required to be accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), usually as part of a larger university, and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The HLC is responsible for overseeing overall standards of degree-issuing institutions in 19 states, while NAAB is only concerned with architecture schools. In 2010, the HLC updated its bylaws forcing all institutions of higher learning to be separate from any other larger institution, which does not have education as its primary mission. The Frank Lloyd Wright School is a division of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, meaning the school is not in line with the HLC’s current policies.

In a recent decision by the HLC, the school’s application for “Change of Control, Structure, or Organization,” a requirement for its continued accreditation, was denied. Working closely with the school, the HLC has asked for an updated application by November 30, which will be reviewed at its February board meeting.

“The response from HLC was never a matter of a disagreement with what was previously submitted. In consultation with their staff, we now understand the areas where they would like to see us flesh out our previous submission,” remarked Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation president and CEO Stuart Graff in a statement to the press. Graff and school dean Aaron Betsky have met with the HLC in order to understand the commission’s concerns and recommendations for their upcoming application. Both Betsky and Graff are confident the school is on the path to accreditation as an independent institution.

 

It is important to note that the school has not lost its accreditation, which is good through 2017, but it must prove that it is independent before that accreditation expires. The HLC’s criterion for accreditation dictates that “the governing board of the institution is sufficiently autonomous” and “the institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs.” This separation from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation greatly affects the school’s funding, much of which has come from the Foundation. In 2015 the school successfully raised $2 million dollars in order to become financially independent.

The school has been an accredited institution of higher learning since 1987, and first became accredited as an architecture school in 1996. The school’s NAAB accreditation is good through 2023. The Frank Lloyd Wright School offers a three-year Master of Architecture degree, which students pursue while splitting the year between the school’s Scottsdale, Arizona, and Spring Green, Wisconsin, campuses.

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Alberta’s only Frank Lloyd Wright building to be rebuilt

Thanks to the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative, Banff National Park in Alberta may once again have its own Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building almost 100 years after the original structure was demolished. The Banff Park Pavilion was originally built in 1914 on commission from the Canadian government and designed in conjunction with Francis Conroy Sullivan (Wright's only Canadian student). It only stood for 25 years but was demolished in 1939 due to structural damage. The pavilion went through several stages of use in its brief life. It was initially conceived as a visitor center by the Department of Public Works by the National Parks Service, with the local community putting forth ideas about its design. However, given the timing of its completion at the start of World War I, it was repurposed by the Department of Defense into a quartermaster's store. After the war the pavilion was used for its original intended purpose: a picnic area and shelter. However, its location on the bank of the Bow River was prone to flooding and frost heaving, which damaged wooden floor supports. It was torn down in 1939 despite the resistance of park-goers. The Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative is dedicated to rebuilding Frank Lloyd Wright structures on their original footprints according to their original design, allowing for changes only due to modern building code requirements. The Banff Park Pavilion will be their first project. The building is a great example of Wright's signature Prairie School architectural style, common in the American midwest but rare in Canada. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Initiative, it was in fact the only building of this style in the country. It will also be the second Frank Lloyd Wright building in Canada. The number of yearly visitors to Banff National Park has grown to almost 3.6 million annually, and the pavilion has the potential to once again become a well used feature of the park as well as a tourist attraction in its own right. According to Canadian Architect, the proposal was accepted by the Banff Town Council, who is now conducting a feasibility study as Phase I of the project. The Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative is accepting donations that will go toward funding the project.
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MoMA to celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday with an exhibit featuring 450 of his works

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York will be celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright's 150th birthday in 2017—one year from today—by opening a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the prolific Wisconsin-born architect. The exhibit, titled Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, will feature up to 450 works that span more than 60 years. Unpacking the Archive will showcase how Wright was radical designer eager to push the boundaries of architecture's technologies and materials while pioneering do-it-yourself construction systems. The exhibition will also delve into the the theories behind his work that relate to nature, urban planning, and social politics. Architectural drawings, models, building fragments, films, television broadcasts, print media, furniture, tableware, textiles, paintings, photographs, and scrapbooks, some never publicly seen, will be on display. The MoMA has also chosen to adopt an anthological approach to exhibiting Wright's work, dividing it into twelve sections which will each focus on a certain object(s) selected from the Frank Lloyd Wright Archive. In this way, the object(s) can be easily contextualized and juxtaposed with other works from the FLW Archive, the MoMA, or from outside collections. In a press release, the MoMA explained that the "exhibition seeks to open up Wright’s work to critical inquiry and debate, and to introduce experts and general audiences alike to new angles and interpretations of this extraordinary architect." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brZugTJ0odg Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive is organized by MoMA in collaboration with the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York, and by Barry Bergdoll, Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA.