Saturday, October 26, 2013


Light Tower, Taliesin West (J. Quinan)

Squared spiral on Light Tower (J. Quinan)
To direct visitors toward the entrance to Taliesin West Frank Lloyd Wright had his apprentices erect the great desert masonry stele, or slab, from which a squared red wrought iron spiral points the way. 
Hohokam petroglyph at entrance to Taliesin West (J. Quinan)

Legend has it that Wright was inspired by one of the ancient Hohokam petroglyphs that were found in and around the site and were placed as points of reference in the plan, but others see certain 18th century actor prints by Katsukawa Shunsho  (which Wright collected) as a likely source.

Actor Ichimura Uzaemon print by Shunsho (University of New Mexico Collection)
Actor  Ichikawa Danjuro, print by Shunsho

As Mrs. Wright once noted, Wright had extraordinary powers of absorption. Very few of his followers had these powers but among them the Venetian architect, Carlo Scarpa, stands out. Very much his own man, Scarpa greatly admired Wright and remains one of the few who were able to absorb aspects of Wright's work without merely imitating him. At the entrance to the Olivetti store under the arcade of the Piazza San Marco in Venice Scarpa emblazoned the wall with his own version of the squared spiral. Scarpa and Wright met when Wright was in Venice to pursue the Masieri Chapel commission.

Carlo Scarpa, entranceway to Olivetti Store, Venice
Olivetti Store (now a museum) Venice (J. Quinan)

Scarpa and Wright in Venice

Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978)

Friday, October 4, 2013


Fig. 1 Pier in Dining room of Darwin Martin House
One of the traditions in American housing that Frank Lloyd Wright sought to change was the abrupt difference between the exterior -- brick, clapboard, stucco -- and the interior -- wallpaper, wood paneling, or painted plaster. The Darwin Martin house is a particularly good example of the way that Wright made the interior and the exterior continuous. The first image (fig. 1) was taken in the dining room looking outward to the north. The Roman brick pier travels five feet within the interior and then four more feet beyond. In fact the Roman brick exterior of the house is continued throughout the house on the ground floor. 
fig. 2  Front facade of the George Barton House
Wright further enhanced the inside-outside continuity by repeated certain motifs within and without. For instance, on the front  facade of the George Barton House (fig. 2) a Roman brick extrusion serves as a flower box above which there are three windows, a large clear pane flanked by two narrow art glass windows.  Inside the house in the dining room this motif is repeated (fig. 3) in the form of the oak buffet  above which is a large mirror flanked by two art glass doors.
Fig. 3 Buffet in the George Barton House

One of  the unique features of the Martin House  front facade (fig. 4) is a pair of two-story Roman brick columns on either side of two lesser columns all four of which seem to emerge from somewhere below grade behind a low brick cheek wall. In the entrance hall within the house (fig. 5) Wright reiterates the motif with two hefty oak piers that emerge from the basement level behind a low balustrade and rise up to the level of the beam that runs throughout the main floor at the height of 6 feet 5 inches. (This has only become apparent as our architects, Hamilton Houston Lownie, P.C. have reconstructed the entire stair assembly.)
Fig. 4  Front facade Darwin Martin House

Fig. 5 Stairway screen in entrance hall of Darwin Martin House
These reiterated themes bear out Wright's promise to the Martins that he would give them "a domestic symphony."

(photos are by Jack Quinan though he hates to admit it.)