Wright On

Since I was a college sophomore in OU’s “intro to design” course, I’ve enjoyed the works of Frank Lloyd Wright. (FLW)

FLW was ahead of his time.

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I also enjoyed his followers’ works in the prairie / woods settings of central Oklahoma (Bruce Goff), and other different ecologies around the country. But seeing his work in the desert, where I’ve recently learned of his students’ outdoor learning conducted on-site, I gained a new appreciation.

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Not sure one could have such a boulder nowadays, anywhere in NM and AZ. I wonder what the local Salt River-Pima-Maricopa people think of this located here.

I hope they at least get free admission here at any time, and have it closed on days they want to revere what their ancient works are about, and wander in the desert to their heart’s content, just like the pueblos finally get to do at Petroglyph National Monument in ABQ.

As a first generation American, I am quite serious about the first people’s place here.

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The wayfinding signage is quite good.

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He used extensive turfgrass on one side. I’ve heard mixed things on his landscape designs, but when you see this entire property, then it makes sense.

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Great steps leading to another sculptural petroglyph boulder.

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The concrete / imbedded rock bands are a nice touch.

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Chihuahuan Desert and Madrean yuccas used…now I feel at home.

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I liked the narrow paving bands while there; writing this I’m now unsure. #hypercritical

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The moon gate for the kids…he had 7+.

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My visit was on a pleasant, relatively normal 90F Sunday afternoon in late spring. With AC inside, knowing the third “Mrs. Wright” waited 10 years to get indoor bathrooms and AC installed.

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From their bedroom and fireplace (no central heating) to the bathroom. This is about 1/4 the size of my master bath at my home in Las Cruces, but then again, I don’t have stainless steel wall-to-wall.

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I do have central heating, which makes Nov-April post-shower drying pleasurable, right to my warm towels.

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An outdoor water feature / shallow pool

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Then there’s the grand finale to me: a huge, wood-burning fireplace inside the massive, shaded cavern from the low desert sun and glare.

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And this view out…

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Now change the focus and light exposure, to see that distant view…

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His work proves his careful study of form with function, not just form’s dominance.

FLW was apparently a “chick magnet”, not lacking some negative traits that comes with that. Yet, he also seemed down-to-earth, teachable, and approachable, unlike some of the unapproachable divas / divos populating some ranks in architecture and art.

Not that I have had the temptation of offing a few of the above; my former career was just dandy with so much fair, respectful treatment, always both ways. <sarcasm>

In some circles, LAs included, the practice of rubber-stamping a design onto totally different landforms or climates is the bottom of the barrel. Like uppity-hippie contrians who luck into influence in horticulture, please do us a favor before you expire…retire and write fiction, not fiction as fact.

There! I’m more onto you than what you fear others see.

Others who’s works I’ve seen over the decades, actual architects or designers who somehow had the word “architecture” applied to them yet without registration to use that title / act, often miss critical parts of their designs like the land. (think Donald Judd in Marfa or Robert Irwin) They and their teary-eyed disciples miss what any desert designer worth their salt considers as a given: passive water harvesting, habitat, durable materials, economy, and native plant species, especially lower water-use ones.

Dear G*d they miss the importance of the actual land!

FLW got site before site savvy was cool. Compare Falling Water in wet, continental, and mid-latutude forest western Pennsylvania to Talliesen West in arid, southwetern, and subtropical desert Scottsdale.

I can’t wait to read up on him more, including the book on his relationships with his wives over the years. Three Mrs. Wrights may make up for some wrongs?

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His foundation preserved this vast foreground of Sonoran Desert perfection, though the new development to the right and far beyond looks much like my part of Las Cruces, houses all with broad porches peering out into the desert valley.

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Imagine what FLW would have altered from the above with siting and outdoor environments in arid, warm-temperate Albuquerque and Las Cruces…or sub-humid, subtropical Austin…or semi-arid, continental-bipolar Denver…or arid, continental Reno or Boise…and so on.

I doubt it would be a grid of lollipop trees or succulents in cor-ten in front of an off-white adobe, bought at $30K in ruins then being sold a decade later post-renovation at $750K in minimalist iconagraphy.  (nothing personal, nouvelle Marfans)

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Better yet, what would you do? Ponder that whether it was your money, or it was your design expertise with someone else’s money.

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Polka dots of palo verdes, everywhere

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No turfgrass used anywhere else…brownie points from Dave!

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Without the constantly overt desert southwest imagery, his own sculptures are great. I assume they are all his design, as were placement of his boulders with petroglyphs, and he designed many of his furnishings, possibly down to his clothing for all I know.

His sculptures are very influenced by the southwest, yet his own style, too.

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Yes, my old friend Opuntia engelmannii

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Done!

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So, there’s yet another semester course digest, and another perfect weather day to savor, before “it” arrives soon enough!

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5/1/19 weather:
83F / 60F / 0.00 or 28c / 16c / .00

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6 Replies to “Wright On”

  1. Loved your post on Talliesen West. We’ve visited Falling Waters in Pennsylvania and Talliesen in Wisconsin. Noone combines building with landscape better.

    Thanks, it was a great Sunday afternoon away from everything else going on. Someday, I’ll visit those other homes. I want to read up on his landscapes, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thank you for sharing this David, I really enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about FLW, in 1994 when I was in the US I was lucky enough to go to Oak Park, near Chicago, the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio are quite different in style to the home in your post because as you point out he oberseved the landscape and enviroment around his creations, however, it can be seen that they are by the same artist,
    thanks, Frances

    My only trip to Chicago was 1991, and my friend from that area took me by some homes, but just down the streets to see them…limited time. He does have a design signature, I agree.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Funny, I always thought Frank Lloyd Wright’s creative ideas came from forms and shapes seen and observed in Nature. Especially in the Southwest.

    Also funny you wrote this since in my blog follow list, another blogger wrote about a Frank Lloyd Wright creation.

    http://www.dsoderblog.com/the-1924-samuel-and-harriet-freeman-house-by-frank-lloyd-wright/

    Thanks for the link, I’ll read later. I believe you’re right about the origins of many of his forms used, though I’m not sure which I see are literal or symbolic. Or even adaptations of Native American symbols. No matter, they are very original and artful. The overhangs always impressed me!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “The overhangs always impressed me!”
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      This reminds me of one of my favourite Frank Lloyd Wright inspired creations from the late 1950s movie, that cool Modernist house on top of Mt. Rushmore in the classic Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest? Wasn’t really one of his houses, but his work inspired it. I always wanted a replica of that brilliant house in a rocky boulder setting in the southwest with numerous native plants.

      I must see that movie. Agreed on being inspired by FLW’s designs, including seeing it in the setting you describe. A house in Four Hills in ABQ has the setting and the pressed rocks-into-concrete walls, though it lacks some of the bold overhangs and other features.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It was years ago I visited Talliesen West (2002 maybe), such an experience. I was awestruck. Thank you for this photo-rich post.

    This one I barely saw when attending the Univ. of Cherokee Gothic, but what a great visit, even the approach by car. You bet.

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