Prairie Dreams

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Today is something different from my usual rants. Today we see what happens when someone you love infects you… with their dreams! My boyfriend and I have been dating since I started grad-school at Ohio State ten years ago but we’ve only been living together for the past four years. The first six years I lived in Columbus and we just saw each other on weekends and took occasional trips together. A lot of those trips were around the country to see architecture. Yes, my boyfriend is an architecture nut and for years he’s been traveling around America touring homes and public buildings designed by his boyhood obsession Frank Lloyd Wright. When he found out I was in love with Manhattan, he decided we should both go to New York together so I could play in my favorite borough again and he could tour the Wright sites there. So off we flew for a week in the Big Apple. First we toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art together where there is an exhibit dedicated to Wright’s style, and I was intrigued. Since he’d been talkiguggenheim 1ng about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture since I’d known him, I decided I’d tag along with him to his other Wright landmark and see what all the fuss was about.
Right up 5th Avenue from the Met stood the famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Wright’s masterpieceguggenheim interior in New York City. It was amazing. I love art and beautiful things so I love museums of any kind, but the building Wright designed for the museum was far more breath-taking than the art it contained, so I began to get hooked. The building itself is a work of art, a geometric sculpture, sort of an inverted ziggurat… a vast spiral, inside which you begin with an elevator ride to the top, and then stroll leisurely round and round the spiral floor descending through several stories of artwork displayed on the outer walls. On the inside of the spiral ramp there is a deep open well. I had to admitDarwin Martin Hse it was beautiful.

David’s enthusiasm doubled after I began to show some curiosity about other Wright designs so that started us on a cross-country hunt to see them all! Every few months he would arrange a trip somewhere to tour another Wright building and I tagged along getting more and more sucked into his dreams with each trip. Now I can say I love the Wright style too. We traveled to Buffalo, NY to see the Darwin Martin house which was in the process of being restored to its original condition after a partial demolition and years of neglect.

Falling WaterThen he had to show me his favorite Wright house of all, perhaps everyone’s favorite: Falling Water. Its in a rural, sylvan setting, built over a waterfall and I’m sure you’ll recognize it when you see it. Its been world-famous for eight decades and is so modern-looking that its hard to believe it was built around the time my grandmother was born! Its only a couple hundred miles from where we live so we have gone back to tour it several times in different seasons. Its beautiful at any time of the year.

Then we went to ChicRobieago where Wright lived and worked for the first years of his career. There are more Wright homes (and one fabulous temple) in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park than anywhere else in America. We went on a walking tour of 20 or more of his most famous early houses, most designed in his self-described ‘Prairie Style’. flw4On the south side of Chicago there is the incomparable Robie House designed and built between 1906 and 1909. Its almost impossible to believe such a forward-thinking home was built so early in the Twentieth Century! The one public building in Chicago we toured was the Unity Temple, an early example of his Mayan-style design. If I had lived back then I might have converted to Unitarianism just to go to that temple every week!Unity Temple

We flew out to California and visited the Xanadu Gallery in doxanaduwntown San Francisco. Originally designed as the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, this cubicle Roman brick structure once again contains a spiral ramp circling up through the interior not unlike the idea employed in the Guggenheim years later. From Frisco we traveled north across the Golden Gate to San Rafael to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center, a sprawling community services complex straddling rolling hills like an ancient Roman aqueduct with tiers of arches over arches.Marin Cy Civ Ct2009-06-15-17-56-55_5_01_6__A-flat-pix

Other trips that we took just for our yearly vacations included side-trips to other Wright sites around the country including his own two homes in Wisconsin and Arizona, both named Taliesin, a sky-scraper in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee, the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, and several other houses scattered around the country. We have yet to see the five textile-block Mayan houses he built in Los Angeles. Taliesin Nflw2All in all we’ve traveled to over fifty buildings designed by the architect in the pork-pie hat whose personal life was almost as scandalous as my own. Wright was a dreamer who had a natural proclivity for infecting his clients with his dreams. He didn’t design the house YOU wanted. He designed the house HE wanted and you learned to love it. So beware of dreamers! They have a tendency to infect you with their dreams!




February 27, 2013 – Bethany Ariel Frasier

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Prairie Dreams, 5.5 out of 6 based on 8 ratings

2 thoughts on “Prairie Dreams

  1. I have admired “Arts and Crafts”

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  2. Beth,
    This is right up my alley as my main degree is in architecture. Beautiful photos capturing the grandness of one of the greatest designers it ever walk this earth. Thank you you expanding my horizons, both politically and culturally.

    I love the passion you show in your life, it has both affected and infected my my points of view. I’m still a conservative but through your observations I am a better informed one.

    This website is wonderfully constructed and look forward to reading your many postings.

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