Frank Lloyd Wright House May Be Bulldozed

2 Oct


Published: October 2, 2012

It’s hard to say which is more startling. That a developer in Phoenix could threaten — by Thursday, no less — to knock down a 1952 house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Or that the house has until now slipped under the radar, escaping the attention of most architectural historians, even though it is one of Wright’s great works, a spiral home for his son David.

The prospect of its demolition has suddenly galvanized preservationists, as these crises often belatedly do. They are pursuing a two-pronged attack, trying to have the building designated a landmark, although in Arizona, where private property rights are strong, landmark status is really just a stay of execution, limited to three years. After that the owner is free to tear down the place. So the other prong of attack is to find some preservation-minded angel with deep pockets who will buy it from the developer. Preferably today.

Wright designed this 2,500-square-foot concrete home for David and his wife, Gladys, on a desert site facing north toward Camelback Mountain in a neighborhood called Arcadia. The area, known since the 1920s for its citrus groves and romantic getaway resorts among old Spanish colonial and adobe revival homes, was increasingly subdivided after the war and filled with new, custom-designed ranch houses.But the Wright lot still had its orange trees.

The architect took advantage of them by raising his son’s house on columns, to provide views over the orchard. It was a touch that partly echoed Le Corbusier’s famous Villa Savoye in France; at the same time Wright chose a spiral design akin to the Guggenheim Museum’s. He had drawn plans for the Guggenheim by then, but it was still some years away from construction.The David Wright house is the Guggenheim’s prodigal son, except that unlike the museum, whose interior creates a vertical streetscape while turning its back on the city, David’s house was configured by Wright to look both inward and out.

It twists around a central courtyard, a Pompeian oasis to which he gave a plunge pool and shade garden, but also faces onto the surrounding desert, with sweeping views of the mountain.The house is coiled, animated, like a rattlesnake, yet flowing and open. A spiral entrance ramp gives it a processional grandeur out of proportion to its size — especially nowadays, when many of the old ranch homes in Arcadia have been torn down to make way for McMansions that dwarf Wright’s house. The developer’s plan for the site involves subdividing the lot and erecting two or more new houses.“There is no house quite like this one, with its mythic content,” is how Neil Levine, the architectural historian and Wright scholar, put it the other day. “Everything is custom designed so that the house is, more than most of Wright’s later buildings, a complete work of art.”

To read the entire article, and see photos of the house please click on the New York Times link bellow

via Frank Lloyd Wright House in Phoenix Faces Bulldozers –

4 Responses to “Frank Lloyd Wright House May Be Bulldozed”

  1. The Wanderlust Gene October 3, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Hope you’ll keep us up to date on developments? Looks like a right royal cock up at City Hall is turning into an international arts/architecture/heritage incident. Surely there’s a third option – to redefine the subdivision and sell the house as is – wouldn’t it be the most awesome place to live – designed for living, in the most gracious sense, its comparative small size makes it a castle in comparison to the proposed McMansions – aren’t they a thing of the past yet – i thought they’d gone the way of the dodo thanks to the GEC?


  2. ideflex October 3, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    I “like” your article but certainly do not “like” the fact that another great piece of architecture may be bulldozed and lost forever… Keep us updated, please!


  3. bmagpub April 27, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    Reading this reminded me of a trip I had to the Meiji Mura Museum, just to the north of Nagoya. Here they have reconstructed the main entrance lobby and reflecting pool, brick by brick, of the Imperial Palace Hotel of Tokyo that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright – another stunning piece of architecture from this great man.


    • foodnotherstuff May 8, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

      Wow! That is amazing they did that to preserve his work, he was such a genius.


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