Thursday, September 10, 2009

And Check the Oil Please

By Ashley Takacs, extra-special to the Weekly Wright-Up

The 20th century saw the advent of the autom
obile and the Martin House witnessed this revolution, with Darwin D. Martin buying his first car - a Maxwell one-cylinder runabout - soon after the completion of the Martin House complex in 1907. And with all of those cars came the need for new building types: the garage, the toll barrier and of course, the gas station.

Mies van der Rohe gas station, Chicago

As a new building typology, the gas station served as a playground for modernists who were looking to test their latest design principles. Plus, with their simple space requirements and focus on innovative roof structures, the stations left a lot of room for creativity. Unlike today’s standard Mobil station (its enduring design courtesy of Elliot Noyes), early stations were as diverse as they were functional. Mies Van der Rohe, Norman Foster and of course Frank Lloyd Wright all put their own spin on the pump. The design blog, OObject has collected the best of the best in its list of the world’s top 15 modernist gas stations. Wright’s R.W. Lindholm Service Station in Cloquet, Minnesota came in at number eleven. Wright’s signature cantilevers mark this work and no doubt have influenced contemporary stations. Sadly, the Cloquet station, currently for sale at $750,000, is in a state of disrepair.

Wright's Lindholm service station, Cloquet, MN

Perhaps Buffalo’s Wright-designed filling station, set to start construction next spring, will make OObject's list.
The unbuilt 1927 design includes period innovations like a ladies' room (so women would not have to use the greasy mechanics' bathroom) and gravity-fed gasoline hoses dangling from a cantilevered roof. The second floor features a waiting room with built-in seating. The structure will serve as the centerpiece of the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum. In fact, the station, initially intended for a site on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cherry Street, will be erected entirely indoors, where guests can enjoy it year-round, protected from the harsh Buffalo winter. In an inadvertent nod to current "green" trends, there will be no functioning gas tanks in the structure. While automobile enthusiasts will certainly get their fill of history, they will have to go to the local Mobil or Sunoco to fill their tanks.

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