Monday, July 30, 2012
THE NIKE IN THE SHADOWS
When the Scholars’ Conference was held in 1994 to determine the date of significance to which the Martin House would be restored a dispute arose between those who would feature Architecture and those for History. The chosen date – 1907 – insured that the house would be restored to 1907 shortly after the house was completed. To do this meant that three apartment buildings from the 1960s would be demolished so that Wright’s pergola, conservatory, and carriage house could be replicated from drawings and photographs. So the Martin House complex would be a mix of the authentic and new construction, a tough decision. Was it worth it? One good reason came to my attention only a month ago when I noticed that the Nike at the end of the reconstructed pergola loomed brightly through the front door of the house. My color photograph was taken with a zoom lens from the sidewalk in front of the Martin House some 255 feet from the Nike. Prior to the reconstruction of the missing buildings the Nike was only known to us from three black and white photographs taken for Wright by Clarence Fuermann in 1907– one from the entrance hall, another from within the pergola, and a third made inside the conservatory close to the Nike. In Fuermann’s photograph from the entrance hall the Nike (who stands nine feet six inches) seems a thousand miles away and yet today she looms large in the front doorway. This is no accident, of course. Wright’s penchant for entrances that are buried in shadow are well known but here he has treated us, even casual passers-by, to the spectacle of one of the masterpieces of classical sculpture glowing in the depths of the Martin House.
[Fuermann photographs are from the Archives of the University at Buffalo and the Canadian Centre for Architecture]