Friday, May 29, 2009

One Size Fits All

Does your heart race at the thought of unique masonry products? Do you swoon over a finely textured clay body or the very mention of the word "terracotta?" If so:

A) you may require therapy,

B) have we got a deal for you!

The Wisteria Shop is offering your choice of two site-specific restoration materials: reproduction Roman brick or terracotta roof tiles, surplus from Phase III of the Martin House restoration, for a mere five bucks each.

The Roman bricks - each one unique in terms of its organic color and distribution of iron spotting - were produced by Belden Brick Company of Canton, Ohio. The unique bricks required for the Martin House were produced in Belden's kilns in Sugarcreek, Ohio. The clay body and firing formulas employed were intentionally manipulated to produce proactively the kind of color range that occurred more haphazardly in turn-of-the-century brick production. Use them as paperweights, bookends, small craft anchors or, of course, as bricks to build with!

The terracotta roof tiles, produced to duplicate the historic "book" tiles used to crown the Martin House complex buildings, hail from the Tuilerie de Pontigny Aleonard in Pontigny, France. The kilns at the Tuilerie have been in use since the Middle Ages, producing organic irregularities in the color and surface of the tiles that closely approximates the original roof tiles from the Martin complex. These tiles make great cutting boards, trivets or sign boards ready for hand lettering. Buy four and use them as durable plates for a Plowman's lunch at your favorite summer spot.

Martin House Makes USA Today's "Top Ten"

No, it's not Letterman's goofy "Top Ten..." but rather USA Today's "Top Ten places to behold Frank Lloyd Wright's vision" in today's Travel section. Thanks to Taliesin's Victor Sidy and travel writer Kathy Baruffi, The Martin House and other WNY Wright sites are in the esteemed company of the likes of Fallingwater, Taliesin and Hollyhock House. This ink is more like gold!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wright in Smithsonian

More ink on the big Frank Lloyd Wright show at the Guggenheim Museum, New York: "The Triumph of Frank Lloyd Wright," by Arthur Lubow, Smithsonian Magazine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wright on Wall Street

Check out Richard Woodward's article on Buffalo's "Wright Stuff" in today's Wall Street Journal.

Wright, Brick by Brick

Kids (of all ages) rejoice! LEGO, the ubiquitous building toy empire, has just released its first two sets based on iconic Frank Lloyd Wright buildings: Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum.

If you're a parent of a child between four and forty-four, you probably stepped on at least one LEGO piece this morning, but it was most likely a tiny, specialized Star Wars figure or Bionicle weapon. But LEGO is going retro with its new Wright sets, in the sense that they promise pure structural delight - building largely with the sort of basic, "automatic binding bricks" that the company first introduced circa 1950.

The Wright sets are the collective brainchild of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Brickstructures, Inc., and the LEGO Architecture line, hitting the market in conjunction with the opening of the Guggenheim's Wright retrospective, Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward. The LEGO - Wright collaboration seems a fitting (no pun intended) combination on a number of levels, given the inspiration of Froebel blocks to Wright in his formative years, the invention of Lincoln Logs by Wright's son John, and of course, the modular system of construction endemic to LEGOs and Wright's design systems alike - prompting many to call for a Usonian House (e.g. Jacobs I) as the next in the LEGO - Wright series.

Professional bias aside, I think the next logical addition to the series would be one of the great Prairie houses: Robie or Martin, anyone? The thousands (if not millions) of bricks required for a Martin House Complex set would surely have parents tearing out their remaining shag carpet and wincing at that inevitable "LEGO-in-the-vacuum" sound...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Guggenheim at 50

Click HERE for a New York Times video feature on the 50th anniversary of the completion of Wright's Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Wrighting Wrongs at the Robie

Don't miss the next installment of this year's series of speakers at the Martin House, as Karen Sweeney, AIA, Director of Restoration for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, speaks on the topic of Restoration of the Robie House: A Work in Progress, this coming Thursday evening, 5/21 at 7 PM in the Greatbatch Pavilion [call (716) 856-3858 to make a reservation].

Sweeney has been o
n the staff of the Preservation Trust - the Chicago-area organization that preserves and interprets Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park Home and Studio and the Frederick C. Robie House - for over twenty years. During that time, she has served on the Home and Studio restoration committee, and more recently, coordinated restoration on the Robie House, often cited as the pinnacle of Wright's work in the Prairie period.

The Robie House was built for Frederick C. Robie and his family in the developing Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago in 1908-1910. Certain elements of the Robie House's plan are more akin to Buffalo's Heath House than they are to the Martin House - e.g., Robie is an adaptation of the Prairie design vocabulary to a long, narrow
city lot. But with its dramatically cantilevered planes, extensive horizontal bands of art glass and integrated, prism-like living / dining space, the house is a more refined manifestation of Wright's "dampfer" (or "ship-like") variation of the Prairie House.

The Robie House has faced many of the same restoration challenges as the Martin House, including procurement of appropriate reproduction building materials. For example, the Preservation Trust's search for replacement Roman brick led them to the same source as the Martin House: Belden Brick of Ohio, who produced a red Roman brick for Robie, and a golden variety for Martin. With many parallels of both design history and restoration, this should be an interesting presentation on the preservation of our si
ster site in Chicago.

For more information on the history and restoration of the Robie House, visit the Preservation Trust's web pages for the site.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wright "Bookends" the Empire State

Wright's "Buffalo Venture" - the Larkin Building, Martin House complex and Graycliff - will enjoy some major national media coverage in the latest issue of Newsweek (May 18) with the article "The Goodbye Swirl" by Cathleen McGuigan. McGuigan's point of departure is the celebration of Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City with the opening of its 50th anniversary Wright retrospective, "Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward" (opens May 15th and runs through August 23).

The article echoes what the founders of the Martin House Restoration Corporation have long held: that major Wright buildings "bookend" New York State, with the Martin House on the west and the Guggenheim on the east. Wright icons, from two different phases of his long career, await visitors on opposite ends of the Thruway. The only other Wright buildings in the state are the E. E. Boynton House of Rochester, 1908, and The Usonia development near Pleasantville (Westchester County), begun circa 1947.

But the article hinges on Wright's first great commercial design: the Larkin Administration building, which McGuigan cites as the beginning of Wright's career on the national stage. The Guggenheim, of course, was Wright's last built work, not yet finished at the time of Wright's death in 1959 and one of his most radical experiments in re-defining architectural space.

Buffalo may never pursue citizens' periodic calls to rebuild the Larkin building (and that's probably for the best), but it is rallying around the preservation of the great Wright houses that remain. And the Guggenheim, fresh from a recent face lift, is celebrating Wright a half century after its audacious, spiraling space was completed.

"Spring" Fever

The exacting reproduction of "Spring," the Richard Bock sculpture that once adorned the east lawn of the Martin House, has been completed by Skylight Studios of Woburn, MA (the same artisans who produced our cast of Nike), and the cast will soon be delivered to Buffalo. Here's a sneak preview of a detail of the sculpture:

The piece will be installed in its original location - on the northeast garden wall coping - soon after delivery. Stay tuned for more detail on the debut of "Spring" in Buffalo ("Early Summer" just doesn't have the same ring, now does it?)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Everyone's Martin House

Economic slump, downturn or recession. Call it what you will, this economic climate has affected businesses, consumers and not-for-profits alike, producing a wave of belt-tightening and scaling back.

Not-for-profits may fare no better or worse than their for-profit counterparts in the midst of this crisis, but they do face a unique convergence of factors, some more obvious than others. At the same time that wages and "disposable" income may be shrinking and limiting casual audience support of cultural attractions like the Martin House, major donors to these same culturals are feeling the pinch and making hard choices about what to support - and at what level. More indirectly (but still significantly) ancillary funding for restoration, collections research and care, and educational activities from traditional sources such as the New York State Council on the Arts dries up rather quickly when budgets are in turmoil on the state or federal level. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery announced its plan recently to freeze hiring, curtail staff travel and close the gallery entirely for a week in May to help balance its budget. On all levels, support for cultural institutions is often the first thing to go when times are tough, and previous levels of support are o
ften not re-established when the economy does improve.

So, by now you're asking, "what can I do to help the Martin House continue its restoration efforts and current level of public programming?" Here's a short list - suitable for putting on the fridge for easy reference:
  • Take a tour of the Martin House complex. If you haven't been since March 2009, you're in for a treat: our new Visitor Center, the Greatbatch Pavilion, adds a whole new dimension to the visitor experience.
  • Buy something in our Wisteria Museum Shop. There are lots of great new items this spring, and it's the perfect place to pick up something distinctive for the mom, dad, grad, bride or groom on your list.
  • Renew - or initiate - a membership; our Martin House Associates program comes with an array of great benefits, and your annual membership is a great way to help support YOUR Martin House.
  • Buy a ticket or two to one of our upcoming lectures, concerts or other special events.
  • Slip a five, ten or twenty spot into the beautiful new donation box in the Greatbatch Pavilion - there's nothing like the archival-quality look of money under pristine plexiglass!
  • Continue to share your time and talents with the MHRC as a Martin House Volunteer...
Remember the Rosie the Riveter campaign during the War effort? Well, we may not be at war with Wall Street or the Federal Reserve, but all the same, keep this in mind: when the Martin House Volunteers put their minds to it, WE CAN DO IT!