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.

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