Friday, March 2, 2012

Wright in the Middle (East)

Rendering for Monument to Harun-al-Rashid, 1957
Well before it was scarred by recent wars, Baghdad was an urban hub of the Middle East which inspired romantic, Arabian-Night visions in the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright's elaborate plans to modernize the city, drawn just a few years before his death, are on view in the exhibition Middle East City of Mirages, Baghdad, 1952-1982, at the Center for Architecture, New York.

Wright's fantastic Baghdad plans are fascinating as prime examples of Daniel Burnham's aphorism for urban planning, "make no little plans."  Wright's radical re-visioning of the city was to include every element of the dashboard of modern, urban culture (Western culture, at least) - from an opera house to an art museum to a new university.  And these buildings incorporate all the trademark forms of Wright's work of the late 50s:  circles, domes, spires and spirals - the latter inspired by Iraqi monuments such as the spiral tower at Samarra, and most notably manifest in Wright's last built project, the Guggenheim Museum, New York (completed 1959).

Middle East City of Mirages also includes Baghdad plans by Aalto, Le Corbusier, and Venturi, and runs through May 5th.

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