Friday, May 4, 2012

Wright in the Rearview Mirror

As I wrap up my tenure as Martin House curator, I thought I'd go with the obvious for my final post to the Weekly Wright-up:  a look back at the highlights of nine years working with Wright's Buffalo "opus."  So, with apologies to David Letterman, the Top Nine Moments of Nine Years at the Martin House (in no particular order):

9) Joining the Martin House Restoration Corporation in the summer of 2003 and thinking (quietly, to myself) "I can't believe they're going to let me do this!"  Thanks to John Courtin, Jack Quinan, John Lovell, Shonnie Finnegan, and all who decided to take a chance on a young curator.

8) Standing atop the small mountain of back fill in the midst of Phase III, taking photos of the pergola, conservatory and carriage house taking shape. The chronic case of "hardhat hair" was well worth it.

7) Watching Frank Lloyd Wright's grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright, and Darwin Martin's grandson, Jerry Foster, cut the ribbon on the completed pergola in 2007.  You couldn't ask for better historical symmetry.

6) Visiting former Martin House resident and UB First Lady Margy Meyerson in Philadelphia, chatting over coffee in her "Lou" Kahn-designed breakfast room, and driving back to Buffalo with a rental car trunk laden with art glass and artifacts as parting gifts.

5) The publication of Frank Lloyd Wright Art Glass of the Martin House Complex, with a shout out to Jack Quinan, Ted Lownie, Robert McCarter, Julie Sloan, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Oakbrook Esser Studios, and, for that matter, the Linden Glass Company.  Nice work, guys.

4) The opening events for the Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion.  Walking into that incredible space at twilight and realizing that it was an architectural experience unique in Western New York.  Thanks to Wilson and Eleanor, Ami and Warren, Lesley, Mark, Kent, Toshiko, Lee, Sonya, LPC and the cast of thousands who made that building possible.

3) The panel discussion on Patkau's cottages for Fallingwater, with John Patkau, Lynda Waggoner and Ray Ryan, and the dinner in the gardener's cottage that followed.  Looking forward to seeing those "hobbit houses" built, Lynda!

2) Welcome 2,500 + preservationists and architecture fans to Buffalo for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual conference last October.  Doing our best to make Buffalo / Niagara's cultural assets a well-kept secret no more!

1) This one's a no-brainer:  working with 400-some volunteers, MHRC staff, Board members and strategic partners (HHL, UB, NY State Parks) to restore and share the Martin House Complex with the world.  The relationships I made are the definition of invaluable, and the thanks I owe to so many, impossible (but I'll try).

Wright once quipped that he took the rear window out of one of his sedans because he "never looked behind."  I can't say I agree with that gesture (for safety reasons alone!); you're bound to miss a lot of what's valuable in life if you only look down the road...

That orange shirt was SO 2003.