Monday, July 30, 2012


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]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012



We are pleased that Sean Malone, the newly appointed CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, chose to kick off a national tour of major public Wright sites with the Darwin D. Martin House.  Sean was drawn to the Buffalo success story but he came with existential and visionary questions:  “Who do we (the FLW Foundation) exist to serve?” he asks,  “What are the deep, meaningful needs that no one else is providing? Of those needs, which are we uniquely positioned to serve?” Sean’s visit coincided with that of a contingent of officials from the Wright-designed campus of Florida Southern College – also drawn to the Martin House story – where they are building a Usonian house, designed for the campus by Wright, that is to serve as an orientation center for the more than 20,000 visitors to the campus annually. Exciting discussions ensued, none more affecting than the question of Wright’s continued relevance in a world of diminishing natural resources, commercialism, and virtual realities.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who is that girl?

Among the scores of photographs in the Darwin D. Martin Collection in the University Archives, SUNY at Buffalo, this one holds a particular fascination for me. From right to left are Dorothy Martin (standing), Darwin R. Martin, Laura Barton, their cousin and neighbor, and an unidentified girl, also standing. It happens that Darwin D. Martin recorded in his diary on March 25, 1907, "Wright to dinner," to acknowledge one of the architect's many visits to Buffalo. Over the four years of design and construction of the Martin House the Wright and Martin families had grown close and it is likely that Wright brought his daughter, Catherine, to Buffalo on this occasion. What we need, however, is additional photographic evidence.