Monday, August 13, 2012


                                       The Martin House Landscape plan of 1910 (Wasmuth) 

Currently the Martin House is an architectural photographer’s dream, of sorts, in that the buildings reside on a veritable carpet of green grass (except for the northwest garden behind the house) and the elms and maples that once screened the property along Jewett and Summit avenues are long gone. The setting would be more appropriate to Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoie. Plans are underway, however, to restore the landscape, a task made formidable because of a jumble of evidence: four or five original drawings that are not consistent, numerous historic photographs not all dated, fragments of the original plantings, and letters referencing the purchase of certain plants. Then there is Wright’s elegant re-imagining of the entire plan for the Wasmuth portfolio in Berlin in 1910. (above) The largest and most carefully detailed plan, executed by Walter Burley Griffin while Wright was in Japan early in 1905, features an overwrought “floral hemicycle” consisting of 20,000 plants that were to arc around the east porch of the main house. This plan may be the reason that Wright fired Griffin later in 1905. So there are many questions to resolve: Do the early photographs reflect portions Griffin’s plan?  Since Griffin subsequently won the competition to design Canberra, the new capitol of Australia, does his plan merit special attention? Should Wright’s Wasmuth version of the plan be given consideration? These questions will be answered by a team of experts working with  the understanding that the landscape is of the utmost importance to Wright’s unifying vision.

On another matter, Wright’s home for his son, David, in Phoenix, -- named by the architect, “How to Live in the Southwest,” (above) is at risk of demolition.  For an online version of the press release see: Or write  and express your dismay at the possibility of losing this important building.


John Bachman said...

Thanks for the comments on the landscape plan. The hemicycle planting is shown on the plan, so hard to believe Wright would fire him over it. He did show the street corner at right angles even though it is not and read the number of bays is longer than actually built to the garage. He did use the semicircle landscape plan on other houses.

John Bachman said...

Perhaps he was fired by Wright as you suggested. Was the simplified plan as drawn later installed and Wright disapproved this upon seeing it? An early sketch shows a reflecting pool to the east of the pergola, did Martin nix this and are there later plans or a letter that mentions this? A shame this was deleted, imagine the reflections on the pergola ceiling and the view to a fountain at the end.