Sunday, April 21, 2013


Phyllis Lambert and Jack Quinan (Photograph by Mary Roberts, CEO of the  MHRC)

You could argue that without Phyllis Lambert there wouldn't be a Martin House, or at least the house as it stands today, nearly completely rebuilt and restored. In the early 1980s when the Wright-Martin Papers were about to be auctioned in Los Angeles there was a mad rush here in Buffalo to raise funds to purchase the papers (which proved vital to the whole restoration process). We put together $50,000 from various foundations only to discover that we would be competing against Phyllis Lambert and her Canadian Centre for Architecture, a newly formed architectural archive and museum that is now one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. Ms. Lambert kindly agreed not to enter the bidding until after our $50,000 limit was exceeded. As it happened, her representative was ultimately outbid by a Chicago dealer who then attempted to sell the papers to the CCA. Sensitive to the notion that the Wright-Martin Papers really should be in Buffalo with the Martin House, Ms. Lambert flew this writer to Montreal to advise during the negotiation. She decided against the purchase, and soon thereafter it became apparent that Paul Hanna, a Wright client at Stanford University had $50,000 and was also interested in the papers. We (Hanna and UB) decided to pool our resources, bought the papers for $100,000, and divided them between the University of Buffalo (those from 1902 to 1916) and Stanford (those from 1917 to 1945). 

So it was a special pleasure to show Phyllis Lambert the Martin House after all these years.
I must admit that I was somewhat trepidatious given Ms. Lambert's passion for the work of Mies van der Rohe, beautifully articulated in her new book, Building Seagram, but she was delighted with the house and the restoration and particularly attentive to details reminiscent of the work of the great Italian interpreter of Wright, Carlo Scarpa, the subject of a major exhibition at the CCA a few years ago. This comes as no surprise as Phyllis Lambert, through the auspices of the Canadian Center for Architecture and the numerous buildings she has commissioned and restored across North America, in Cairo (the Ben Ezra Synagogue, with foundations dating back to the 11th century), Moscow (the Konstantin Melnikov House), and elsewhere, has defined the very idea of architectural patronage for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.   
Philip Johnson, Mies van der Rohe, and Phyllis Lambert (New York Times)

Frank Lloyd Wright, an interpreter, and Mies van der Rohe at the Johnson's Wax Building site in 1937 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jack Quinan: Fellow of the Society of Architectural Historians

Congratulations to our very own Jack Quinan, who was named a Fellow of the Society of Architectural Historians for his distinguished service to the field of architectural history.   The announcement was made at the Society's 66th Annual Awards Ceremony, which was held last night at the Buffalo City Hall Common Council Chambers.

The following is the citation that was read in Jack's honor:

Jack Quinan, University at Buffalo

Most of us know Jack Quinan through his exemplary monographs on the Larkin Building and the Darwin Martin House. Through his writings, Jack is recognized as a leading authority on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. But his commitment to the subject extends well beyond scholarship. Shortly after arriving at SUNY Buffalo in 1975, Jack became a central figure in the protracted effort to rescue the Martin House, which was in deteriorated condition and faced a bleak future. After averting the property’s transfer to the State Office of Mental Health, he helped organize the Martin House Restoration Corporation and has served as curator and a leading member of the board. In the past two decades, the Corporation has undertaken extensive restoration of the house, acquired the adjacent Wright-designed buildings, and has reconstructed the pergola, carriage house, and conservatory. Moreover, the limited competition held for a new visitor center yielded an exceptionally synergistic design by Toshiko Mori. As a central figure behind this nearly forty-year effort, Jack has been instrumental in saving one of Wright’s major buildings and in creating models for restoration, reconstruction, appropriate new design, and stewardship.


In the early stages of this ambitious campaign, Jack convened a conference involving curators, architects, and historians to address the challenges of preserving and interpreting Wright buildings. This gathering led to the formation of the Frank Lloyd Building Conservancy, which now boasts some 800 members. Among the most recent and most publicized of the many successful cases it has led was rescuing the David Wright House in Phoenix. Jack has always played a leading role in the organization’s activities. He also was SAH’s secretary from 1989-93. Jack recently retired as SUNY Distinguished Service Professor after an illustrious teaching career, where his integral approach to scholarship and activism has inspired generations of students as well as many others in the community. We are all the beneficiaries of his insight, wisdom, and persistent dedication.