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Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings

Date of Submission: 30/01/2008
Criteria: (i)(ii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
U.S. Department of Interior
State, Province or Region:
Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
Ref.: 5249
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois  87°47'47.767"W   41°53'18.308"N  

Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago, Illinois  87°35'45.053"W   41°47'23.001"N

Hollyhock House, Los Angeles, California  118°17'34"W   34°5'0.54"N

Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin  90°4'12.979"W   43°8'27.962"N 

Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania 79°27'59.312"W   39°54'20.055"N  

S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc., Administration Building and Research Tower, Racine, Wisconsin  87°47'26.558"W   42°42'48.645"N

Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House, Madison, Wisconsin 89° 26' 29.5332"W  43° 3' 30.6252"N       

Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona  111°50'44.31"W   33°36'32.834"N 

Price Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma  95°58'34.409"W   36°44'53.944"N 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York  73°57'35.353"W     40°46'57.72"N

Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael, California  122°31'53.655"W   37°59'50.055"N

Eleven properties are proposed as a serial nomination.  They are, in generally chronological order:

Unity Temple (1905-08) has exposed concrete walls that define a series of geometric units that appear to be independent of one another and interpenetrate each other in both vertical and horizontal directions.  It is comprised of a cube and a rectangular parallelepiped, linked by an entrance foyer. The northern two-and-one-half-story Temple section, the larger of the two, contains the auditorium/worship space. The lower and wider two-story southern section (Unity House), contains classroom and meeting space.  Stylized piers support the cantilevered flat roofs that extend beyond the wall planes.  On the interior, plaster walls are accented with applied oak strips that create geometric patterns relating to the organization of the space.

Robie House (1908-10), exemplifies Wright's "Prairie" houses, the horizontality of whose designs were intended to complement the flat and expansive prairie landscape.  Its shifting planes and abstract masses drew the attention of European modernists.  Built of red-orange Roman brick, the house rises for three levels to low-hipped roofs covered with red clay tiles.  Oversized brick corner piers and a central chimney core flank bands of windows at each level.  Casements of geometrically patterned art glass are fronted by continuous balconies at the main and upper levels.

Hollyhock House (1919-21) is a dramatic expression of Wright's approach to creating an architecture for a southern California setting.  The design seamlessly melds exterior and interior living space via terraces for each room and an intricate circulation pattern.  Set on a cast-concrete base, the house has canted walls of hollow terra-cotta tile covered with stucco that rise in almost monolithic fashion.  Cast-concrete ornamentation in the form of stylized hollyhocks rest on beltcourses, and masonry walls covered with stucco extend out from the major ground floor rooms to enclose terraces.  Furniture designed by Wright is integral to the design, and all the principal rooms contain windows and doors with elaborate geometrically patterned art glass.

Taliesin (1911 and later) was Wright's long-time home and studio.  Rebuilt and expanded by Wright after two major fires, it is closely integrated into the hillside.  It is part of 600-acre estate in rural Wisconsin that includes a number of other structures designed by Wright; the landscaped grounds, roads, dam and pond are all part of the overall composition and setting.  The exteriors of the buildings consist of local Wisconsin limestone forming chimneys and walls, alternating with sand-finished stucco on wood frame, cypress fascia and base trim boards, and cedar shingled roofs.  The walls are sand-textured plaster. Covered passageways, constructed of stone, link the buildings together.

Fallingwater (1936-38), a house whose reinforced concrete floor slabs are cantilevered over a small waterfall in rural western Pennsylvania, is also noted for its noted for its intimate relationship to its natural setting and for its striking walls of roughly laid stone.  Spacious terraces articulate the house at each of its three levels, and a massive chimney of native sandstone anchors the composition.   The interior spaces incorporate floors of native sandstone and built-in furniture and cabinetry of black walnut, all designed by Wright.  Steel and glass casement windows and doors open onto the terraces and flank the chimney, providing a contrasting sense of light and openness against the solid mass.

The S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., buildings (1936-39; 1943-50) occupy a city block and are the corporate headquarters of the original company that commissioned them.  They have been described as Wright's "interpretation of streamlined design in...a suitable environment for the workforce of corporate America."  The Administration Building has two sections:  the great workroom and offices, and the garage and carports, linked by a bridge with a driveway beneath.  The reinforced concrete structure is clad in custom "Cherokee red" brick with curved corners.  Both the rooms over the carport and the great workroom are supported on dendriform (lily-pad) columns, a continuation of Wright's innovations in concrete.  All the spaces were lit by a novel system of glass tubing that formed streamlined bands and admitted natural light.  The 14-story Research Tower was added in the middle of the north section. On its exterior, horizontal bands of brick alternate with bands of glass tubing.  Much of the original Wright-designed furniture remains.

The Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (1936-37) is the first of Wright’s “Usonian” houses, meant to be artistic houses of low cost for average Americans.  Located in a suburban subdivision, the small house has an L-shaped plan.  The walls facing toward the street, clad with horizontal Ponderosa pine boards and horizontal, recessed redwood battens, are largely solid except for bands of clerestory windows. The walls on the rear are largely glass doors and open onto an interior yard. The soffits of the flat roofs extend well beyond the walls. The house rests on a concrete slab that incorporates pipes for radiant floor heating and is inscribed with the lines of the 2- by 4-foot unit system that Wright used in the design.  A dramatically cantilevered carport, the first that Wright designed, projects towards the northwest.

Taliesin West (1938) was Wright's low slung winter home in the Arizona desert on the outskirts of Scottsdale, as well as his architectural school and studio until his death in 1959. It remains in the hands of the Taliesin Fellowship.  In its dramatic siting and innovative use of materials, it supplemented Taliesin as Wright's design laboratory.   The 412-acre property lies half in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains and half on the gentle sloping terrain of the Sonoran desert.  The principal structures built of desert masonry are linked to each other and to the terrain by low retaining walls, walks, and broad terraces.  The composition uses a 16-foot square unit system, rotating at 45 degrees on itself.  Walls and roofs are set at 15-degree slopes.  Indoors and outdoors flow into each other, and the experience of movement through the complex is an important part of the architectural effect.

The Price Tower (1953-56), Wright's only free-standing skyscraper and tallest built structure, uses a central mast from which the 19 floors are cantilevered, a concept that he developed in the late 1920s for an unbuilt project in New York.  The tower imitates a tree in its design - the "trunk" is comprised of four elevator shafts, the floors are cantilevered and tapered much like the branches of a tree, and its embossed patinated copper cladding and sun louvers can be interpreted as representations of leaves.  Two covered carports of reinforced concrete, supported by tapering patinated copper columns, are located on either side of the tower.   The geometric language of the design includes a grid of parallelograms, comprised of four triangles.  All walls, partitions, furnishings and details conform to this grid.

The Guggenheim Museum (1956-59) helped define a new form of museum architecture.  The fusion of spatial drama with the spiral form represents a culmination of Wright's ideas of organic architecture.  Located on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park, its modern aesthetic and sculptural qualities distinguish the building from its more traditionally styled neighbors.  The museum is constructed of reinforced concrete and seamlessly integrates form and materials.  The three major components are the main spiral Rotunda, which coils five times around to a sky-lit dome or oculus 95 feet above the floor; the smaller, circular "monitor" to the north; and the horizontal cantilevered bridge that connects the two and wraps around three sides of the building at the second-story level.  The entire design is based on geometric modules of circles, triangles and lozenges through a series of interlocking forms.  A narrow 10-story annex, completed in 1992, is set behind the museum on the footprint of an earlier four-story annex.

Marin County Civic Center (1960-69) was the last major work of Wright's career and the only one built for a government entity.  In its sitting, use of materials, and melding of exterior and interior space, it reflects Wright's ideas of organic architecture as they evolved through his long career.  The building is composed of two long sections, the Administration Building and the Hall of Justice, set at a 120-degree angle to each other. They are joined by a rotunda with a shallow dome flanked by a polygonal tower. The rounded ends of the two sections are built into the sides of two low hills.  A system of roads passes through archways of the buildings and follows the contours of the site.   The building is built of steel with poured concrete and precast and prestressed concrete elements.  The roof system is a series of precast concrete trusses supporting a thin, barrel-arched shell of reinforced concrete.  

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The eleven properties presented as an updated serial proposal for nomination are among the most iconic, most intact, most representative, most innovative and most influential of the more than 400 Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designs that have been erected.  They span almost sixty years of his efforts to create an "organic architecture" that integrates buildings with nature and dramatically melds form with space.  All aspects of design, from siting to furnishings, reinforce this concept.  The properties include homes, workplaces and offices, places of worship, educational institutions and museums, and seats of government.

Criterion (i): Wright’s work represents an outstanding creative contribution to both twentieth-century architecture and to architecture as a whole.  The 10 properties illustrate his genius in the creation of an architecture of dynamic interior space designed around the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of the individual and with the goal of integrating the building with its setting. Each also represents a reconceptualization of programmatic requirements in modern terms and a unique expression of the relationship between form and function.  Each example is given a powerful symbolic form directly expressive of the institution it houses, whether it be the family, the workplace, the place of worship or of cultural or civic activity.  The properties proposed have been acclaimed as masterworks by architects, scholars, and critics, virtually from the time of construction.

Criterion (ii): The work of Frank Lloyd Wright has made outstanding contributions to the development of modern architecture through his treatment of space, his development of an abstract geometry of form, and his expression of the ideals of an organic architecture. Wright’s work became widely known through publications and exhibitions, influenced several generations of architects in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and still exerts its fascination because of his masterful integration of form, materials, and setting. Of the properties proposed for this serial nomination, Robie House and Unity Temple are widely cited as his two most influential early works. The Hollyhock House, Taliesin and Taliesin West are particularly noted for their spatial qualities and their approaches to exterior and interior space.  The Jacobs House, which was the first Usonian house, articulated a new way of living for middle-class families that was widely adopted.  The S. C. Johnson & Son Administration Building and Research Tower and the Price Tower presented new concepts for the workplace and the skyscraper.  Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum continue to capture the imagination because of their daring forms, construction, and settings. The Marin County Civic Center represented a new approach to the design of a multi-purpose government building that fit function into setting and accommodated the automobile and the highway.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Of the properties that have been altered or experienced damage, careful restoration has been aided by good documentation and public interest in the value of the architecture.  The only two that have undergone alterations of consequence are the Guggenheim and the Marin County Civic Center.

Comparison with other similar properties

The properties presented here were selected by a committee of leading Wright scholars and restoration architects convened for that purpose by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.  The committee reviewed the voluminous scholarship on Wright and consulted the results of the opening of the Wright archives in the late 1980s; considered the entire body of Wright's work; and examined such factors as chronology; typological, spatial, and structural innovation; historical significance and influence; poetic expression; symbolic meaning,; relationships to sites; and social value and purpose.  The committee concluded that these represent the fullest and most compelling achievements of Wright as an architect as well as some of the greatest works of the art of architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.