A LOOK AT FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S IRREPLACEABLE SPIRALING CONCRETE BLOCK DESIGN
When readers opened their copies of the June 1953 issue of House + Home magazine, a startling coiled concrete block home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright must have struck people like something from another world. The in-depth article illustrated this desert wonder through line-drawn plans and dramatic photos by Wright's favored photographer, Pedro E. Guerrero. In the article, this unique and very personal home designed for Frank Lloyd Wright's son, David S. Wright and his wife Gladys, was held up as a cutting-edge example of the elder Wright's architectural genius and the embodiment of his Organic Principals. Almost 60 years later, it's equally startling that this one-of-a-kind home that was hailed almost instantly as an architectural wonder could be destroyed and lost forever.
The recent drama that has unfolded surrounding the purchase of the Wright-designed residence and its 2 acre property by developers and the uncertainty that these same developers could raze the home sent shock waves through the historic preservation community. Luckily, swift intervention by organizations like the Arizona Preservation Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, coupled with the outcry by legions of concerned citizens helped convince the developers to publicly announce their commitment to preserve the home.
This is obviously encouraging news, but the troubling fact remains that historic Mid-century Modern structures like this home are often the victims of demolition simply because that era's architecture is too recent or simply misunderstood by people to make them care about saving it. Yet the Principles embodied in buildings like the David Wright residence are (literally) concrete examples of both American design ingenuity and how we might live more harmoniously with our surroundings. If we remain ignorant to these ideas and opt instead to ambivalently bulldoze them, we'll lose an important connection to our past and lessons for improving our collective future.
The David and Gladys Wright House is unique because it perfectly represents Frank Lloyd Wright's gifted insight that a home and its site are integrally linked and should be considered always as one. The House + Home article mentions Wright's own observation on the special relationship this home has with its environment as:
"...a part of the desert, a plant that grows out of the earth and turns its face toward the sun...a house on piers and yet rooted to the soil, a house as light as air and yet as secure looking as a desert rock."
Imagine if America took the time to learn these lessons and pattern our living spaces and lifestyles in harmony with our environment instead of indiscriminately taking actions that focus only on profits and selfishly short-term gains. Perhaps we'd see less foreclosure wastelands and more vibrant and healthy communities.
As a tribute to these ideas and the irreplaceable nature of the David and Gladys Wright residence, what follows are scans of the original June 1953 House + Home article that showcased Frank Lloyd Wright's "How to Live in the Southwest" design to the world. Hopefully we can continue to celebrate and learn the lessons of this important house for years to come. pm
:: Learn more about the preservation efforts to save the David and Gladys Wright House here
:: Read about the Wright family history connected to the home here
:: Become a member of The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy to help save buildings like this
Scans courtesy of PrairieMod
Eric O'Malley is a co-founder and contributor to PrairieMod. He lives with his wife in the Little Red House, a Mid-century Modern ranch in suburban Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.