Wright Spaces Still Relevant 50 Years Later

Event: Now What Architecture?
Location: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 05.14-15.09
Speakers: Urban Spaces: Anthony Vidler — Dean, School of Architecture, Cooper Union School of Architecture (Moderator), Amale Andraos — Principal, WORKac, Adriaan Geuze — Principal, West 8; Thomas Krens — Senior Advisor for International Affairs, Guggenheim Foundation; Personal Spaces: David van der Leer — Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design, Guggenheim Museum (Moderator); Phil Allsopp — President & CEO, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA — Principal, Adjaye Associates; Toshiko Mori, FAIA — Principal, Toshiko Mori Architect; Shared Spaces: Julie Iovine — Executive Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper (Moderator); Beatriz Colomina — Director of Graduate Studies, Ph.D. Program & Director, Program in Media and Modernity, Princeton University; Stan Allen, AIA — Principal, Stan Allen Architect; Reinhold Martin — Associate Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Organizers: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation on the occasion of “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward”

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY. 1943-59.

2009 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona.

In conjunction with the Guggenheim’s 50th anniversary and exhibition, “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward,” this symposium sought to answer Wright’s seminal question, “Now what architecture?” Depending where emphasis is placed, this statement can take on several meanings. Likewise, the panelists expressed diverse perspectives while examining Wright’s influence in defining urban, personal, and shared spaces.

Wright’s approach to urban space is often contrasted with Le Corbusier’s, but Amale Andraos, principal of WORKac, finds several similarities. The designs for Wright’s Broadacre City and Le Corbusier’s Radiant City both combine infrastructure with public space, a similar concept applied in recent projects such as the High Line. Additionally, Wright and Le Corbusier each provided shared farm space for inhabitants — a solution that is practical today in urban environments. Andraos cited the Red Hook Farm and WORKac’s design for Public Farm for P.S.1 as examples.

Most evident in his residential designs, Wright sought to “create architecture that resonates with the human spirit,” said Phil Allsopp, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Like Wright, David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA, principal of Adjaye Associates, proposes that home designs should be “bespoke” rather than industrialized. He advocates re-using the existing fabric and invites the challenge of transforming an imperfect lot into a luxurious repose for his client.

Before Toshiko Mori, FAIA, became familiar with Wright’s work, she was surprised to find that her residential plans were similar to his designs. Since Wright designed for modern life, his layouts are still relevant, she believes. Mori recently designed a visitor’s center for Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo. Rather than emulate the house, she sought to contrast it by creating a simple glass pavilion that provides uninterrupted views.

Stan Allen, AIA, explained that Wright found freedom in horizontality: he even considered the Guggenheim to be a one-story building. However, contemporary trends for defining shared space, Allen believes, have shifted to the reconsideration of the vertical surface. “There is an emerging trend towards ‘landscape buildings,'” Allen noted, referring to recent projects including MVRDV’s Hannover Pavilion Expo and SANAA’s EPFL Learning Center.

Wright designed spaces to accommodate and enhance the lives of inhabitants — from small-scale residences to vast urban planning. Now, what architecture!