Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art explores two projects by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright: Renewing the Legacy brings together two iconic buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright – America’s greatest 20th-century architect – with new, associated projects by Toshiko Mori and Zaha Hadid, two women recognized as influential visionaries of contemporary architecture. The exhibition in Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center runs from October 1 to January 15, 2006.

The Frank Lloyd Wright buildings that are featured in the exhibition are the Darwin D. Martin house (1903-1905) in Buffalo, New York, and the H.C. Price Company Office Tower and Apartments (1952-1956) in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The Martin House is one of Wright’s major domestic designs from the early stages of a remarkably long career. Including gardens and satellite buildings, it is one of the best examples of his Prairie House period. The Price Tower is one of Wright’s last realized works, and a rare example of an organic high-rise.

Both the Martin House and the Price Tower are set to gain new and highly ambitious neighbours. As the result of an invited competition between five contemporary practices, the Japanese-born, New York-based architect Toshiko Mori (who is also Harvard University’s Chair of the Graduate School of Design) is to construct a glass-walled Visitors’ Pavilion to one side of the Martin House garden. Concurrently, the Iraqi-born, London-based Zaha Hadid (who was awarded international architecture’s prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004) has been commissioned to design an Arts Center; it will be situated like an inhabited earthwork with a glazed roof beside the Price Tower.

Renewing the Legacy presents and evokes both Wright projects with original drawings, furniture, film, photographs, and-in the case of the Martin House-original art glass, including the famed Tree of Life window. Several detailed models of Mori’s winning design are shown alongside competing proposals by Brian Healy Architects, Architecture Research Office, Schwartz/Silver Architects, and Office dA. Hadid’s presentation includes computer drawings with a characteristic sense of dynamic ground surface and an animated fly-through of the interior.

"Both architects have created buildings that are tailored to their site, that are inspired by the original Wright structure," says Carnegie Museum of Art Curator of Architecture Raymund Ryan, who is organizing the exhibition. "Toshiko Mori is making a new building, a rectilinear box based on the dimensions of the Martin House. She is manipulating geometry, as is Zaha Hadid, who has created a horizontal building in contrast to the verticality of Wright’s Price Tower."

Mori’s Visitors’ Center inverts Wright’s original design by turning its pitched roof upside down to act as a funnel for daylight. As opposed to the opaque brick of the Martin House, the glass walls of Mori’s design allow for a sweeping view of the complex and grounds. The Center will provide historical information about the site, an underground gallery, and such amenities as a caf, bookstore, and restrooms.

Hadid’s aspiration is that her Arts Center will "flirt" with Wright’s Tower. Converse to the Tower’s verticality, her design takes the form of a long, horizontal promenade beneath a low roof of transparent, translucent, and colored panels through which visitors can view the tower above them. The buildings touch at one point only, yet Hadid, like Wright before her, takes cues from topography and movement patterns, as her Arts Center guides visitors across the site. After decades of only sporadic maintenance, the Martin House is currently subject to a meticulous restoration, entrusted to the Buffalo architects Hamilton Houston Lownie, that involves the rebuilding of Wright’s covered garden walkway, conservatory, and garage. In Bartlesville, much of the tower has recently been adapted to a boutique hotel by New York architect Wendy Evans Joseph, with furniture and fabrics inspired by natural materials and organic imagery.

The opening lecture and reception takes place Friday, September 30 at 6:00 pm in the Carnegie Lecture Hall. Toshiko Mori, chair, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, discusses her design for Wright’s Martin House Visitor’s Pavilion. A reception follows, and the exhibition remains open until 9:00 pm. Admission is free.

A symposium entitled "Architecture and Urban Revitalization-Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo and Bartlesville" takes place on Saturday, October 1 from 10:00 am-12:00 pm at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater. Jack Quinan, Richard Townsend, and Wendy Evans Joseph speak about Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Martin House and Price Tower, their recent restorations and new projects on their premises envisioned by innovative architects of today. Quinan is author of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House: Architecture as Portrait, Townsend is executive director of the Price Tower Arts Center, and Wendy Evans Joseph is the architect for the interiors of The Inn at Price Tower. Admission is free.