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This is the Guggenheim museum in New York City.  It will turn 50 years old in October. Also, it recently underwent a complete exterior restoration.  It looks great, but I have no idea about the inside. When we went today to see the exhibit associated with the anniversary, the line was around the block.  Even the line to renew my lapsed membership was long, so we’ll give it a try closer to the end of the exhibition, August 23, 2009.

This is what the museum looked like for the better part of four years:

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When the location for the Guggenheim was announced in the forties, Frank Lloyd Wright famously said that his museum would make the nearby Metropolitan look “like a Protestant barn”.  The museum opened on October 21, 1959.  Wright did not live to see it finished as he closed on April 9, 1959, aged 91, never to reopen. Here he is standing on the deck of the unfinished building sporting his trademark porkpie hat.

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Wright was a monumental asshole.  I spent some time in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where Wright lived for most of his life, and there I met people who claimed he still owed their families money.  No doubt he was a genius, but he treated everyone around him like shit.

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I have been lucky enough to see lots of Wright buildings.  Although the Jacobs house is privately owned, I knew someone who knew someone who got me in while the owners were away.  It is simply the most brilliant small house I’ve ever seen. It shows Wright’s characteristic lack of interest in kitchens, but otherwise it’s perfect.

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I have been to Fallingwater five or six times.  It has to be experienced, but I can tell you it is certainly Wright’s masterpiece.  It has been said that the sound of the water makes it trying to live in, but I can’t imagine not being serenely happy there.  An example of Wright’s affinity for nature can be found in the color of the cantilevers.  If you pick up a leaf that has fallen from one of the many rhododendrons on the property, and turn it over, you find the cantilevers are the same color as the underside of the leaf.

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Kentuck Knob is a ten minute drive from Fallingwater.  Designed in the fifties, it’s my favorite Wright floorplan.  Built for the owner of a dairy, it’s one of the few Wright houses that doesn’t have his signature Cherokee red concrete floors.  The owner, Mr. Hagan, fought with Wright because as a dairyman, he’d been around red-painted floors all his life.  He won – Wright agreed to install slate floors. But Wright, who got pissy when people rearranged the furniture he’d designed for the house, “client proofed” the Hagan house – the doorways are too narrow to allow the furniture to be moved out of the room.

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I have also toured the Johnson Wax Building. It’s magnificent – sitting in the main room, you feel like you are in a sunlit glade, not an office.  When the roof of the new building leaked in Herbert Johnson’s office he called Wright, furious.  Wright said that a large company like Johnson Wax would certainly have wastebaskets that could catch the drips and hung up.

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A half-hour drive from the Johnson Wax Building brings you to Wingspread.  Having learned nothing from his first encounter with Wright, Johnson engaged him to build a mansion.  When the roof began to leak during a dinner party, Johnson again called Wright, furious.  Wright suggested that Johnson move his chair.

Touring Wingspread today isn’t as interesting as touring the other homes, mainly because its been turned into a conference center.  Still, I had fun when the curator let me climb up into the cupola and shoot some photos.

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This is a photo I took back in 2003.  It took me twenty minutes to get it, and I almost lost two toes.  This photo is testament to my belief that the Guggenheim is this country’s most dignified, beautiful public space.  But who knows, that view might change – I have lots more Wright buildings to see before I rest.

Mike Wallace interviews FLLW eighteen months before his death:

27 Comments

The Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK is an interesting Wright building. It was designed to have offices, apartments, and retail stores. None of the rooms have right angles in them, which once again made it imperative to use the furniture FLW designed for them.
The upper floors are now a boutique hotel: http://pricetower.org/innatpricetower/

@Mistress Cynica: Never been to OK so I’ve not seen that one, although I’d like to. I did spend one night in this B&B in Chicago, however.

Oh, yeah. He was a jerk. But guess what! There are some low income FLW-inspired homes designed by Taliesin Architects in Atlantic City. He did his best to design affordable homes for the average person.

Speaking of architects, this guy is my fave: http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Salk_Institute.html

@JNOV: His goal was a $5000 house with everything you needed, like a motel. According to the Ken Burns documentary, he never quite got there. But the Usonians were and are an amazing achievement. I can’t tell you how peaceful Jacobs 1 was …. FYI – here’s the second home he built for the Jacobs family.

My dad had a FLW fetish. He tooks us the Fallingwater and Kentucky Knob on our way to Florida. Nice places. My dad wanted to live in a place like those houses.

TJ/Spent the weekend out. Went skeet/trap shooting today for the first time in my life. My thumb (damaged from volleyball) was still sore so I went with the 20ga. As for first times went, I didn’t shoot anything or anyone I wasn’t supposed to and shot about 60% on skeet and 45% on the much harder trap shooting which was better than the rest of my group. According to my instructor, he said I have a pretty good sense of dealing with a moving target but I shouldn’t let it go to my head (he’s right.) Now I reek of cordite and must shower./TJ

@blogenfreude: :-) Lovely!

He also designed a house on Stanford’s campus (I think it’s one of his beehives) — the provost lives there. But when Condi was provost, the house was under renovations. Neener neener!

Here’s a better picture of Kahn’s Salk Institute: http://www.nexusjournal.com/2008/Images/Salk_Institute.jpg

National Assembly in Dakha, Bangladesh: http://www.pushpullbar.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=36008&stc=1&d=1196964597

http://newcentrist.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/myarch.jpg

I was looking for the ceiling shot, but I can’t find it. Check out the movie “My Architect: A Son’s Journey.” It’s viewable online on Netflix.

@ManchuCandidate: That’s AWESOME. Skeet shooting seems hella hard to me.

@JNOV: I’d also love to see the textile block houses in CA. Maybe SFL has seen them. They use their interiors all the time in movies. Sure, the exteriors are falling apart from air pollution, but that’s hardly Wright’s fault. I have a feeling, however, that I’ll first head to Buffalo to see the Darwin Martin house. He became Wright’s lifelong friend.

TJ. Had a terrific lunch at Cafe Prom. Delicious food and bright, inviting place. Charming son with beautiful manners.

Saw the motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim some years back with a few college buddies. Truly memorable experience.

@Benedick: Thank you so much, sir, coincidentally, we had a charming and gentlemanly visitor that day, I am only sorry that I was so frenzied, and, frankly, zoned and running on autopilot, our little lunch was the only time I have sat down during the workday for the last 5 days, even for a moment. I hope to meet you again sometime in calmer circumstances.

The update for today, we are seeing, over our first three days, anyway, a constant increase in business, and today was quite busy, and everyone swears they are eager to return to try the rest of the menu.

We have already had one customer who has come in and bought something 3 days in a row, Jolene, I must remember her name.

I am having to add vegetarian dishes, there is considerable demand, any vegetamarians out there, tell me, what are some basic, good vegetarian dishes.

I am also going to add some indian dishes, people are asking for it.

Today was the first day more money came in than went out, the third day is not a bad point to reach that milestone, but it is clear that it will not be until mid-June that this becomes a regular occurence.

@Promnight: Congratulations on your first weekend. Many many more to come I’m sure. When does the mail order business get rolling?

When my wife began a catering business almost every dollar went back into the business for the first year or so. On the other hand our grocery bill just about disappeared, we ate REALLY well on the leftovers and she was truly happy doing something she loved. I call that a win!

Blog – thanks for posting your FLW photo essay. I really enjoyed it.

@ManchuCandidate: Shot my M1903A3 from 1942 for Memorial Day over the weekend. Got a big ass red mark on my shoulder from shooting prone. Those things don’t have a recoil pad, just a curved steel plate against your shoulder. Also shot 200 rounds of .22, .38 and 9mm from my Glock and three Ruger revolvers. I gotta get out and shoot some clay pigeons again some time. I used by 20 ga Mossberg pump action when I went. Next week I’ll be helping to clean up a informal shooting range on public land on my birthday.

@Promnight: Dude – really glad to hear the cafe is taking off. I can only imagine the joy you feel at sending people out the door with some great food.

@redmanlaw: No problem … I’ve driven all over the country in pursuit of him. Someone has to celebrate.

I have to say my greatest joy in this so far has been when I have a few moments and I decide on the spur of the moment to create a special dish, and just throw a big plate of it up on the counter so the aromas suffuse the place. Today I made thai red curry chicken, and immediately it started selling. I have been amazed by the response to the 2 curries I have made, I did not think they would be that popular. It drives my partner crazy when I do this, though. He is afraid people will ask for it when I am not there, and he cannot do these things.

All of my chowder has sold out, and tomorrow I have a big day, have to make manhattan and new england clam chowder, and whatever is to be the special soup, chicken salad, and I am determined to make something I am thinking just could possibly be a really unique, and fun, and cool dish.

I am going to make Buffalo Game Hens. I am going to deep-fry Rock Cornish Game Hens, whole, and then sauce them with buffalo wing sauce, an entire small chicken, prepared like buffalo wings.

My plan tomorrow is a small experiment, I am going to cook just two of them, and place them on the counter, and see how long it takes before someone buys them.

Would you? Anyone?

I am thinking the thing to do is serve them on a plate with blue cheese dressing under them, and celery sticks fanned around.

Feedback, would anyone be attracted to this?

@Promnight: Vegetarian and Indian go hand and hand. Lentil salad always good for summer. Use green French lentils, finely chopped carrot, celery, maybe red pepper, in a basic vinaigrette. Good basic recipe for chana masala here.

@Mistress Cynica: I am listening, ma’am. I always planned lentil salad, the Puy lentils are hard to come by, for now, brown lentils.

I had some south asians today, what most call indians, and several order the thai curries, and I was fascinated that one also bought the roasted baby potatoes and asked me to put them in the curry, as is common in indian curries. I asked him, I said I wanted to carry some indian food, what would be a good one to start with, something popular, and he immediately said “butter chicken,” so I am researching recipes for that.

Its fun, but so far, enormously tiring.

Pardon me for interrupting, but North Korea apparently has the bomb. For real, this time.

New thread for those so inclined just posted.

@blogenfreude: Don’t forget the Marin County office building designed by FLW. There’s also Talisman West in Jamie Sommers country, that is quite amazing to see. And JNOV is right that there are a few FLW properties hidden on The Farm of Stanford.

@Promnight: You need to beg our favorite vegetarian Pedonator and his chef spouse Mr. Pedo to come up with some veggie recipes. My theory is you can never go wrong with portabella mushrooms and eggplant, substituting for beef whether it’s in the Italian dishes or the grilled dishes. And black beans and garbanzo beans – always your friend. But I can tell you from my vegetarian days – you crave the heft/protein, ergo eggplant and mushrooms.

Oh, and can I pre-order one of thoes Buffalo Game Hens? K-plz-thx!

@chicago bureau: Dude, why you harsh our fuckin’ mellow on a Sunday nite?

xoxo, I lurve you still.

@SanFranLefty: @Promnight: Oooh, eggplant reminds me–ratatouille! Wonderful when all the veggies are in season, great at room temperature, with a hunk of baguette.

@Promnight: Red curries. these are harder. Master them and you have the South Asian New England community loving you

@Promnight: Ratatouille is a good idea though time-consuming to make what with the draining of the eggplant. Vegetarian chili made with TVP? Bread Alone in Woodstock is almost sold out whenever I go for it. Chick pea salad to complement the tabouleh? If you’re going to do vegetarian I’d suggest a couple of staples that avoid eggs, cheese, butter, etc. Oh, and you might look into tempe. You could grill and spice that like your Thai chicken curries. And seitan can be used to make very good stir fries.

The Jacobs house looks remarkably like part of Talisean West in Scottsdale. It was FLW’s winter home and where he started a school of architecture. There are still a handful of students living and working there. It’s a really interesting place to tour.

There’s also several private homes including he built for his son but I don’t recall much about those.

And then there’s the Arizona Biltmore hotel which is sometimes credited to FLW but said to have been “insprired” by him in other places.

My favorite out here, though, is Gammage Auditorium at ASU. It’s beautiful and the acoustics are great.

Blog, thanks for this coincidental post. I traveled with the fam out to Fallingwater this weekend, an extremely enjoyable trip even for the 6 y.o. We had no reservation so just went for the walking tour of the grounds, then lucked in to an open spot for the last interior tour of the day.

We should have seen Kentuck Knob as well, but made a full day of our trip anyway. On the drive back my son drew up his basic idea to license a complete Lego kit to make Fallingwater, only to learn on Weekend Edition that someone has already done it.

I wish I had known about the rhododendron leaf color of the cantilevers, that’s an important piece of trivia.

@Nabisco: First guided tour I ever had was by a local resident who knew everything – as child she and her friends used to spy on the Kaufmans (they were nudists). She told the group about the rhododendron leaf. If you go again, take the first tour of the day – it’s the most comprehensive.

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