One of Frank Lloyd Wright's last residential designs is a tour de force of the master's late period.
In 2012 our editor Anicka Quin was down in Scottsdale for work and she took a 10-block detour to neighbouring Phoenix to take a look at the house Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son David in the early 1950s. At the time, the house was under serious threat of being demolished: a local developer had bought the land and it was touch-or-go as to whether the house would live to 2013. The good news, as I found out on a trip to Scottsdale last week, is that the house was saved by white knight Zack Rawling, who grew up in the area and stepped in when no one else would. Even more impressive was his desire to both bring the house back to its glory days and then turn it into a small museum dedicated to one of the master's great work. What could go wrong? For starters, the city that feels so strongly for FLW that they name a major road after him is majorly dragging its heels on a heritage designation, and then a small, but deep-pocketed, group of neighbours (real velvet painting art lovers no doubt) are doing everything in their considerable power to prevent the building from being open to the public. Really, who would want this eyesore as your neighbour? We'll report more on this ongoing fiasco in the magazine, but for now let's revel in the object of all the fuss. The first thing you notice as a docent takes you through the gate (tours can be arranged through) is how much land the house is on. When it was first built this area was mostly farms, so the idea of taking 10 acres to frame a modestly sized home seemed reasonable. The current siting is almost half that, but still magical considering it's smack in the middle of a major metropolitan city. The second thing you notice is how familiar the design looks. The curved entrance ramp moving into a series of circular floors echoes the design Lloyd Wright would use a few years later on the Guggenheim Museum in New York—his last building. The circular theme continues as you enter the residence—like this "hallway" from the living room to the master suite: The interiors were, of course, all bespoke, right down to the carpet and the chairs. Check out the sweet Steinway that the family used to play on. And unlike some of the other greats of 20th-century architecture, FLW didn't have any hang-ups about always having a small footprint (yes we're thinking of you, Mies van der Rohe). This home is a comfortable 2,500 square feet and it also has a sweet little guesthouse. Note how FLW orientated the guesthouse's view not towards picturesque Camelback Mountain, but towards the house. Mountains are a dime and dozen, but architectural masterpieces? Those are rare. And what would the old lion think about all this? Here's hoping that Wright is right in this case.