It’s hard to believe that there was a time when the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright were ever out of fashion. But this was indeed the case; during his lifetime people heralded him as revolutionary and then later dismissed him as stuck in his ways. Changing times, trends and fashions can render even the most avant garde: yesterday’s news, but the thing is; with the truly avant garde (which Mr. Wright in-dubiously was) there is always something left in the tank. After what people perceived was his zenith he went on to create arguably one of the greatest houses on the planet and an iconic structure that completely turned the idea of a museum around. Now in the 21st century his name is synonymous with architect. He was by no means perfect, (everyone sites his love for flat roofs and all the problems they cause) but when he got it Wright he got it right.
Of the 36 Vermeers in the world I’ve stood in front of 20 of them. The remaining 16 are on my to-do list. An accomplish-able task with the exception of the one not on view located at Buckingham Palace, unless the Queen invites me to the next pot-luck she’s throwing ( I make a mean spicy mashed potatoes) that one may elude me. Anyways I digress, another thing that was on my to-do list was to visit Falling Water and we did that this summer. Over the past several years my wife and I have been travelling either by road-trip or plane to visit some of the world’s greatest works of art. We’re essentially art tourists and this passionate pursuit is for life. Along our travels we’ve seen just a drop in the bucket of the buildings built by Frank Lloyd Wright. To give you an idea of how big a to-do list this would be; I recently acquired a book on just his houses and it weighs 8 pounds! I think I’ll stick to Vermeers, but there’s still a lot more I want to experience.
To truly appreciate the mastery of Mr. Wright you do need to experience his buildings first hand. A great introduction would be Oak Park in Chicago. There is a wonderful self guided audio tour of the neighbourhood that has several houses he designed as well as access to the family home and studio where he began his career. Chicago is also home of The Robie House which is an excellent example of his famous Prairie Style. Another must see is The Guggenheim in New York
The only thing better than visiting a Frank Lloyd Wright house is staying in one. This summer when we were planning our trip with our friends to visit Falling Water and looking for places to stay our travelling companion discovered only a half hour away from Falling Water was Polymath Park. Polymath Park was originally the brainchild of Peter Berndtson who was an apprentice to Mr. Wright. In the 1960’s he wanted to build a community of houses in the style of his master. The original plan was for 24 but only 2 were completed. The houses changed hands over the years with people really not knowing what they had, until in 2001 a local architect Thomas Papinchak was taking a stroll through the woods close to his home when he came across them and was struck by their design. He made an offer to the current owners that if they ever wanted to sell he was willing to buy, which he eventually did. Another stroke of luck came in 2002 in the way of an original Frank Lloyd Wright designed prefabricated house was coming up for sale in Lisle Illinois. Papinchak bid on it and won, he then had the house disassembled shipped to Pennsylvania and reassembled in the tranquil setting of Polymath Park. Now after some wonderful restoration these three houses can be rented out at a very reasonable rate. We stayed in the Berndtson designed Balter House.
Waking up surrounded by trees and then drinking coffee in the sun room with wrap around windows should be on everybody’s to-do list. If Falling Water is on your to-do list may I recommend taking a minute and checking out Polymath Park for a place to stay. As well, if anyone who has any other art touristy recommendations please share them in the comments. We’re always looking for reasons to pack a bag.