Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rediscovering Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin...

Johnson Wax Company
The SC Johnson Research Tower opened in 1950, 11 years after the main part of the facility. Its cantilevered floors are supported entirely by the center column. Stacked pyrex glass tubes diffuse the light coming into the labs. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Ask most people how they first got into Modernist architecture (assuming, of course, that everyone is into Modernist architecture...), and the name of Frank Lloyd Wright almost inevitably comes up at some point. In fact, it's usually the starting point on anyone's journey of discovery about Modernist architecture... a sort of "gateway drug", if you will, before getting into the harder stuff like Le Corbusier's Brutalism or Mies van der Rohe's International Style. Even most people who don't care about architecture at all can usually name one architect: Frank Lloyd Wright. I suppose it's for these reasons that I tend to overlook Wright's work now. It's not that I don't love and respect it... it's just that it feels like I've moved on. 

But then I was contacted by Travel Wisconsin, and invited to come out to their beautiful state to spend a week on the Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage Trail, to celebrate Mr. Wright's 150th Birthday. Wright is from Wisconsin, of course, and many of his most iconic works are located there. It was an offer that was to good to pass up. I've travelled around the world, but I've never been to Wisconsin. And while I had been in some FLLW homes and buildings, getting a chance to see mythical places like Taliesin and the Johnson Wax Factory in person was a dream come true. It was also a chance for me to take a fresh look at an iconic architect I thought I already knew well. It was one of the best weeks I've every spent - a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.