The work of the greatest architect of the 20th century has, among other things, been demolished, destroyed and painstakingly dismantled before being hauled off to the Ozarks. It has gone on sale in Delaware, dodged the wrecking ball in Arizona and been restored with the aid of a 3-D printer in Florida. However, the designs of prolific proto-starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright have never, with the exception of a small handful of projects in Japan and a posthumous construction in Ireland, been realized outside of the United States.
After winning approval from the legendarily difficult-to-sway Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in 2013 after eight years of negotiations, Dr. Hugh Pratt (pictured right), a retired engineer and Wright devotee, was on the verge of accomplishing an incredibly rare feat: erecting a never-built Wright home, a contemporary residence originally designed in 1947 for a hillside lot in Santa Barbara, California, in rural South West England. The home was to be the final Wright-designed dwelling to be built anywhere. (You can learn more about Pratt's plans and the site where it was to be built in the video above.)
With the full consent of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, an organization that maintains an ironclad grip on the copyright of Wright’s original work, and input from the foundation’s senior architect, the late Stephen Nemtin, Pratt's dream home would have added the United Kingdom to the incredibly — and surprisingly — short list of countries that are home to Wright-designed structures.
And then the local planning council happened.
After the North Somerset Council put the kibosh on Pratt's proposal last fall, the development has now also been given a firm no-go in the appeal stages by planning inspector Edward Gerry.
As reported by ArchDaily, Gerry sided with the council and up-in-arms local residents who believed that the mid-century dwelling, to go up on a swath of land overlooking a fishing lake at Tyntesfield Springs in the village of Wraxall, would clash with area homes and the decidedly very un-Santa Barbara-esque landscape.
As the man behind the concept of organic architecture, Wright's residential designs were famously site-specific and designed to exist harmoniously with the natural environments around them. Even Wright’s posthumous works have been largely realized on their original sites. Despite blessings from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the involvement of an architect trained by Wright himself, opponents to the low-slung, three-bedroom dwelling simply found the proposed design, tweaked to meet 21st century building code by Stephen Brooks Architects, disruptive, discordant and egregiously out of place — an unwanted slice of coastal California in the British countryside.
“I acknowledge the significance of Frank Lloyd Wright, the importance of his architectural work particularly in the USA. I also note that there are no buildings in the UK which are based upon a design by Frank Lloyd Wright and there is only one such building in Europe,” Gerry explains to the Bath Chronicle. “Nevertheless, the prestige or otherwise of an architect does not form a basis for allowing inappropriate development in the Green Belt."
Wraxall parish councillor Bob Cook had even stronger words against the development: “I am very pleased that the inspector has agreed with the concerns of local people and the council. We must fight to protect our green belt. It would have been verging on criminal to stick a monstrosity such as this in the Wraxall countryside."
A previous (and inaccurate) gem from Cook via the Bristol Post: "I do not see why we should allow this odd American-designed house in our countryside. Outside of the USA and Japan, there is not one Frank Lloyd-Wright designed house. He can't be that influential if the rest of the world doesn't want them."
Awkwardly, Pratt himself is also a Wraxall parish councillor.
In addition to using the home as a private residence, Pratt had planned to open up the completely self-sufficient home boasting a copper roof and walls built from locally sourced stone — “a unique work of art,” in his words — to the public for tours. He envisioned a fleet of vans shuttling architecture buffs between the bucolic site and the city of Bristol, about a 30-minute drive away. Currently, the main tourism draws in the area are Tyntesfield, a National Trust-maintained mansion and estate, and a controversial zoo/hedge maze complex with a creationist bent.
With his appeal thrown out, Pratt has returned to the drawing board. "I am more saddened for my country than I am for myself. This was about making the country a better place for future generations,” he laments. “I have had numerous cards and letters in support of the plans from across the world. I will now pray about it and determine the best way forward."
Disregarding the silly, fired-up comments from Bob Cook, it's difficult not to relate to both sides here.
It’s obvious that Pratt had only the best intentions in his quest to bring Frank Lloyd Wright to the U.K. — and he spent years trying to make it happen. A noble task, no matter how you look at it. On the flip side, Gerry, the North Somerset Council and others who rallied against the project do have history on their side. Preservation-minded relocations aside, a Wright home just isn’t a Wright home if not built at its original intended location. And Somerset sure ain't Santa Barbara. Wright didn’t just design houses. He designed houses for very specific places.
What do you think? Would this posthumous project cause Wright to roll over in his grave? Or would he welcome the rather drastic change in scenery?
Via [ArchDaily], [Bath Chronicle], [The Guardian]
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