A Frank Lloyd Wright house in Phoenix that the famous architect designed for his son and was saved from demolition by its current owner was donated Thursday to the architecture school that Wright founded.
Owner Zach Rawling announced that he is giving the David and Gladys Wright House to the School of Architecture at Taliesin, formerly known as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The announcement came on the iconic architect’s 150th birthday.
Nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain, the house is constructed in the form of a spiral that appears to rise from the ground and offers 360 degree views of Camelback and other mountains that loom over the city.
The house completed in 1952 is regarded as the precursor to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, said Aaron Betsky, the school’s dean. The Guggenheim Museum is one of Wright’s most revered works. The architect designed over 1,000 architectural works, 532 which were built, and he is regarded by many as one of America’s best architects.
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Betsky said the donation “will allow us to use that great legacy to be a living laboratory in which we will figure out how to use what Frank Lloyd Wright taught us about living in the desert Southwest, to make the life in this desert and in this community even better in the future.”
Rawling bought the Phoenix home in 2012 for $2.4 million to save it from being demolished by its previous owners.
He had plans to restore it and turn it into a museum, but neighbors complained doing so would generate excessive traffic in the well-heeled residential Arcadia area where the house is located.
He said he hopes the donation will engage the community and continue the school’s mission.
“I think we’re celebrating every aspect of Wright’s legacy and hopefully it informs future generations to carry on those ideas,” Rawling said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Craig Steblay, president of the Arcadia Camelback Mountain Neighborhood Association, said he didn’t have a lot of details but was optimistic about the latest announcement and its impact on the neighborhood. Steblay said this new direction seems like a good move and that the association’s prior concerns were with the commercialization of activities in the area.
It’s definitely one of those buildings that is worth visiting to truly understand.”
— Victor Sidy, architect in charge of renovation
“What we heard about the announcements is it’s all positive, I think,” Steblay said. Steblay said he hopes the nonprofit organization in charge of the gift will allow an association member to be involved in its board and be transparent about plans for the house.
Rawling said the donation is contingent on that organization raising a $7 million endowment for the school by 2020.
The David and Gladys Wright House is considered one of Wright’s late career masterworks, said Victor Sidy, the architect in charge of the home’s renovation.
Wright called plans for the home “How to Live in the Southwest.” His son lived there until he died in 1997 and his daughter-in-law Gladys lived in it until she died in 2008.
The home will be transformed into a place for architecture students to do hands-on restoration and renovation projects.
The school’s students currently split their time between a Wright house in Wisconsin and another in the Scottsdale suburb of Phoenix.
Those living at David and Gladys Wright House will work on projects like correcting leaks in the ceiling and corrosion in some metal work. Students will also restore an old pool.
The school plans to have 24 students at the house starting in the fall. Visitors will be allowed when the school holds educational tours and lectures.
“It’s definitely one of those buildings that is worth visiting to truly understand,” Sidy said.