Tag Archives: frank lloyd wright

The Things Architects Do #4: Reuse, Recycle, Reprise

Frank Lloyd Wright

elizabeth noble apartments












flower house


熊本駅東口広場西沢立衛 / Ryue Nishizawa2011



















library _of_childrens_literature_11



death star




Arata Isozaki



qatar national library


If you post a comment with your suggestions for further additions to this post, I’ll search them out and add them. I’ve only just scratched the surface here. I’m particularly interested in those ideas that architects recycle and reuse until they either succeed with it or die trying. The unbuilt works of Frank Lloyd Wright are rich in examples of this type. Also welcome are examples of architects continually reprising their greatest hits (e.g. SANAA, FLW again) – until they descend into self-parody (e.g. Daniel Libeskind).   


What Happens When Architects Die?

A couple of recent posts have raised the subject of Death And The Architect. First was Futurist Endings with its list of the (much delayed) deaths of members of the Futurist movement. And yesterday’s post, “Fill’erup with Specialness!” suggested that Mies van der Rohe’s ESSO gas station in Montreal may have been the last building of his he saw completed.

The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church may have been the last building of his that Frank Lloyd Wright saw completed, but the New York Guggenheim Museum is also a strong candidate. As you can see from the photo below, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church dates from Frankie’s Gattaca Period.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1959

Marin County Civic Center, opened 1962

This post is about what happened next – what about the ones they never saw? The ones they posthumously influenced the design of? If you want to think more deeply about it, this post asks if creativity is something that can be transmitted or taught? Is it possible to absorb creativity just by looking over the shoulder of somebody who supposedly has it? 

Or is creativity a myth? Is creativity just people copying themselves and then other people copying other people, making it up as they go along? You be the judge. If you conclude that that being in the same place at the same time does not guarantee the transmission of creativity, then the CVs of those next generations of architects must be called into question. 

I’ll use Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy as an example. To be fair, Wright had nothing to do with this first example – not directly, at least. There is a story behind the Golden Rondelle Theatre completed 1966[?] by Taliesin Associated Architects. It’s located, on axis, just north of the Johnson Wax Tower. Click on this.

Photo: Wolfgang Bauer
Golden Rondelle Theatre1966 (?)

Taliesin Associated Architects kept the dream alive until 2003. This is their Beaver Meadows Visitor Centre, completed 1967.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Beaver Meadows Visitor Centre, 1967.

This man is William Wesley Peters.

William Wesley Peters (1912-1991)

After Wright’s death, he became chief architect of Taliesin Architects, designing over 120 buildings worldwide, many of them for prominent clients and with complex programs. In his most characteristic work, Mr. Peters bridges between structure and ornament with bold invention and surprising sculptural forms. He interprets Wright’s principles of architecture, but also interprets the spirit of his own time. (text from here

This site has photographs of some of the other 120 buildings either completed, adapted or designed by Taliesin Associated Architects.

“Fill’erup with Specialness!”

This post is a collection of gas/petrol stations designed by famous architects. It’s not an original topic since the same theme is explored by a few slideshows and articles floating around the internet. Here’s one, for example. What interests me is that many of these articles and blogs excuse or apologise for the architect involved by saying that the gas station was probably designed by someone else in the office and that the design was probably just “signed off” by the architect. Now hold it just there!

This sustains the myth that creativity and functionality are incompatible, that creative architects don’t do functional, or that functional is not creative.


Here’s one attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1958 FLW was busy with the Guggenheim that was just about completed, and also on the Marin County Civic Center that he almost lived to see completed in 1960.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lindholm Service Station, 1958

This gas station turned out to be the only part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fanstastical Broadacre City designs that made it into reality. But did he actually design it? Or did he just sign it off? We will never know.

Or how about this ESSO one, attributed to Mies Van Der Rohe? Does it matter if he didn’t design it? Do we even care if he did? If he did, then it was probably his last completed building as he died the same year.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Montreal, 1969

Some sexy modern photography is keeping the dream alive over at archilovers!

The current Repsol petrol stations in Spain, designed by Foster + Partners, have that whimsy-tarted-up-as-high-tech feel that’s characteristic of the brand but I find it hard to believe The Great Man had anything to do with them. However, much as NF is central to the Foster+Partners brand, he’s not marketed by his people as some sort of creative genius. Verdict: Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. That’s just how architectural brands work.

Photo: zackds

When automobiles had just become affordable to rich people, “service” stations  did other things back then like check your oil and clean your windscreen. They were glamorous and objects for architectural expression as well. The Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara, capital city of Eritrea, was designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Pettazzi and completed in 1938. (Thanks W.) Why a petrol station should look like an aeroplane I don’t know, but Pettazzi wasn’t ashamed of designing one.

Thanks for the postcard, http://www.postalesinventadas.com/

I don’t think Arne Jacobson would have been ashamed of this petrol station he designed in 1938, in Copenhagen.

Arne Jacobson, Petrol Station, Copenhagen, 1938

Bertrand Goldberg was very proud of this rather wonderful one in Chicago in 1938.

Bertrand Goldberg, Clark-Maple Gas Station, Chicago USA, 1938

1938 seems to have been a golden year for petrol station design. I’m surprised Buckminsater Fuller didn’t have a go. Oops – what’s this? Nope, doesn’t count.

Pseudo-misfit Albert Frey designed this gas station in Palm Springs in 1965.

Albert Frey, Tramway Gas Station, Palm Springs, USA, 1965

All in all, it seems that to take credit for designing a gas/petrol/service station the norm rather than the exception. It’s only when an architect or the keepers of his reputation try to sustain the myth of creativity that there seems to be a problem. I suspect this is because creativity of the artistic kind is the actual product being sold. It sells for more when it’s not compromised by function. It sells for more when there are no competing criteria by which success or failure can be judged.  

Whatever. I bet Atelier SAD in Slovakia are quite happy about the magazine coverage this one has received. (Thanks quellebellevue!)

Archpaper says this one was designed by Kanner Architects but I can’t find it on their website. (Don’t be shy, Kanner! It’s okay to design useful buildings, even if they are a bit retro and recalling L.A.’s happy days.)

Photo: Nicholads O.S. Marques

This one’s by Damilano Studio. They’re proud.

Photo: A. Martiradonna

This one’s by Johnston Marklee. L.A. again! It’s LEED certified.  (Thanks Azure!)

thanks c-monster! (http://c-monster.net/blog1/2009/01/07/helios-house/)

* * *

As far as I know, Antonio Gaudí never designed a petrol station. I hope I’m proved wrong.

Repsol Gas Station. Avinguda de Gaudí 6, Barcelona 08025, Spain. (Not attributed to Gaudí.)

Misfits’ Midsummernights’ Quiz

To fill in those long midsummer (or, for our southern hemisphere friends, mid-winter) nights, here’s some quick brainteasers. The answers are at the bottom – no cheating!

QUESTION 1: Which is older?

A: Villa Savoye?

or B: Joan Collins …

QUESTION 2: What did Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother give him to play with?



C. Froebel Blocks?

QUESTION 3: Which architect didn’t pay enough attention to sun shading? And for which house? QUESTION 4: How much does a copy of Patrik Schumacher’s “The Autopoesis of Architecture” (Vol.I) weigh?

QUESTION 5: How many rooms on the top floor of Fallingwater? Hmm? Hmm? ••• ANSWERS •••

QUESTION 1: Which is older? Okay everybody, calm down and listen. One point for those who chose A: The Villa Savoye. Nice try. It was constructed over the period 1928-1931 but, two years on, the owners were  claiming it was still uninhabitable. So … this then makes A: Joan Collins the correct answer. Two points! She was born on 23 May, 1933 and, looking a wonderful 79 years old in the above photograph. Well done Joan! Joan Collins and Villa Savoye are both tributes – no! monuments, to the power of restorative work.

QUESTION 2: Which toy did Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother give him to keep him quiet?: Froebel Blocks is the correct answer but, for anyone who chose LEGO, half points for making me laugh. (Have long and happy lives!) B, I’m sorry, is wrong because skyscrapers weren’t invented in 1876 when little Frankie’s mother is said to have come back from the Centennial Exposition with the famous toy. “Indeed, Wright’s own mother had brought him as a child into contact with the educational ideas of Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel founder of kindergarten. His philosophy was that children, when cherished and nurtured, would grow into beautiful grown-ups each unique in his or her own characteristics and qualities [bless]. Wright never failed to credit Froebel for his earliest architectural yearnings for he later stated,”The maple-wood blocks…all are in my fingers to this day.” (look here if you think I’m making this up)

QUESTION 3: Which architect didn’t pay enough attention to sun shading? And for which house? The correct answers are Peter Eisenman and House III. QUESTION 4: How much does a copy of Patrik Schumacher’s “The Autopoesis of Architecture” weigh? The book is the first of two volumes, contains 478 pages and “only” 18 illustrations (how effing pretentious is that!). It’s also “said” (quotation marks frenzy here – apologies) to contain “a unified theory of architecture that suggests a framework for the discipline’s next phase of development…” It is unquestionably a heavy read. I stupidly thought it would be a good idea to carry it in my hand luggage so I could tackle it on a recent long-haul flight but, once aboard, for some reason preferred to watch The Hunger Games directly followed by The Avengers instead. For the return flight, I wasn’t keen to lug it around an airport once again so I packed it. When checking in, I was told my luggage was 1.5kg overweight and that the problem could probably be solved by removing “a book or something” and carrying it in my hand luggage instead. This was good advice. So, although I haven’t weighed “The Autopoiesis of Architecture: Volume I”, any answer in the realm of 1.5kg is correct. (btw: Volume II has 774 pages which strikes me as too much information.)

QUESTION 5: How many rooms on the top floor of Fallingwater? One – the study. The remainder is a waste of space – which is why it’s there, of course. It’s unclear what the third floor actually does. But then, it’s a rich man’s house. It doesn’t really have to do anything except generate complexity and the artistic (and hence, unquestionable) “certainty”  it had to be that way. Cheers.

Architecture Misfit #2: Irving Gill

Irving John Gill (1870–1936)


Irving Gill had no formal education in architecture and never attended college. His father was a builder who, according to William Curtis’s “Modern Architecture Since 1900”, “had a knack for finding short cuts in construction”.  Curtis goes on to say that

Gill himself was an early advocate of reinforced concrete in domestic design, especially using ’tilt-slab’ techniques, and like Perret thought that the material required a simple rectangular vocabulary.

You can see where Irving Gill’s career is going already. The tilt-slab technique happens to be very cost-effective and efficient way of making buildings. This is not the stuff of Architecture, especially when you are a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright for most of your working life. Irving Gill believed in simple shapes because they were easy to make in concrete, and probably made the mistake of saying so, rather than justify them, for example, in terms of De Stijl or fancy European notions of art. This is his Dodge House in California designed in 1915, six years after Wright’s Robie House.

Irving Gill did not believe in ornament.

“We should build our house simple, plain and substantial as a boulder, then leave the ornamentation of it to Nature, who will tone it with lichens, chisel it with storms, make it gracious and friendly with vines and flower shadows as she does the stone in the meadow. I believe also that houses should be built more substantially and should be made absolutely sanitary. If the cost of unimportant ornamentation were put into construction, then we would have a more lasting and dignified house.

This is an extraordinary statement for the time, and very much in line with the approach of Hannes Meyer a decade later. Eager to proceed onto his next chapter dealing with “Responses to Mechanization: The Deutscher Werkbund and Futurism,” Curtis dismisses Gill by saying

“The significance of stripped simplicity in his work was therefore partly moral, but very far in its meanings from the machine idolization of the avant-garde in europe who were to create the modern movement of the 1920s.” … “It so happened that Gill anticipated some superficial aspects of the white, geometrical architecture of the 1920s, but his work was virtually unknown in Europe and his outlook quite different.”

Grrr. What annoys me about historians in general and Curtis’ book in particular is that he is blind to the worth of anything that doesn’t connect to this thing called Modern Architecture that he intends to champion. Gill did not “anticipate the superficial aspects” of anything. He was just trying to make buildings as decently as he could according to criteria he thought were important. This, to Misfits, is what making buildings is all about. It is the history of everything else that is superficial, peripheral.


“If the cost of unimportant ornamentation were put into construction, then we would have a more lasting and dignified house.”

Irving Gill, Misfits salutes you!