Frank Lloyd Wright, Resurrected

Joe Massaro simply wants to build an unrealized design for a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright house. Along the way, he is learning that the merits of posthumous architect are controversial.

In 1950, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a home for an 11-acre island in the middle of Lake Mahopac, about an hour north of New York City. A triangular home with a cantilevered balcony that incorporated the lake shore’s natural rock formations, Wright reportedly said that this design would surpass that of Fallingwater, the famous Wright-designed house in Pennsylvania perched over a waterfall that draws thousands of admirers each year. Yet Fallingwater was built while the architect was alive--and this design was shelved.

Now, more than half a century later, the new owner of the island is building the remarkable home based on Wright’s drawings. While seeking to remain as faithful as possible to the original sketches, Wright never filled in some detailsâ€"-requiring assistance from a living architect to complete the project. In addition, the 20th century design must be configured to meet 21st century building codes. As one of hundreds of Wright’s designs that remain-â€"but were never built during the architect’s lifetimeâ€"-some question the authenticity of posthumously built works.

Full Story: This is his finest work



Detractors idealize Wright's work

Critics of a Wright design realized 50 years after his his death claim the result is inauthentic because the "patron" and the new architect have had to fill in many details missing from the original design. How is this different from most of Wright's work built between 1920 and the time of his death? Wright was perhaps the first "Starchitect", and as such, he (grew lazy and) became accustomed to sketching out grand concepts and letting his underlings fill in the details. Fallingwater is notorious for this. Insufficiently suppported cantilevers, unflashed chimneys and walls, etc. have made it quite a challenge to keep from falling into the water, so to speak.

The point is, other parties had to fill in the details of Wright's designs for decades prior to his death. What's the difference if someone takes an unrealized design of his and fills in the details posthumously?

David Jacot, P.E.

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