Frank Lloyd Wright’s involvement in Buffalo between 1903 and 1929, especially in the earlier years, and the impact it had on his development as America’s foremost architect are examined in a new book by local Wright scholar Jack Quinan.
The book, “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture: From the Larkin Building to Broadacre City, a Catalogue of Buildings and Projects” (Pomegranate), explores the important client relationships Wright formed, particularly with Larkin Company executive Darwin D. Martin, during an often-difficult personal and professional period for Wright. It also follows Wright’s progression from his early Prairie period to his reaction to Modernism.
Quinan will be presenting a three-part series on Wright and Modernism beginning at 7 p.m. today in the Martin House Complex’s Greatbatch Pavilion.
“In ‘Buffalo Venture,’ I tried to make the point that the support Wright had here really carried him over a rough period in the ’10s and ’20s, when he didn’t have work and had a lot of personal problems. I also thought it would be completing the Buffalo story,” said Quinan, a University at Buffalo art historian. His previous books on Wright are “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building: Myth and Fact” and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House: Architecture as Portraiture.”
Quinan is senior curator of the Martin House Complex, a member of the Martin House Restoration Corp.’s board of directors and a founding member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.
He recounts the Buffalo projects, including the Martin House Complex, Walter V. Davidson House, William R. Heath House and Graycliff, the Martins’ summer cottage. Included is the Larkin Administration Building, whose demolition in 1950 is still considered one of architecture’s most regrettable losses.
“What’s really important about Buffalo, primarily, is that the Martin House and the Larkin building were really some of the best work he did in his early years, especially the Larkin building,” Quinan said.
Unfinished projects are presented, such as the unrealized gas station project for the Elmer E. Harris Oil Company that is being replicated at the Buffalo Transportation Museum and the Blue Sky Mausoleum that was completed in the past decade at Forest Lawn from drawings.
There also are commissions that Wright did outside Western New York at the time and a listing of discussed projects that never went anywhere, from a varnish factory in Buffalo and apartments on Oakland Place to a second Walter V. Davidson House and a new City Hall.
Quinan said many still remain mysteries, but are fascinating to consider in terms of what might have been. “Any of those would have been kind of exciting,” he said. “Wright seemed to be just brimming with ideas all the time, and if someone would contact him and say I need something, I think he would respond spontaneously and ideas would start flowing.”
Today’s lecture, “Wright and the Origins of Modernism,” will be followed on Oct. 24 with “The Prairie House and its European Contemporaries,” and on Nov. 21 with “Wright Versus the International Style: 1922-1932.” Each 90-minute lecture at the Martin House Complex begins at 7 p.m., and costs $20 per lecture, or $55 for the series; members pay $15 for the lecture and $38 for the series.
Reservations are required and can be made by calling 856-3858 or going to www.darwinmartinhouse.org.