A 60-year-old Phoenix house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his son is pegged for demolition by a developer if a new owner isn’t found.
The company that owns the David and Gladys Wright House, built in 1952 in the Arcadia neighborhood with views of nearby Camelback Mountain, agreed yesterday not to raze the house for 25 days as the city and preservationists look for a buyer, said Michelle Dodds, Phoenix’s acting historic preservation officer.
“We hope in that time we will have an agreement with someone interested in buying the house, someone agreeable to have historic preservation landmark status,” Dodds said.
Dodds said the property’s owner, 8081 Meridian LLC, whose partners live in the Phoenix area, is objecting to efforts to designate the property as a historic landmark, which would prohibit demolition for three years. The company told the city it planned to raze the home, divide the property in half and build two new homes in its place, Dodds said.
Melissa Banuchi, a spokeswoman for 8081 Meridian, referred questions to partner Steve Sells and said he wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted Sept. 17 to give the home landmark status and a neighborhood planning committee also approved the designation yesterday, Dodds said. Another panel will review that status before the City Council takes up the matter Nov. 7.
The developer obtained the 2,500-square foot home in June for $1.8 million. It rejected an offer by a preservationist willing to pay $2.05 million, said Janet Halstead, executive director of the Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which has been among the groups looking for a buyer to save the structure. It is currently seeking an offer of at least $2.2 million, Halstead said in a telephone interview.
“It is an important piece in Wright’s career,” Halstead said, noting the spiral ramp in the home and his attempts to make the house fit into its desert surroundings. “It is very unique, and it is critical that this building be preserved.”
Wright, whose works also include Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, died in 1959.
Wright composed the house of interlocked circular forms. A curving ramp, much like the one Wright used in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York that he was designing at the same time, wound up to a main floor. The raised living spaces, circling an inner courtyard, look outward to capture mountain panoramas.
“The spiral was a culminating form for Wright, who spent a lifetime exploring geometric plans,” said Jack Quinan, senior curator of the Darwin D. Martin House and distinguished service professor at University at Buffalo (SUNY), who has written books about Wright. “It defied the conventional layering of floors joined by stairs, evokes notions of aspiration and transcendency, and represents a touching gift from a father to a son.”
Volunteers seeking to prevent demolition have signed up to monitor the home to make sure there aren’t attempts to bulldoze the structure, said Alison King, editor of ModernPhoenix.net and associate professor of design at the Art Institute of Phoenix, who helped coordinate the watch.
“It is absolutely one of a kind, it is aesthetically phenomenal, it is a true cultural treasure and it is astonishing to me that someone would attempt to knock it down,” King said in a telephone interview. “It’s practically the pinnacle of architecture of Phoenix and one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most unique and beguiling homes.”