While I was home during December visiting my family, my Mom led us all on an outing to visit the Graycliff Estate. The property is located in Derby, NY, just outside of Buffalo, and was designed by Frank Llyod Wright around the turn of the century for the Martin Family.
While the house is still under heavy renovation (as are most Wright buildings I've had the privilege to visit), most of the original architecture was still in place.
It really was beautiful to take in as we overlooked the winter waves rolling in off Lake Erie.
I always love touring Wright houses because the attention to detail used in their design and construction is astounding. Probably one of the most famous examples of this attention to detail can be viewed in Fallingwater. In this instance, Wright quite literally designed the home to wrap around a waterfall, the result of which is probably one of the most famous properties in the entire United States.
Not only did he design his houses to accomodate the properties they were built on, but he quite literally designed for almost every aspect of their use. Upon building a house, Wright would in most cases also design and have constructed:
- Dish and silverware
- Furniture (tables, chairs, etc)
- Clothing to be worn by the owners
- Light fixtures
- Specific painting instructions for each room
The list goes on. In this particular instance, he insisted that the gravel driveway leading up to the estate be dyed yellow. He even went as far as to provide to the Martin Family instructions and ingredients for creating the dye to be used. While some might view this as narcotic, and by all means it is, this rabid attention to every minute detail is part of what allowed Franky to leave such a lasting impression on the world.
Combining a love of my two favorite things, my parents birthday gift to me this year was a Lego set of Wright's Robie house. It's still lying in pieces on the floor of my bedroom, and I'm waiting for a rainy afternoon to finish assembling its 2000+ pieces.
More than anything else, viewing these houses is a reminder of that city that Buffalo once was, and probably never will be again. At the time Wright was contracted to build throughout Buffalo at the turn of the century, the city was an economic center of the entire country. One building in particular I wish still existed was the Larkin Administration Building. While it's sad to see Buffalo as it exists today, viewing snapshots of the city's vibrant past is always uplifting.