Comparing the architecture of a Phoenix Frank Lloyd Wright house to area McMansions

A letter to the editor in The Arizona Republic contrasts the worthiness of a Frank Lloyd Wright home and McMansions that are typically found in the area:

The horror of this melee about a Frank Lloyd Wright house is that the men who bought it claim they didn’t know Frank Lloyd Wright from the Wright brothers (New York Times, Oct. 25) and yet they, if left unhindered, decide the fate of a master work of architecture.

In this Mcmansion craze, people employ the horror of the unaesthetic, the death of art. Unlike Wright-designed and constructed homes that seem composed of what nature predicates, “living buildings” that fit the surroundings, these faux Tuscany tract homes on steroids rise up out of the ashes of demolitions in Arcadia, changing the entire landscape of what was once a unique Phoenix neighborhood with their attendant assault on beauty and proportion.

Phoenix does not need to buy the property for the inflated asking price. What the city and its officials need to do is vote for the historic landmark overlay on Dec. 5.

While McMansions can be defined by several characteristics, this letter’s argument relies exclusively on the architecture and design argument. The Frank Lloyd Wright home is a “living building” meant to fit into its surrounding landscape. In contrast, McMansions poorly mimic other housing styles (in this case, importing Tuscany to the Arizona desert), contrast with the landscape, and lack beauty because of their poor proportions.

Frank Lloyd Wright homes are of limited number and according to this Wikipedia list, there are not too many Wright designed buildings in Arizona. See more of the story about the house here and a gallery of images here. According to one of the captions, “The [spiral] house was designed to twist around a central courtyard and also offer views of Camelback Mountain to the north.” And the house may have been a testing ground for another famous work that came later: “Wright chose a spiral design akin to the Guggenheim Museum’s. He had drawn plans for the Guggenheim by then, but it was still some years away from construction.”

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