A Wright wronged in Phoenix? Presevationists rally to save a Frank Lloyd Wright in Phoenix

September 24, 2012

A 60-year-old Arizona home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright has become the subject of one of the hottest preservation battles in the country. (Well, that along with our own dust-up over the fate of the iconic former Prentice Women's Hospital.)

The unusual David and Gladys Wright House — Wright designed the Phoenix residence for one of his sons — was purchased earlier this year by a custom home builder who sought to demolish the structure, subdivide its two-acre site and build a pair of houses there. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building conservancy have sounded the alarm.

Watch the video above and it is easy to see why. Completed in 1952, the Wright Home is made from concrete block. A spiral ramp not unlike the one in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City leads to the home's second floor. For those who best know Wright through his Chicago area work in the early third of the 20th century, his midcentury work like the Wright Home is a revelation as the architect — thanks to advancements in technology — was able to experiment with even bolder forms and more materials while adopting a more naturalist approach.

The four bedroom, four bathroom house features an original swimming pool and a guest house. On the inside, the house has a rug, a table and four chairs all designed by Wright. David and Gladys were the home's sole residents. David did in 1997 at the age of 102; his wife owned the home until she died in 2008 at 104.

Last week, Phoenix's Historic Preservation Commission voted to recommend landmark status for the home. But the neighborhoods's planning committee and the city's preservation commission must also recommend the designation to Phoenix city council in order protect the home. The city council takes up the issue in November. And even if approved, the landmark designation would only halt demolition for three years — time enough, preservationists hope — to find a buyer who won't demolish the house.

If lost, the home would be the first significant Frank Lloyd Wright building to fall to the wreckers' ball since Milwaukee's Arthur Munkwitz duplex apartments were demolished in 1973.