Frank Lloyd Wright: The Living City Hypothetical Study Model
project name : Frank Lloyd Wright: The Living City Hypothetical Study Model
location : Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
year of design: 1997
client: George Ranalli
architect: George Ranalli
“Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be an original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” –Frank Lloyd Wright
David G. De Long, chief curator of the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright And The Living City, and general editor of its catalogue, headed a distinguished curatorial team composed of C. Ford Petross, Bruce Brookes Pfeiffer, and Peter Reed, complimented by Mathias Schwartz-Clauss and Alexandra Gerny of the Vitra Design Museum, in collaboration with David Hanks and staff at Exhibitions International, New York to conceive of an show of unparalleled architectural achievement. The exhibition presented over 100 of Wright’s drawings, photographs of built works, models, and over 60 examples of decorative arts, including furniture, lamps, and lighting fixtures, textiles, and tableware.
The distinguished curatorial advisory group collaborated with architect George Ranalli to produce a composite, three-dimensional, hypothetical study model of Wright’s vision for The Living City. Wright had published The Disappearing City in1932, after which time, he fabricated a three-dimensional model of Broadacre City and a rendered site plan, for exhibition in 1935. In 1958, Wright revised and expanded his treatise into The Living City. Bruce Brookes Pfieffer, Director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archive, on behalf of the show’s sponsor, the Vitra Design Museum, enlisted George Ranalli to produce a three-dimensional, hypothetical study model for a traveling exhibition. The ambitious commission would realize a more complex three-dimensional typography than Wright’s earlier version, including additional perspectives of views based on Wright’s drawing from The Living City, and his building prototypes of identifiable commissions.
The Living City model measures 244 cm x 244 cm x 54.6 cm; fabricated in New York City, it was fabricated from birch plywood; basswood, plexi-glass, foam, and wood veneer. The model has traveled worldwide with exhibitions Frank Lloyd Wright And The Living City to over 20 museums, and also with another exhibition, Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century.
The Living City hypothetical study model familiarizes viewers with a more in-depth understanding of Wright’s prescient vision for a decentralized, sustainable city. The large 64-sq.-ft. hypothetical model was fabricated as four interlocking sections. The Living City Model incorporated Wright’s sweeping perspective of an expansive hilly terrain and over 150 structures –including a multiplicity of residences, civic buildings, bridges, towers, large-scale projects such as sports stadiums, commercial developments, spiritual structures, and structures for a range of pragmatic programs, from filling stations to farm buildings.
The level of detailed development of many of the structures provides viewers with exterior design and landscape features. The Living City model conforms loosely to Wrights Plans 1-2, expanded upon having the benefit of firsthand accounts from two of Wright’s living apprentices, Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and John Rottenbury, to include Plans 3-5. The Living City model offers a surveys many of Wright’s unrealized prototypes, including the Charles Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1923-24; the Sports Club and Resort for Hunting Hartford, Hollywood, California, 1946-48; Pittsburgh Point Civic Center, Pittsburgh, 1947-48; the Golden Beacon Tower, Chicago, 1956-57, and also Wright’s built masterpieces, such as the Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael, California, 1956-62.
In 2011, Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Taliesin, Wright’s home, studio, and school in Spring Green, Wisconsin, examined every type of project that Wright had designed, along with his plans for a decentralized city. Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century was exhibited at the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum, in conjunction with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The exhibition took a look at America’s celebrated architect from the contemporary perspective of “green building” concepts, such as energy efficiency, materials, site, climate, pre-fabrication technology, transportation, social equity, and urban planning.
Brady Roberts, chief curator of Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century for the Milwaukee Art Museum, exhibited Wright’s scale model for Broadacre City and The Living City model fabricated by George Ranalli for the first time together. The exhibition incorporated the models into a show of Wright’s drawings, architectural models, furniture, films, and photographs of over 40 projects.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century The Milwaukee Art Museum created a Guide for teachers of grades K–12 available for gallery, or online implementation of activities and worksheets, included educational resources for The Living City model.
SOURCES: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Living City at the Vitra Design Museum, Koplos, Janet, January 1999, Art in America; Jan 1999, Vol. 87 Issue 1, p111: