Architectural Drive-bys

Frank Lloyd Wright was a very prolific architect having designed more than 1,000 projects with around half of those actually being built. Of the remaining about 400+ still-standing Wright buildings only 70 are open to the public. The rest are private homes and buildings. That doesn’t mean you can’t drive by and look at these architectural beauties from the street. Let me just warn you though, that you don’t trespass or invade the owners’ privacy.

I’ve had on my bucket list for many years now to visit as many of Wright’s buildings as I can, so what I call architectural drive-bys are the way to do it like when I saw the home in Carmel, CA. When I went home for Christmas I knocked a few more off my list besides just the Price Tower—another in Bartlesville, two in Dallas, and one in Tulsa.

Hillside (Harold C. Price Jr. house)

historic photo of Hillside from wikiarquitectura.com

Sharing a name with Wright’s school campus at his Taliesin estate in Wisconsin, is the other building he designed and built in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Hillside was built for Harold C. Price Jr. You can’t see the home from the road as it is set back on the property and built into the side of a small hill overlooking a small lake, but on the road you can see the iconic style of Wright in the property’s gate.

I had the privilege of being shown the home by one of the owners. It is wonderful and very livable. The backside of the home where the garage and servants quarters were is built into the side of the hill while the front end at the point of the large living room extends out above the ground. This living room is stunning with two-story walls of windows wrapping around providing grand vistas of the site.

There are many bedrooms, an decent sized kitchen and lovely dining area. An addition was put on the home at the rear also into the hill. It is a large multi-purpose space called the kiva because it is round. This space shares the amazing roof style at the Biltmore ballroom and the Gillin House.

Kalita Humphreys Theater

Though this is one of the 70 open-to-the-public Wright buildings, it is an active theater and is really only open when there is a show. For some reason there was no show during the holidays, so I could just do a drive-by.

This building was designed by Wright in 1955 and opened to the public in 1959. It is built in the Turtle Creek neighborhood on the hill just above the creek. I’ll be honest that it isn’t the most striking building I’ve ever seen, but I’ve been told that it has undergone extensive additions and changes after Wright’s death, some of them under the guidance of Wes Peters and Taliesin Architects.

Though the overall structure isn’t extraordinarily beautiful, the front entrance is very nice.

After walking around the building, down to the creek (a very dirty creek), and inspecting the entrances, I found an open lobby door and stepped in for a peek. Someday, I’d like to see a show there just to experience the theater as it was meant to be experienced.

John Gillin House

Wright’s other work in Dallas is a private home just north of Dallas Love Field Airport. It is a spectacular, sprawling house set back from the road. It appears to be similar to Wingspread in Wisconsin with wings extending off of a round or hexagonal central room. I say this because of the roof in the middle having the round kiva like roof, sort of like the meeting room at the AZ Biltmore attributed to him.

Westhope (Richard Lloyd Jones home)

This fabulous Tulsa home was built in 1929 for Wright’s cousin Richard Lloyd Jones who was editor of the Tulsa Tribune. It is a variation on the traditional prairie style having the same lines and movement but using different materials such as concrete block and with a flat roof.

I think the home is lovely and perfectly fits into its surroundings since the columns of concrete blocks punctuated with columns of windows gives the feeling that you’re looking through the woods. This integrates the architecture right into the wooded site. It has the long horizontality of the prairie style but also a verticality because of the columns.

This is definitely worth a drive-by if you find yourself in or going through Tulsa.

Again, these homes are private, and going on the property without permission would be trespassing. Some of Wright’s masterpieces just have to be enjoyed from a distance.

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