An acknowledged visionary, rebel and architectural genius, the artistry of Frank Lloyd Wright remains unique and unparalleled to this day. While many consider the Guggenheim in Manhattan to be his most seminal work, many important buildings throughout New York State were also stamped with Wright’s distinctive signature and can be viewed by the public today. Seven Wright structures can be visited in Buffalo and the surrounding area, making for a unique architectural journey back in time and a first-hand appreciation of this rebellious genius’ work.
Wright felt a kinship to local Buffalo executive Darwin Martin, who hired him to create several structures, including his own home and who remained a close friend for 30 years. Completed in 1904, the Martin Complex in Buffalo encapsulated the elements most closely identified with the rustic signature of Wright’s celebrated Prairie Style. A known lover of nature, Wright’s combination of warm, natural elements and encapsulated, comfortable spaces housed within majestic, sweeping environments became known as American architecture at its finest. The Martin Complex personifies Wright’s vision and is considered by many to be the most significant private work of his career. Comprised of five interconnected buildings, including one built for Martin’s sister, the Complex was designed around a unified theme, creating the feeling that all five buildings were part of one astonishing whole. Martin’s home was given landmark status in 1986, and the entire complex is available to the public today. Tours and ticket information can be found here.
It is said that Wright “broke the box” of traditional architecture, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Blue Sky Mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Cemetery. Seemingly blending into the natural landscape surrounding it, the Mausoleum sweeps outward as if to touch the sky and ground simultaneously in an organic ode to nature. The Mausoleum was also commissioned by Darwin Martin, who was committed to supporting his long-time friend’s architectural vision. The Mausoleum is the most unique in all the world and its design has been retired.
Situated high on a cliff overlooking Lake Eerie, Graycliff was designed for Martin’s wife Isabelle, as their summer residence. Built in 1927, the 6,500 square foot estate incorporates some of Wright’s beloved Prairie style elements with more concrete design elements and features sweeping views of the lake and natural landscape surrounding it. After the deaths of Martin and his wife, Graycliff was sold to an order of Roman Catholic Friars. Currently, it is managed by the Graycliff Conservancy and a number of tours are available but must be reserved in advance. These can be for one or two hours in duration at various times of the day and include Summer Twilight and Yuletide tours. Children under 10 are not permitted.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.