“Every great architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” —Frank Lloyd Wright
I’ve always felt an affinity with Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings. His legacy is scattered throughout the Midwest. There were at least 25 homes he designed in surrounding areas north of Chicago where I grew up.
Lloyd Lewis House 1939, Libertyville, Il.
I’ve lived about a mile from Wright’s beautiful Marin Civic Center north of San Francisco for nearly 40 years. In the rainy winter weeks this year, I began to take hikes inside the Civic Center for exercise. The halls are spacious, well lit with a curved glass ceiling, and filled with trees, indoor plants and occasional flowers. The hallway on the ground level runs more than a city block. Two rounds would take me the same amount of time as a neighborhood walk.
This magnificent architectural space is a 3-D art piece. The atmosphere holds a lifetime of Wright’s focus on landscape, light and materials. Civic Center continues to be a work of masterful poetry.
Respect the masterpiece. It is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.
July 30, 1957: Architect Frank Lloyd Wright… gets his first look at the hillside site where his Marin Civic Center would be built. “I’m going to do something unusual here. I already have my idea,”* he said. Wright died before it was completed. Construction began in 1960. The first building was completed in 1962, with credit to Marin Supervisor Vera Schultz who came up against political opposition and exercised her leadership. My ex-father-in-law, Frank Haggerty worked there as County Recorder from the beginning. I occasionally visited him around 1970. The Civic Center was only 10 years old. Over the years I was called in for Jury Duty now and then. The Farmer’s Market is in the enormous parking area on Sundays when the building is closed. There is a clear view of the turquoise roof from the hill above our house
Wright spoke of the arches as “suspended crescents hanging from the floor above making these lovely arches.” His plan he said is: “…a complete synthesis of ground and building which is what organic architecture should mean.”*
I photographed the building and in a dream-like state began to remember Wright’s creations that hold large pieces of my life’s history. The first was in Desbarats, Ontario (pronounced Debra). My father built a cabin 500 miles north of Chicago down the channel from the my mother’s family summer house when he was courting her. I grew up on the rocky channel in summer and as I entered the age where boys were important, discovered the dark, wood house on Sapper Island, the home of the boy in the fast white boat, the object of my focus.
The Pitkin House on Sapper Island designed very early when Wright was still an apprentice
Wood is universally beautiful to man. It is the most humanly intimate of all materials.
Actress Island next to our house. Sapper Island to the left behind Picture Island, Desbarats, Ontario
It took while to get to the place where I was cooking spaghetti in the kitchen there one night, concerned over the length of time to boil the noodles. That was after tender moments on the wicker couch, the house empty except for us. Usually I met with a young group up the river at another house. The wood was black even in sunlight, with a roof that extended far out from the walls, making it like a fortress on a rock hill with water on three sides. Short but sweet visit. A house like a chocolate bar.
Around 1985 my husband Shabda and I leased a store at 171 Maiden Lane in San Francisco. It was called DREAMWEAVER. We sold sweaters, woven and well-made clothing. Business was good. Chanel came in next door, If we had trouble there was always a Chanel guard I could call. There was an upscale café outside during lunch and across the street was a gallery designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
140 Maiden Lane pre-dates the Guggenheim Museum—his other internal spiral design— by a decade.I loved looking out and a few doors down to the odd brickfaçade with no windows, and often carried out photo shoots in front of Wright’s mini-museum. I was there for 15 years, until the landlord doubled the rent and Dreamweaver closed.
My husband Shabda and I were in Maui in 2017 and met at a golf course for lunch. The dining room held a private party, and the manager apologized and suggested we drive up the hill to the private golf course dining room. The King Kamehameha Golf Course Clubhouse is located on the West Maui mountains facing Haleakala and easy to see from the road that crosses the island east to west. As we got closer I began to feel a familiarity in the shape of the building. Once inside, I knew!
In 1957, Marilyn Monroe contacted Frank Lloyd Wright about building a home for her and her husband Arthur Miller in Roxbury, Connecticut. Wright expanded the original plans for Crownfield, complete with movie theater, pool, and nursery for the children Miller and Monroe planned to have. But the marriage did not last and Wright died shortly after, leaving the unfinished plans archived…. Until it was developed and completed in 1993. The place became the King Kamehameha Golf Course Clubhouse in 2006. There was a coziness and joy I felt moving inside another Wright creation, seeing how he framed the view from the West Maui Mountains, the slope of the floor.
In his old age Wright gave this statement: “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”
*His quotes are from a historical section of Marin Civic Center, posted on the inside walls.