Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo; damp, moldy houses cause depression

Before I write about the two Wright houses I visited, I have to share this news article. Thanks to some groundbreaking research, it has been determined (scientifically) that Damp, Moldy Houses Cause Depression! Okay, to be accurate, they “MAY” cause depression. I don’t think I needed the American Journal of Public Health to tell me that. This article is not supposed to be related to the Wright houses, but I have a feeling the Martin House may have been damp for a while before the restoration started.
Darwin Martin House

Darwin Martin House, Buffalo NY- work in progress. Click here to visit my flickr page and to see more images.

While traveling last week, I had the chance to go to two different Frank Lloyd Wrght designed facilities. The first was the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway in Buffalo. It was one of FLW’s most elaborate commissions, it consisted of a main house, a conservatory, a carriage house, a house for the client’s sister and another house for the gardener. It is said that the budget was almost unlimited when I was built around the turn of the last century.

I went on a deluxe tour that covered all parts of the site, and it was definitely worth the time. I had been to this house a few years ago, but it looks completely different now. The Martin House Restoration Corporation (the non-profit that is restoring the house and raising money) has rebuilt portions of the complex that were torn down in the 1960s. In the last few years, the pergola and carriage house have been rebuilt and the gardener’s cottage was purchased and opened to the public this summer.

This was one of Wright’s finest buildings, done at the peak of his career. I highly advise you to visit if you are in the area. I’ve heard that Wright kept the drawings for this house pinned up in his office for the rest of his life after it was completed.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff estate

The Graycliff House from the driveway

The other Wright complex I visited was the Graycliff estate, in Derby NY (only about half an hour from downtown Buffalo). I mentioned this house before in an earlier post, but I didn’t give any of the background. This house was also designed for the Martins, but Mrs. Martin was the main client here as opposed to the city house where her husband was in control. She wanted a light-filled and airy summer escape on the shore of Lake Erie. Wright obliged by giving her a fantastic house on a 70 foot cliff. The first floor is glass on both sides and very thin so that from the front, a visitor can see the water and the horizon through the living room.

This house was much better preserved because it has never been vacant. A religious group (the Parist fathers, a group of priests from Hungry) owned it and lived there until a few years ago when it was purchased and restoration began. The priests never tore down any of the original buildings, so the work necessary here is not as extensive as at the Buffalo house.

Markasaurus is Out of Town: Graycliff, dinosaurs and more

Dinosaur Planter

Plastic Dinosaur Flower Planter, Derby NY

I’m going to be out of town for the next few days, so I won’t be posting much. I am visiting my family in Buffalo. I’ve been to two different Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the last two days which I’ll post about when I get back.

Here are some photos of the Graycliff Estate in Derby, NY which Wright designed in 1928. I’ll post photos of the Martin House in Buffalo soon.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff

Front of the Graycliff House

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff

Waterfront side of the Graycliff house

Lake Erie- 18 Mile Creek

Mouth of the 18 Mile Creek at Lake Erie, near Graycliff

Timothy Hutchings @ i-20 & Richard Serra @ MoMA

Timothy Hutchings: The World's Largest Wargaming Table

Timothy Hutchings: The World’s Largest Wargaming Table – The World’s Largest Wargaming Table, June 27-August 11, 2007 (Photo:Cary Whittier, courtesy of

In response to my last post, Renu asked about the Richard Serra show in New York. I’ll get to that, but first I thought I’d mention another show that you probably haven’t heard about. Timothy Hutchings, better known for his film work, has an installation up at i-20 on West 23rd St. that fills the entire gallery.

Taking the idea of a wargame- a table game with clear rules played with miniature soldiers- to a ridiculous extreme (400 square feet) arranged as a seemingly never-ending playing surface, Hutchings’ installation creates a bizarre alternate universe where war has a clear trajectory and defined rules. The installation is installed so the the viewer is literally marginalized and at times has to walk in very narrow spaces created next to the walls.

serra installation

Richard Serra installation photo from

As for the Richard Serra show, the most accurate word to describe it is “BIG.” When I first saw the Torqued Ellipses in New York in the late 90s I was amazed at the size, and there were only a few pieces on display at the Gagosian Gallery.

While it was nice to see the variety in Serra’s output over the years (many older works were on the top floor), it was almost gratuitous to have all the new large-scale pieces on display together. Sequence, the one piece you literally could lost in, was great but the other ones (the toruses in particular) almost seemed boring in comparison. To see images of these works, there is a great online exhibit at MoMA’s site.

Natasha and I did not make it to the roof, as it started raining while we were there and the security guards all started freaking out and made everyone go inside. They also made everyone throw out their snacks that many people had just purchased minutes earlier (luckily we were almost done with our gelato). There was a Serra piece in the sculpture garden that we saw very briefly as we were being ushered back inside the building.

If you start at the bottom of the museum and work your way up, you end up seeing Serra’s oldest work last. It looked more fresh than much of the newer stuff- it is conceptually richer and less dependent on scale to make an impression. You can’t walk through it, but it definitely has the same weight.

Portland OR, with Photos

Portland Waterfront

Last Friday I flew to Portland, Oregon to spend the weekend with my parents, my brother Dave and my friends Chris and Sara (Dave, Chris and Sara all live there and my parents were on vacation). I was staying in Hillsoboro at Chris and Sara’s house. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that this town is home not only to Intel’s largest facility but is also the headquarters of Pizza Schmizza. Thank you, Wikipedia.

My trip was busy. Friday night was spent eating dinner with my family at the Kennedy School, an old elementary school that has been turned into a number of restaurants and bars. I met up with Chris and Sara later and they gave me a ride back to their house where we drank Soy White Russians. This reminded me of an infamous birthday party for my friend Chad a few years back where too much vegan cake and too many Soy White Russians were consumed. I’m not even vegan any more, but I can’t give them up.

Saturday was spent wandering around Portland.

Pioneer Square, Portland This picture shows Pioneer Square downtown, a large public space that was once a famous hotel and then was a parking lot. There was a lot of activity downtown this weekend because of the Rose Festival and Twilight Parade. Later in the day, we made our way over to Washington Park to see the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden.

Portland International Rose Test Garden Portland Japanese Garden

Sunday was spent doing the Mt. Hood loop. I went with my brother and parents to see the surrounding coutryside and visited Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in the U.S. Multnomah Falls The drive went through the scenic Columbia River Valley, but the real goal was Mt. Hood. Part of the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Hood looms over the city of Portland and is perpetually snow-capped. This was my second weekend in a row on a snowy mountain, last weekend’s visit to Mt. Shasta was slightly less snowy though because of its more southerly latitude.
Mt. Hood

Chipmunk? Ground Squirrel?After a small meal 6,000 ft. up the mountain at the Timberline Lodge (perhaps you have watched “The Shining”?) , I met a ground squirrel/ chipmunk/ rodent that was very unfazed by my camera. Perhaps the alititude was making it friendly. We returned to Portland and went to Chris and Sara’s for a home-cooked meal. Monday was cloudy, but we still managed to make it to the Hoyt Arboretum just as the sun was coming out. I returned to San Francisco Monday evening.