ARCHIGRAM: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Suntop House

frank lloyd wright suntop house
The first and only Frank Lloyd Wright “Suntop” house in Ardmore, PA, built in the late 1930s. Though only one house is visible from the street, the design actually consists of four houses in a pinwheel arrangement. Also known as The Ardmore Experiment, the quad-home structure was a patented Usonian design intended to be replicated across the country, providing high-design housing at entry-level prices.

The relatively austere exterior makes me appreciate the detail of Wright’s more famous residential designs. Basically, the Suntop looks like a cheap Frank Lloyd Wright. Which, as it turns out, is actually a pretty great thing. #lwb (at 156 Sutton Rd., Ardmore, PA)

[Architecture via Instagram]


Clive Owen Starts a Shootout in the Guggenheim

The real star of the new Clive Owen / Naomi Watts movie The International? Architecture. That’s according to The Architects Newspaper Blog, anyway, who spotted several recognizable buildings in preview for the um… banking and finance thriller. The best part? A climactic shootout in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim museum. It might be a little early to say this, but I’m guessing this beats out Cremaster 3 for the best-climactic-battle-in-the-guggenheim prize. Of course, this all begs the question: Is shootout architecture a parallel field to heist-urbanism?
Continue reading “Clive Owen Starts a Shootout in the Guggenheim”

American Cities That Almost Got It Wright

[image via wired]

Middle Eastern cities reaching higher into the skies every week and continue to turn pre-dysopic set-pieces from Bladerunner or the Jetsons. In times such as these, Wired thought it’d be a good idea to look at some earlier ambitious plans — the enormous “what-ifs” of modern architecture. The above example, for instance, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s effort to poke out the eyes of god, a Chicago tower known as The Illinois. To set the stage for this Midwestern retro-futurescape, Wired whipped up a fictious sci-fi inspired narrative

Almost everything below the 50th floor is an elevator lobby, and almost everything above the 300th floor is perpetually covered in vomit due to the skyscraper’s oscillations — it moves in 40-foot circles at its tip. It’s such a chore getting from one end of it to the other that we didn’t even evacuate on 9/11. After all, how could anyone hit a skyscraper that wiggles back and forth like that?

The article reminded me of a previous post on Life Without Buildings — Unbuilt Works Find Life in Art. Specifically, FLW’s unbuilt complex of Ellis Island Key project, a complex of space-age looking apartment buildings for New York’s (in)famous island… Continue reading “American Cities That Almost Got It Wright”


NPR reports on an often overlooked collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Florida on the campus of Florida Southern College. Wright designed the master plan for the campus, as well as 18 unique buildings, 12 of which were built. Unfortuately, In the grand tradition of FLW Buildings, the campus buildings are crumbling apart. In fact, they’re degrading so quickly that they have been included on the list of the 100 most endangered sites by the World Monument Fund. Phase one of the restoration project will be completed later this month, and the university is hoping to raise the 50 million dollars required to completely restore, and in some cases improve, the remaining Wright structures.The buildings may owe their degradation to Wright’s experimental designs, but their construction probably has something to do with it as well. Many of the campus structures were building by actual Florida students who paid off their tuition by serving as construction laborers. Students actually building. It’s a great idea that more architecture schools seem to be embracing today.For more photos, information on the specific campus buildings, and a little gossip, check out the article at

Frank Lloyd Wright in San Francisco

The Xanadu Gallery is the only existing Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in San Francisco.Originally constructed in 1912, the building was the home of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, and it was the Morrises who commsioned Wright to expand and remodel their store. Considering that the commission was for a retail space, it seems odd that there are no display windows, aside for a small terrarium-like entry structure. A little web research yielded the answer to this puzzler. When asked by the owners about the lack of exterior display, Wright replied “We are not going to dump your beautiful merchandise on the street, but create an arch-tunnel of glass, into which the passers-by may look and be enticed. As they penetrate further into the entrance, seeing the shop inside with its spiral ramp and tables set with fine china and crystal, they will suddenly push open the door, and you’ve got them!”

All built-in furniture, shelves, and tables are original. The most notable feature, however, has to be the large sprial ramp that leads to the second floor gallery. Although the gift shop was designed 5 years after the Guggenheim, it was actually constructed before the iconic New York museum, allowing Wright to use the gift shop as a sort of testing lab for the Guggenheim’s famous spiral.

The massive brick exterior definitely has the Wright look, but with its simple facade and ornate entry, it also brings to mind the work of his mentor, Louis Sullivan. Particulary his late-career Midwestern banks, aka “jewel boxes.”

The V.C. Morris Gift Shop has the distinction of being one of only seventeen Wright buildings that the AIA has deemed “essential for preservation” due to its contribution to American culture.

photo by Carol M. Highsmith