By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
And, for real estate agents, Wright's houses are tough to move.
"There's an added value because it's a Wright home, but you've got to have someone who wants that and understands that," says Diane Bunting, a real estate agent who is handling three of the four Wright homes currently for sale in the Valley. "Most people who are looking to buy in this price range, well, they'd just be disappointed in these houses. They want more space, more square footage, more features. We don't even want to waste their time."
Wright's proclivities for small, almost cruise-liner-size bedrooms and the didactic sense of "framing views" with his windows are apparently not to everyone's taste. The Lykes house, for instance, which has been on the market for several years and had its price cut from $1 million to $625,000, has a spectacular view of the Valley which disappears whenever one sits down.
"Some people would like it better if the glass went all the way to the floor," Bunting says. "But you can see what Wright was doing. He focused your eye; he used his windows to draw you to different things."
Though the Lykes house has five bedrooms, only the master bedroom is much larger than closet-size. Similarly, the Benjamin Adelman house, on 30th Street--one of Wright's "Usonian" homes--was designed as an inexpensive winter retreat. It, too, has narrow hallways and small bedrooms, though it has been beautifully restored--and a second wing added to accommodate a full-size master bedroom, a study and walk-in closets. It's being offered for $1.3 million.
"The owner has $1.7 million in it, but we just told him that he was going to have to leave something on the table," Bunting says. "That's just the way it is in this market."
Another Wright house, the five-bedroom Price house on Tatum Boulevard, is priced at $1.9 million. Bunting fears that the owners may eventually decide to sell the house to a developer and that it will be razed.
"We've had to do some serious thinking about how to market these houses, and what we've come up with is that you don't market them as pieces of real estate," she says. "They're wonderful works of art, and that's how we should approach them. It's like buying a painting or a piece of sculpture. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the people who appreciate them can't afford them. But we'll just have to keep trying.
"It takes a special person to live in a Frank Lloyd Wright house."
Such special people, once found, are loath to criticize the master's designs, whatever discomforts they may suffer. Kathleen Hall has rented the Lykes house on North 36th Street for 17 months while it's on the market. She defends the master bedroom, which prospective buyers routinely criticize.
"A lot of people say, 'Too bad the windows don't come down lower so you can see the city from the bed,'" Hall says. "Who wants to see the city from bed? It would be inappropriate to be in the bed and have all the lights of the city coming in." Hall, who is a test away from becoming an architect herself, described the house as "not something that is abstractly graspable."
Equally slow to criticize Wright are Floyd and Nancy Patterson, who bought Winter Cottage, the Paradise Valley home Wright built for one of his daughters in 1954. "It's almost like it has a healing aspect to it," says Nancy Patterson of the structure.
"It's just kind of a strange thing the way he designed things, and the way the feeling is still there," says Floyd Patterson, a Flagstaff roofing contractor. "The house is kind of funny like that. You feel a presence."
The Pattersons bought Winter Cottage, one of Wright's humbler projects, for about $200,000 last October. They plan to use it as a winter home. The house has built-in bookcases, beds, couches, linen closets, hampers and dressing tables. "Really, to move in, we didn't have to purchase anything but mattresses," says Nancy Patterson.
She adds, however, that having a husband in construction makes it easier to own a Wright home. "It really needs a lot of attention, like the wiring and plumbing and all that kind of thing."
@body:Wright's structures are only part of his legacy. He also wrote copiously, documenting both his work and his peculiar turn of mind. He may not have originated the concept of "organic architecture"--the principle that a building should harmonize with, rather than overwhelm, its natural surroundings--but he became its most important proponent. He distrusted urbanization and strove to create an American architecture, a way of building for a big, open country. His influence is pervasive, if not always apparent.
Wright not only invented the carport, he coined the term. And every split-level ranch home owes something to Wright's early, terrain-hugging "prairie houses."
But even a cursory examination of his life and career turns up seemingly irreconcilable contradictions. For instance, though Wright insisted his buildings were "site-specific," there are dozens of examples of his shopping designs around to different clients in different areas of the country. The Guggenheim Museum in New York, for instance, bears an uncanny resemblance to a 1925 sketch Wright made for a drive-in planetarium. The blueprints for his Dallas Theater Center fit neatly over his plans for the Community Church in Kansas City.