Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home to be moved to Crystal Bridges

by The City Wire staff ( 72 views 

That a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home is art is not a revelation, but to move such a home almost 1,100 miles to be actual art on the Bentonville grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, well, that’s impressive. But it’s not a surprise considering that the museum’s financier was raised in a home designed by a student of Wright.

Officials with Crystal Bridges announced Wednesday (Jan. 15) the acquisition of “a rare Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house” that now sits in Somerset, N.J. Museum officials did not disclose the cost of buying the home or associated moving costs.

The home, known as the Bachman Wilson House, will be placed near the museum along its 3.5 miles of trails and 120 acres, with views overlooking the native woodland setting as well as Crystal Spring, the natural spring from which the museum takes its name. Plans are to begin site prep in the spring and have the house move completed by early 2015. (See video at the end of this story about the home and how it will be moved.)

”We’re honored to be able to preserve and share this significant example of American architecture, as Frank Lloyd Wright’s work embodies our own mission of celebrating art and nature,” Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow said in the statement. “The Usonian concept was intended to provide access to architectural quality for all families, which melds well with our philosophy of welcoming all to view American masterworks in our natural setting.”

Built in 1954 along the Millstone River, the house has received “significant damage” by repeated flooding. Experts have said the home needs to be relocated if it is to be saved.

Abraham Wilson and Gloria Bachman (husband and wife) commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954 to design their home. Gloria’s brother, Marvin Bachman, was an apprentice in the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin Fellowship.

The design, according to the Crystal Bridges statement, “reflects Wright’s Usonian period: a work of art in simplicity and form, representing organic design principles.”

Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, who are architects and designers, bought the home in 1988.

“The Tarantinos painstakingly restored the house, using original construction documents from the Frank Lloyd Wright archives. They have both preserved and restored historic elements, and realized original elements of the Wright design that had previously been altered or eliminated,” noted the Crystal Bridges press release.

Like most Wright-designed homes, the Bachman Wilson house uses natural materials and open spaces that allow the home to blend in with the adjacent geography.

“The Bachman Wilson House goes far beyond providing shelter. It’s an exercise in architecture for architecture’s sake that represents a culmination of principles Wright embraced and developed throughout his long, prolific career. Wright was in his mid-80s when he was working on this house, and he also wrote his book, The Natural House, a summation of his design philosophy, during the same time period,” said Lawrence Tarantino.

The sale of the house includes all the fixtures and furniture designed for it. The Tarantinos will supervised the “methodical process” of dismantling the home so it can be shipped to Arkansas.

Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport is donating its trucks and services to move the home components.

"We are honored to be a part of such a monumental effort to save one of America's truly iconic structures,” John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt Transport, said in the statement. “We are pleased the house will settle within our area's natural beauty and provide such valuable educational opportunities."

At Crystal Bridges, the house will be available for study as well as for limited programming and tours. Crystal Bridges’ educational and public program offerings include an architectural focus that will be enhanced through the addition of the Bachman Wilson House to Crystal Bridges’ grounds.

Tarantino said other locations were also considered other than Crystal Bridges.

“Once the decision was made to move the house, many opportunities presented themselves to us,” said Lawrence Tarantino. “It became clear that there could be no better opportunity for the preservation of this important work of Frank Lloyd Wright than to secure its future stewardship in perpetuity at a public institution with a mission of celebrating American art and architecture, on a site offering the proper setting, and with the capability of providing for its future maintenance and preservation, all of which Crystal Bridges offers.”

Also, museum staff will work with the University of Arkansas to develop programs through the university’s Fay Jones School of Architecture.

E. Fay Jones was just an architecture professor at the University of Arkansas when in 1958 he was asked by Helen and Sam Walton to build a 5,800-square-foot home near where Crystal Bridges is now located. The Walton’s, founders of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., saw that house destroyed in a 1972 fire. They had Jones, who was once a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, rebuild a larger home. Alice Walton, the daughter of Helen and Sam Walton, financed a majority – provided at least $317 million – of the Crystal Bridges museum.

“With the addition of the Bachman Wilson House to Crystal Bridges’ grounds, the master and the protégé will be coming together in our region,” Marlon Blackwell, department head and distinguished professor in the UA Fay Jones School of Architecture. “Not only is an endangered house finding a new home in the Ozarks, but the work of Wright and Jones will be further unified, offering insight into the principles that these two architects and kindred spirits practiced and shared.”

Crystal Bridges, one of the premier art museums in the U.S., opened on Nov. 11, 2011, and has had almost 1.2 million visitors. The facility has about 217,000 square foot of galleries, meeting space, libraries and other areas.