Confirmed victory

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy is enormously gratified that the David and Gladys Wright House is now in the hands of a new owner intent on preservation rather than potential development. This benefactor who rescued the site through a December 20 purchase is now involved in careful planning for the house and its new educational mission. In the first half of 2013 a newly formed not-for-profit, working with the benefactor, will develop a vision for the house and the site, a comprehensive restoration plan and a more detailed use and operating plan. The Conservancy continues to be a part of these discussions. The owner has recently requested that the City of Phoenix postpone a landmark designation action until a longer term and more complete vision for the house can be presented. We understand and support this goal. Landmark designation under the Phoenix ordinance only results in a three-year stay of demolition. This property deserves long-term protection, such as a permanent easement, which we believe can be achieved by working with the new owner. The Conservancy will continue to assist the new owner and the City of Phoenix as these next steps are taken.

It took seven months of work to save the house. Planning for its future is likely to require significant time as well but the David and Gladys Wright House is launched on an exciting new path which includes the possibility that more people might be able to enjoy this unique building that has had a very private past.

Culminating six months of intensive work, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy can finally announce that this unique and important Wright house is safe! The Conservancy has facilitated the purchase of the David and Gladys Wright House through an LLC (Limited Liability Company) owned by an anonymous benefactor. The transaction closed on December 20 for an undisclosed price. The property will be transferred to an Arizona not-for-profit organization responsible for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the David Wright House. The threat of demolition is removed and the house has a bright future. This is a Holiday/New Year’s gift to all lovers of modern architecture! We continue to urge the city to approve landmark status for the building. Even though the building is not in danger it deserves this designation.

Thank you to everyone who supported this petition! More details on the Conservancy website.

A remarkable Frank Lloyd Wright house in Phoenix is under threat of demolition. Wright designed the house for his son David and it is unique among all his residential designs. Your support is needed to urge the City of Phoenix to approve historic preservation designation for the house thereby extending its temporary protection from demolition.

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most innovative, unusual and personal works of architecture. Built in 1950-52, it is the only residence by the world-famous architect that is based on the circular spiral plan of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, whose construction followed it by six years. When the house was first published in 1953, it was stated that no other Wright house since Fallingwater was as praiseworthy and remarkable. Since then its reputation has only increased and several architectural historians and architecture critics consider it to be among the 20 most significant Wright buildings. The spatial design, the processional movement through the patio and along the spiral ramp, the custom-designed concrete-block detailing, and the total interior design all give this house a spectacular expression especially appropriate to the desert environment.
                             -Neil Levine, architectural historian and Harvard professor

When it learned in May that the house had been purchased by developers who had indicated their intention to bulldoze the structure and build two “luxury homes,” the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy requested the City of Phoenix to grant historic preservation and landmark designation to the house. A number of local organizations, including the Arizona Preservation Foundation and the Phoenix chapter of the American Institute of Architects, as well as national organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Society of Architectural Historians endorsed the Conservancy’s appeal. In mid-June the city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to initiate consideration of a preservation designation, an action that triggers a delay in approval of a demolition permit. However, such a delay is only temporary.

For this reason the Conservancy and its preservation partners are mounting a campaign to find a suitable, preservation-minded buyer or buyers for the property and working to urge the Phoenix City Council to approve landmark and historic preservation designation for the house. Consideration of this designation by various commissions is scheduled now and through November when it will reach the City Council for a decision.

For almost 40 years no intact Wright building has been intentionally demolished. The Conservancy works every day to avoid deliberate destruction or demolition by neglect of Wright’s built work.

Wright is widely considered to be America’s greatest architect. In a remarkable career spanning over 70 years, he created over 1,100 designs, more that 500 of which were built. His buildings have been recognized internationally as among the most significant structures of the 20th century. He created a modern building aesthetic that powerfully affected the course of architecture around the world as well as in the United States, inspiring generations of architects. His body of work constitutes an irreplaceable cultural treasure. The general public often assumes that Wright’s buildings are protected legally or are untouchable due to the significance of his work in the development of modern architecture. Periodic threats to Wright buildings, such as the current one to the David and Gladys Wright House, demonstrate that is not the case.

Please make your voice heard and urge the City of Phoenix to approve landmark and historic preservation designation. Approval will ensure that no demolition will take place during a 12-36 month period (depending on what level of designation is approved) and allow time to develop a long-term solution to preserve this important piece of architecture.

Loss of the David Wright House would be tragic – an irreparable blow to architectural preservation and Wright’s legacy. Please join us by signing the petition today!

For more information visit the Conservancy’s website.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, a Chicago-based preservation organization founded over 20 years ago, works to preserve all of Wright’s built designs.

Letter to
I just signed the following petition.

Regarding David Wright House Historic Preservation Landmark Designation (Rezoning Application Z-24-12-6)

We respectfully urge the Mayor and City Council of the City of Phoenix to approve historic preservation designation and landmark status for the David and Gladys Wright House, 5212 E. Exeter. We believe the David and Gladys Wright House is a significant piece of architecture and an important part of the community’s cultural history, and therefore all possible steps should be taken by the City to preserve and protect it.