Living in New York City has enabled me to visit other historical cities on the East Coast, such as Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. While on my first trip to those cities I visited the most tourist attractions and the main monuments, on the second one I decided to look a little bit further and find out more about the architecture in the area. So that’s when I planned to visit two of Frank LLoyd Wright masterpieces on the East Coast.
Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House is situated on the Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia, 20 miles (32 km) South from Washington D.C., which is about half an hour drive. Frank LLoyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House was removed from the path of the highway Interstate 66 and relocated in 1964 on the grounds of the Woodlawn Plantation.
This Utsonian-Style House has an interesting story behind it, which as the owners wanted an affordable Frank Lloyd Wrigh house, thus they saw him on a magazine cover celebrating the famous Fallingwater. The owner was working at the time as a copy editor at the Washington Evening Star, earning $50 dollars a week, not enough to afford a Frank LLoyd Wright house. The price of the house was only $7.000, comparing to the pricy houses he would build at the time. As they could not afford that amount, nor the banks would give them the loan, in which the owner had to persuade his employer to lend him the money. It is known that during the construction many people would walk by to see the construction of the one story house.
Some of the innovative concepts used in the design of the house were the corner windows and the low cantilevered roof at the entry, which creates a space that could be used to protect the car from the weather, therefore not requiring a garage. One of the characteristics of the house is the horizontality, something common on Wright’s architecture. Its beauty resides on the relation with the nature, the presence of natural light, as well as the way the architect mastered the combination of the wood and brick, function and form, and the care of the details that are very characteristic in Wright’s architecture. Some of the details, such as the folding wardrobe doors are impressive for a house built in the 1940s. The open space or open floor plan is also common nowadays, but revolutionary during those times. The house came with the design of every single space and its furniture. Highlighting the bookshelves with the wood lamp, the fireplace, the dining area with a lower hight connecting with the exterior, especially the natural light and overall details that made it a passive house. We visited the house during Thanksgiving break, when the colorful landscape reflected inside and outside the house in a gorgeous way.
Beth Sholom Synagogue, is a completely different architecture of Frank LLoyd Wright, located 13 miles (20 km) North of Philadelphia. The Synagogue was finished years later, in 1959, just months after Wright’s death. It’s the only synagogue Wright built in his career. Before he engaged in a six year collaboration, Wright made it clear that he would not design a ” Jewish synagogue”, but ”an American synagogue”, as a temple for the Jews, who lived in America. Although, the exterior of the pyramidal building was often compared to a spaceship, the interior sanctuary stands out for its wide and luminous atmosphere that came through the pyramidal glass tower. Wright wanted the congregants to walk in and feel ”as if they were resting in the very hands of God”. There comes one of the main problems of a roof made of glass, which are the leaks, often found in Wright’s buildings. As well as in his other buildings, it’s common to see furniture designed and placed in purpose, such as flower pots, lamps, or different metal plates of the floor plan represented around the building.
Both buildings represent two completely different styles of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and can be found relatively close to New York City.