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Tag Archives: Toshiko Mori

An invitation to spend the night in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gardener’s Cottage (1909) was unexpected and irresistible.  (Thank you to the Martin House Restoration Corp.) Before going to sleep I caught the reflection of a Tiffany lamp in a portrait of Wright that hangs in the cottage bedroom.    The sweet two-storey cottage is set within the Darwin Martin House complex, one of Wright’s residential masterpieces that spreads some serious presence in a Buffalo neighbourhood.

Wright was intrigued by the absence of light and shadowy interiors.  But the two-storey cottage is filled with light pouring in from generous wood-framed windows that line the walls of the bedroom and the living room.  Wright’s Barrel chairs, designed specifically for the Martin House, super comfortable.  The couch not so much. The bed fantastic.

Wright specified miles of rift cut white oak and Roman brick for the main Martin House. But, for the nearby Gardener’s Cottage, materials were simplified: wainscoting in cypress and broad brush stucco. Sage green…because Wright advocated going to the woods and the fields for colour schemes.

 Morning time view from the Gardeners’ Cottage, across the terra cotta rooftop, to the Greatbatch Pavilion, a visitor centre, intelligently designed as a piece of luminous architecture by American architect Toshiko Mori.  Mori was intrigued by the sheltering eaves of the prairie-style architecture, and inverted Wright’s low-slung hip roof  for the visitor centre so that the interior ceiling dips down toward the exhibition space.

Gardener’s Cottage set between the visitor centre and adjoining clapboard homes belonging to the leafy Parkside Historic District neighbourhood.

Class difference: this is not the Gardener’s Cottage, but the reception room of the main Martin House.  The sunburst fireplace with bronze gilding in the mortar joints between the bricks was intended to warm the heart, though the Martin House fell into ruin after the Depression and is only now undergoing a massive and impressive restoration.  If you’ve been to Wright’s Fallingwater, seek out the Martin complex next.

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Easter weekend, 2012.  The hunt begins.

In search of something unexpected but nearby, we took a road trip to the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, NYC.  Where a colony of artists, writers, ironsmiths and furniture designers came together to reject convention and all of the design wisdom borrowed from European castles and churches.  Think of Andy Warhol’s Factory if it was a century ago.

Before becoming the intellectual leader of the Roycrofters movement, Elbert Hubbard was in marketing at the Larkin Soap Factory, the company that produced several millionaire executives who commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design iconic houses for them.    The Roycroft Inn and Colony, awarded National Historic Landmark status in 1986, might well have inspired Taliesin West. From East Aurora we went in search of Frank Lloyd Wright…

At the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, in a genteel neighbourhood designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the house is part showstopper, part serious institution, pulled down on its acreage like a low slung Japanese hat.  All piers and deep overhangs, a series of horizontal walls of roman brick; it’s impossible to tell where the bedrooms might be so abstract is its composition.  Exacting renovations and rebuilding of a complex fallen post-Depression into ruin are impressive.  And worth hunting down.


Next to the Darwin House is the Visitor Center Pavilion by New York architect Toshiko Mori, all light and reflecting surfaces, distinguishing itself from Frank Lloyd Wright’s earthy palette rather than risking the battle.

Back home in time for the Easter hunt.  Chocolate ‘buffalo’ wings to go.  May yours bring you many unimaginable surprises.