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Martin House, Roycroft are aglow far beyond WNY

The world beyond is taking notice of two major Western New York architectural projects.

On Saturday, the Heinz Architectural Center at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art will open "Frank Lloyd Wright: Renewing the Legacy," examining the restorations of Wright's century-old Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo and the architect's later H.C. Price Co. Office Tower and Apartments in Bartlesville, Okla.

The exhibition comes on the heels of "Back to the Future at Roycroft," a 10-page spread about efforts to restore East Aurora's Roycroft Campus -- a center of Arts and Crafts furniture-making at the turn of the last century -- in the fall issue of American Bungalow magazine.

In addition to displaying models and photographs of the two iconic Wright buildings, the Pittsburgh exhibit will call attention to associated projects by architects Toshiko Mori and Zaha Hadid, both recognized as "influential visionaries of contemporary architecture."

Mori's contribution to the $28 million Martin House restoration will be the visitors center, a glass-walled garden pavilion set just west of the main house off Jewett Parkway. The New York City-based architect's plan for an unobtrusive, deceptively spacious building set mostly below ground, topped by an inverted Prairie House-style roof, won a design competition that attracted several of the nation's best young architects.

The London-based Hadid, who last year won the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture, has been commissioned to design an Arts Center for the 1956 Price Tower, one of Wright's last realized works and a rare example of an organic high-rise. Her building will be situated like an inhabited earthwork with a glazed roof alongside the tower.

"Both architects have created buildings that are tailored to their site, that are inspired by the original Wright structure," says Raymund Ryan, Carnegie Museum curator of architecture, who organized the exhibition.

"Toshiko Mori is making a new building, a rectilinear glass box based on the dimensions of the Martin House. She is manipulating geometry, as is Zaha Hadid, who has created a horizontal building in contrast to the verticality of Wright's Price Tower."

"Renewing the Legacy" will include original drawings, furniture, film and photographs of both Wright designs, as well as original Martin House art glass, including the famed Tree of Life window.

Part of the Carnegie Museum exhibition, which will run through Jan. 15, was first presented at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 2003-04 as "Mori on Wright: Designs for Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Visitors' Center." That show was organized by Martin House Restoration Corp., the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and the Albright-Knox.

Mori, who heads a New York architectural firm and is chairwoman of the Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, will discuss her Martin House visitors pavilion during a free public lecture at 6 p.m. today in the Carnegie Museum theater.

A symposium at 10 a.m. Saturday in the theater will feature panelists including Jack Quinan, a UB professor of art history and author of "Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House: Architecture as Portrait."

The American Bungalow article, written by John Luke with color photographs by Alexander Vertikoff and vintage images from East Aurora collector Boice Lydell, details Roycroft Campus Corp.'s multimillion-dollar, multiyear plan to restore the complex at Main and Grove streets in East Aurora as a working community of artisans, much as it was under founder Elbert Hubbard in its heyday -- the first two decades of the 20th century.

The project got under way last spring with the purchase of the Blacksmith & Copper Shop, a 1902 building that will emerge fully restored in late 2006 -- the first step in a series of restorations "aimed at bringing what was once one of America's most vibrant Arts and Crafts venues back to life," Luke writes.

With the Arts and Crafts revival of the last quarter-century drawing throngs of visitors to auctions and shows, he continues, "many observers believe a revived and revitalized Roycroft in the historically rich Buffalo Niagara region could become a new year-round national center for Arts and Crafts education, exploration and celebration."

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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