Watch Inside The Home Frank Lloyd Wright Designed For His Son | Unique Spaces

[serene music] [birds chirping]

When your father’s the most

celebrated architect in America,

the greatest gift he can give you is a house.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this house

for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys

using many of the same ideas

that he was building into the Guggenheim Museum.

Spirals are fascinating forms,

they can symbolize the infinite or longevity.

David and Gladys Wright, they both lived

to be more than 100-years-old.

At the David and Gladys Wright House,

the spiral really takes on a unique sense of longevity

as it moves from one generation, father,

to the next generation, son,

and even today as it moves between father and daughter,

working on this restoration.

[soft idyllic music]

Located in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, Arizona,

this neighborhood was once filled with orange groves.

Today it’s a residential neighborhood.

It’s a special place.

It’s unlike anything else

that Frank Lloyd Wright did in the course of his career

and we’re so excited to show it to you.

The entry to this house really begins here,

at the bottom of a spiral ramp.

Wright began exploring spiral forms

along with all of the other elementary geometries

that were part of his body of work in the 1920s.

[idyllic music continues]

This is long before we came up with ways to curve glass

and curve woodwork in a way

that was structurally sustainable.

And so what we see is this combination of polygon forms,

triangular ends for the wood framework, for the windows,

and even for the roof, set above the circular surfaces

of the building itself.

It’s this interesting juxtaposition of forms

that’s really a signature

of Frank Lloyd Wright’s body of work.

This whole experience coming up the ramp,

it’s this little journey that Wright’s taking you on.

The movement through space is something

that Wright calls the continual becoming.

This idea that space is constantly

unfolding and revealing itself,

and you really see that as you climb up the ramp

and come up here to the entry.

Now that we’re at the top of the ramp,

we see this beautiful landscape.

We’re out in this bright sun

and Wright wants to create a juxtaposition,

so he’s gonna take us in under a low ceiling

and sort of a shaded, darkened space.

[soft idyllic music continues]

Wright has this technique that he calls

compression and release,

being enveloping darker space,

and then opening up into a lighter, brighter,

more expansive space.

This is very similar to taking a walk through nature

where you might be walking on a forest path,

nature’s embracing you,

and then suddenly you’re in a clearing

where you’re open to the sky,

there’s bright light all around you.

It is an emotional journey that we take.

Much of the work on this house,

the delineation, the renderings,

and the design of the rug

were done by a Wright apprentice from China named Ling Po.

Ling came over from China in the 1940s

and worked with Wright

and worked at the Foundation for many decades

after Wright died in 1959.

The furniture is made of plywood, really humble material,

but in the mid-century, Wright gravitated to this material.

If you look at the edge detail,

what you see are the different layers of the plywood,

and instead of covering that up like most people would,

Wright exposes it and celebrates it.

He wants you to see not only how the furniture is made,

but indeed that the wood itself,

like the cement blocks from which the house is constructed,

could actually be quite beautiful.

Even these tables themselves have this unusual feature,

a little hole down the center

for this beautiful circular globe.

So again, the circle, the sphere,

the sense of festivity is always part

of every element of design of this house.

This fireplace, a beautiful cylinder tapering in.

In fact, this is the continuity

from one of the piers below,

tapering upward, from the ground all the way up,

past the roof and into the chimney.

But a beautiful circular fireplace,

a beautiful fireplace grate

that again reflects the circles, patterns of this house.

There’s another important sense

of intergenerational continuity

that’s reflected in this house.

Frank Lloyd Wright designs this house for his son David

and David’s family.

Today, the current owners are Bing Hu,

who has brought his daughter, a newly minted architect,

into the restoration of this house.

I come to the US for the first time to study architecture,

and then a year later I went back to China, get my wife.

From there, our community,

also, my family grown, so we have our first daughter,

and then later on we have two more daughters.

It was only natural for me to want to study architecture.

As soon as I told my dad that,

I was expecting him to be so excited.

But he said, Don’t do architecture. It’s a hard life.

But of course as his daughter, I don’t listen to him.

So I did exactly the opposite of that

and I studied architecture.

When this property,

Dave Gladys Wright House come to my attention,

a spec builder bought the property from the family

with the intention to demolish the house

and create two spec houses.

So the first I learned that is like we got to rescue this.

My dad called me

and asked me if I would consider leaving my job

to come work with him

to restore the David and Gladys Wright House.

It means a lot for my parents to come as Chinese immigrants

and sort of be here preserving the legacy

of American architecture as well.

[soft serene music]

This ceiling is constructed of Philippine mahogany.

It’s a wood species that you can’t get today.

Unfortunately, because the roof leaked

into this room for many years,

this mahogany ceiling became stained,

and because you can’t get this wood anymore,

cleaning and removing that staining is a meticulous craft.

If any board gets destroyed,

you actually have to replace the whole ceiling,

and indeed all the wood in the house

because it’s all one species.

So one of the things that I love about this restoration

is the very careful attention to detail.

Because the house hasn’t been properly maintained,

especially in the most beautiful wood you can see.

If you see before, it was night and day difference.

When we started to dig, to uncover it,

there were like three or four layers

of spray foam insulation up there.

Anytime there was a big storm,

I think the owners were just like,

Go spray up another layer,

and hopefully it’ll do it this time.

Embarking on this journey, it kind of felt like we were able

to uncover history of the past that wasn’t written.

Beyond the look of the ceiling,

it also has a really interesting function.

Wright loved to connect interiors and exteriors.

We have a piano here in the room.

Wright loved the piano.

Everybody in his family was musical

and music was something that they gravitated to.

[birds chirping]

Well, how do you get your musical performances outdoors?

You create a ceiling that will reflect the sound

out through these doors

and down into the courtyard

where you might be gathering for a party

or just relaxing on a Sunday afternoon.

[serene music] [birds chirping]

Wright had learned about acoustics

in his first apprenticeship in Chicago

with Dankmar Adler, one of the great acousticians

in American architectural history,

and he brought that into his practice and used it everywhere

but seldom with such dramatic effect

as you see in this house.

We’ve already experienced compression and release

in the entryway into the living room,

and now we’re gonna go through another

somewhat compressed space, which is this hallway

that takes us from the central living space

to the primary bedroom of the house.

[soft enthralling music]

Another sense of release

after the compressed space of the hallway.

And once again, we have an emotional journey.

You also have this beautiful built-in banquette.

You’ll notice that there’s some storage underneath it.

No wasted space in a Frank Lloyd Wright House.

This is important, Wright often designs rooms

so that they have a different emotional impact

and a different sense of space

when you’re standing or when you’re sitting.

And when you sit in here, the views will be very different.

It may be hard to tell,

but we could actually start in one of those carports

and make a continuous spiral up the ramp, through the entry,

through the living room, down the hallway,

and into this bedroom

without ever breaking that continuous curve.

Let’s go see the other room

that people are always curious about,

what we would call the kitchen,

but what Frank Lloyd Wright called the workspace.

So we’re gonna take this journey back through the hallway.

Once again, we have the sense of surprise,

space is unfolding,

and even though we’ve been here before

and we know what’s expected,

it’s still the sense of seeing this room differently.

But as we come to the workspace,

I want you to first notice something special.

We have this cone that’s tapering.

How do you have a door?

Well, you cut the door to meet the building.

Again, this wonderful little gesture,

but Wright has thought of everything.

Wright doesn’t refer to these spaces as kitchens.

These are spaces where you do your work

to prepare for your guests.

It’s not like kitchens of today that become social spaces,

but truly a space that’s just designed for the work.

And in this case, also a little table for the family.

And a little trapezoidal trash can

that fits perfectly into that space.

It’s one of those features that just delights people

when they visit the house.

You also see this angled line,

this ramp that takes us to the roof.

He’s actually revealing the structure

of the building, in this space,

that there’s this continuity that’s provided.

Up here on the rooftop terrace,

we can really see Wright’s intention,

how he connects the building with the landscape.

Out to our southeast, we see the Papago Buttes.

And behind me in the other direction,

the head of the camel of Camelback Mountain.

By firmly centering this building

between these two landmarks that nature provided,

Wright gives us the sense of being part of this world

and not merely on it, but at one with it.

You’ll notice that we’re actually walking under the house

because the house is elevated.

[gentle music]

This courtyard is an outdoor room,

but it wasn’t just a room to gather in,

maybe have picnic in,

it also originally had a pool.

Also because the pool itself

being constructed out of concrete block,

slowly over time begins to disintegrate,

something that Wright didn’t anticipate

when he built the house.

So today we just have the memory of the pool reflected here.

When you stand in the middle of this courtyard

on this central paver,

you can hear sound reverberating

from all around you. [voice reverberates strongly]

It’s a space that will capture

what we hear from inside the house

to give you the sense that you’re not outdoors,

but really you’re just in another room of the house.

[soft idyllic music] [birds chirping]

David Wright worked for the Besser Manufacturing Company

and they made concrete block molds.

And so David insisted that his company’s molds

and concrete block be used for the construction

and design of this house.

And for Wright, concrete block wasn’t simply

an industrial material.

He saw it as elevated.

And this particular block, I think he really enjoyed.

And so you’ll see that at the end

of wherever there was a concrete slab,

he included this decorative block with the circular motif

and then this piece coming out of it.

It also shows something

that Wright really enjoyed about working with concrete,

which is called in architecture terms, plasticity,

meaning that it’s moldable.

[enthralling music]

You’d think that when your father is the architect,

building this house would be easy, but it wasn’t.

All the usual challenges between architect

and client showed up,

everything from budget

to not having the right foreman.

In fact, at one point David writes his father

and asks for some changes and says,

Dad, can the house be only 90% Frank Lloyd Wright,

and 10% David and Gladys Wright?

And Wright said, You’re making your poor old father tired,

but accommodated his son’s wishes.

At the end of the day, what we see in between them

is the exchange of gifts reflected in correspondence.

It is been a really interesting experience

and cherished experience too.

Working with my dad,

I feel like I’ve learned so much about him

and it’s explained just seeing him at work

and how he makes his decisions.

Even today I was thinking about,

I’m so annoyed that my dad is getting these window washers

to come the same day we’re filming this video.

And I realized he did that because it’s the desert.

So if we did this two days in advance,

they would’ve been completely covered in dust. [chuckles]

So little things like that have shown me

that my dad is really the smartest person I know.

I saw since I come here,

I really wanna work in the skyscrapers,

you know, in New York City,

you know, in Chicago, working for a big architect.

So after the years, I think that this is my destiny.

The plan for the future of this property,

I want it to become my architectural design studio.

I can open my door to let my client come.

So that’s kind of indirect way to welcome the public

to able to see this masterpiece.

I feel really lucky that

we have a place like this home to come back to

and that we’ll get to enjoy it for many generations to come.

[gentle piano music]

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