Monday, November 16, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright in the Philly Region

Frank Lloyd Wright's best known Pennsylvania design is on the other side of the state, but one of his local designs is getting some new, much-deserved, attention.

Well after his prairie style period, Wright designed a glass pyramid-like synagogue for a congregation in Elkins Park, just north of Philadelphia.

Beth Sholom Synagogue celebrated the building's 50th anniversary this year by opening a new visitor center to help make the building more accessible to the public. Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron wrote about Sunday's opening reception here. If you can't wait to get to the visitor center, click here for a photo gallery of the synagogue.

With one quick Google search, I learned that Wright also designed a structure in Ardmore, a suburb west of Philadelphia. The Suntop Homes are a four-unit structure, built in 1939 as a prototype for affordable cluster housing. According to the Lower Merion Historical Society, the plan to build more units was interrupted by World War II.

The Suntop Homes are not open to the public, to the best of my knowledge, but Flickr user lavardera has posted some amazing interior photos. You'll see some obvious design similarities to Fallingwater, which was designed three years earlier.

Coincidentally, I recently read a novel called Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, about Wright's client-turned-mistress Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Though fictional, the book is based on historical research and is quite the page-turner. If you know nothing about Wright's personal life, I recommend it.

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