Q: Who owns the David and Gladys Wright House?
A: David Wright House LLC holds title to the property and three adjacent parcels. My family is in the process of consolidating those parcels into one. We will transfer ownership of the house and grounds to the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation, an Arizona nonprofit organization, to ensure the preservation of the house in perpetuity and to provide public access to the site for educational programs and cultural events.
When my family originally purchased the David and Gladys Wright House in 2012 from a developer who wanted to tear it down, we anticipated that we could complete the restoration of the home and garden and anonymously gift the property to a nonprofit. The nonprofit would then be responsible for maintaining and operating the house and grounds as a house museum. It was always our intention that our family name would not be associated with the David and Gladys Wright House, which is why we purchased it through an LLC. David and Gladys lived in the house from 1952 until David’s death in 1997 at age 102 and Gladys’ death in 2008 at age 104. They carved out a portion of their original 10-acre estate for their son, David, Jr., who built a Lloyd Wright designed home and raised his daughters on the property. This is a Wright family property, and it is the Wright family legacy that we want to celebrate.
Q: What are the next steps to ensure the home is preserved and gifted to the community?
A: We are in the beginning stages of a zoning application process for a Special Permit to open the house to the public for tours, educational programs, cultural events, art and sculpture exhibitions, and to have a museum café and bookstore. Two conditions of our proposed Special Permit that we will voluntarily agree to are:
• Title to the property will be transferred to the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation, which will be dedicated to preserving and maintaining the house in perpetuity for educational and cultural uses.
• A perpetual conservation easement on the home so it is never again threatened with demolition.
The Foundation’s architects and engineers anticipate completing restoration construction drawings by the end of April 2015, to submit to the City of Phoenix for a building permit to start restoration of the house. We will provide those plans to the City’s Preservation Office for its review prior to filing a permit set of drawings with the City’s Building Department. The architect for the restoration is Organic Architecture, Inc. Its principal is Guy West. Also consulting on the project is Wallace Cunningham, a globally recognized designer who studied at Taliesin in the 1970s. The engineer for the restoration is ARUP, the firm that designed the structure for the Sydney Opera House, among many other recognizable buildings.
We hope that restoration work will begin this summer and anticipate that it will take approximately three years to complete. The goals of the restoration are to reinforce the structure to ensure that the building survives indefinitely and to restore all of the finish materials to their original 1952 condition. We will have an architect on site at all times to make sure that all preservation protocols are adhered to during the restoration construction.
Q: What is the nature of the Foundation?
A: The mission of the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation, an Arizona non-profit organization, is to:
Preserve Frank Lloyd Wright’s last residential masterpiece built in 1952 for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys on 10 acres of citrus groves, now 5.6 acres, at the base of Camelback Mountain; to
Celebrate the artistic legacy of Mr. Wright, the Wright Family and the history and culture of mid-century America through tours, lectures, cultural events and performances, and educational programs; and to
Inspire future generations of artists and architects through field trips, educational programs and internships.
Q: How will the Foundation use the revenues from the museum and tours?
A: All of the revenues generated on this property will be reinvested in the maintenance of the David and Gladys Wright House and gardens and in the development of educational and cultural programs at the property for the benefit of the community. My family will never profit financially from the activities of the Foundation.
Q: Will there be live performances on the property?
A: Yes. Almost every house Wright designed has a piano in the living room because he viewed music as integral to architecture. Wright’s own homes, the Oak Park Home and Studio, Taliesin and Taliesin West, all have theatres for live music and performances. The Guggenheim Museum has a theatre in the round located under the main atrium. When Wright started the Taliesin Fellowship as an art school with his wife, Olgivanna, in the early 1930s, music, dance and theater were integrated into the curriculum for architects along with visual arts, drafting, and sculpture. Wright viewed beauty as universal and all of the art forms as mutually reinforcing. We would not do the Wright legacy justice if we did not fill the David and Gladys Wright House with music, host performances and dance on the property. All of the arts are integral to Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture.
Q: What will be the nature of the performances?
A: They will be similar to those performed by Taliesin fellows and performed at Taliesin over the course of its history. We envision hosting performances of all of the traditional European art forms, symphonies, string quartets, piano recitals, ballet, opera, etc., but also celebrating Wright’s love of American culture from Native American music and dance to twentieth century jazz, etc. Wright’s interests encompassed the history of the world, and his architecture drew inspiration from cultures as diverse as ancient Mesopotamia, medieval Japan and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. We plan to celebrate multiculturalism with performances from across world cultures, both traditional and contemporary.
We believe we can host concerts and performances in a beautiful, intimate setting either in the house and courtyard, or at a garden pavilion that we are planning north of the guest house without disruption to the Arcadia neighborhood.
Q: What are your plans for a garden pavilion?
A: The garden pavilion will be designed, contoured, and surrounded by multiple rows of mature trees and sound berms so that noise generated will be insulated from the neighboring properties as well as from the David and Gladys Wright House itself.
Our goal is for guests to feel as though they have entered a separate world when they step onto the Wright property and for neighbors never to see or to hear any activity at the David and Gladys Wright House unless they have chosen to attend an event. With sound engineering by ARUP, and a combination of sound berms and mature landscaping at the perimeter of the approximately 5.6 acre garden, no sound above 55 decibels (equivalent to office conversation) should leave the property.
We will commit to a 55 decibel level at all of the property boundaries as a condition of the Special Permit, and monitor those sound levels emanating from the Wright property. If events fail to comply, the Foundation will agree not to host those types of events again.
Q: Where is the public entrance?
A: The only public entry to the David and Gladys Wright House will be off Camelback Road. The property has a parking agreement with the Camelback Church of Christ located at 5225 East Camelback Road. There will be no public access from Exeter or Rubicon. The driveway on Exeter is for historical accuracy and will never be used by the general public for parking.
Q: How will you ensure that traffic stays off neighborhood streets?
A: The Special Permit application will ask for signage rights on Camelback Road at the northwest corner of the Church property. The south lot of the Church provides a direct connection to the David and Gladys Wright House public entry gate. A solid wall will be built on the Exeter frontage and on the Rubicon frontage. There will be limited lines of sight to the house from both streets, so there should be no reason for visitors to drive into the neighborhood.
There will be no public entrances on Rubicon or Exeter. There will be limited service traffic for deliveries or the occasional maintenance vehicle on Rubicon at the far north of the property. All construction traffic will enter and exit from the north Rubicon entrance.
Q: What other steps would you take to accommodate neighborhood concerns?
A: There will be an agreed upon sound decibel level at every property line, which will be no more than a conversational tone – less than what anyone would hear from a lawn mower on a neighbor’s property currently.
There will be limited hours of operation. There will be site occupancy limits and a cap on the number of visitors for special events or performances.
Lastly, a mechanism that has given neighbors some comfort is the ability to have a one-year review process of the Special Permit. After a year of operation, the Foundation would ask the City Council to revisit the Special Permit case with neighborhood comments and concerns. The City Council would have the authority to make amendments to the Special Permit.
Aside from that, the Foundation Board will be listening to neighborhood concerns and finding solutions to those concerns. I am an Arcadia resident, and I am committed to making the David and Gladys Wright House a celebration and enhancement of the area. The David and Gladys Wright House is one of the earliest homes built in Arcadia. I am confident that we can share it with the public in a way that is both invisible and inaudible to any neighbor of the property.
Q: Much has been done to create the lush green lawns on the property. What is the long-term landscaping plan?
A: Our goal is to showcase the house as Frank Lloyd Wright intended it to be seen, surrounded by the historic citrus groves, and to maintain lawn surrounding the building so that visitors can comfortably enjoy events there.
The intention of the home’s courtyard was to create a paradise garden complete with swimming pool and a three-plumed fountain. Wright references desert cultures from around the world in the design of the David and Gladys Wright House including the paradise gardens of ancient Persia and Arabia. The garden will have the elements of those historic precedents, the water, the lawn and the citrus groves. This was Wright’s vision of an Eden in the desert. The historic lawn in the courtyard has been expanded to the area around the house to allow visitors of all ages to walk and play in the grass and to enjoy the view of Camelback Mountain.
Q: How do you plan to restore the citrus grove that was on the historic property?
A: Healthy citrus trees will be planted to the east, north and southeast of the home. The current site plan calls for planting more than 200 orange trees.
Q: What is the educational vision of the property?
A: Central to the mission of the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation is opening the property to school children for field trips, educational programming and arts and cultural events. Our goal is to create educational opportunities from preschool through post-graduate.
For younger children, visiting the home sparks their imaginations. They often describe the house as a castle or a dragon. Some children begin to build spontaneously if blocks are available in the house or to color Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass window patterns with crayons available at a children’s table in the living room. Others throw open the doors to the courtyard balcony and begin performing. Fundamentally, this is a joyful house. It is a celebration of love and family. Children respond to it immediately.
For older children, we plan to supplement those experiences with more formal curriculum that will be developed in conjunction with teachers and professional educators. The entire history of the Southwest can be told from this home. The citrus groves will be flood irrigated, watered by a canal system that dates back more than 1,000 years to the first Native American inhabitants of this area. This history extends through the post-WWII movement when the suburbs and the American West began exploding in population. The history of architecture can be told from this one building. Mr. Wright incorporated references from cultures around the world and throughout time in his design.
Q: Will you have weddings on the property?
A: Yes. Weddings are not intended to be the primary, or even the secondary, use of the property, and we have agreed to limit the number of weddings to twelve in a calendar year. Further limitations on the times and sizes of weddings can be included as a condition of the Special Permit. Arcadia neighbors have made numerous requests to host weddings at the David and Gladys Wright House. Hosting weddings on a limited basis is part of the Foundation’s commitment to the community.
Wright’s legacy is about the beauty of his art and architecture, the Wright family that survives him, and the global community of artists and architects who are part of the Taliesin Fellowship. Weddings are not contrary to a celebration of the Wright legacy. In fact, they are a wonderful example of the celebration of family and community.
Q: Why do you have a passion for this?
A: Architecture has been a lifelong love. This property, more than any other place in Phoenix, is what embodies the sense of home to me. It has the framed view of Camelback Mountain. It has the flood irrigated citrus groves that I remember growing up. It has the proximity to the canal where I walked with my father every night. This is the best of Phoenix. It is one of the best residences of Wright’s career. It is a statement about what it meant to be an American in this post-war moment in time. Frank Lloyd Wright was our greatest architect, possibly our country’s most influential artist in any medium, announcing to the world what life as an American could and should be like in the 1950s. It is a creation that still has the power to move people and to inspire optimism in the promise of the future.
Q: Did you grow up in Phoenix?
A: Yes. I was born at Scottsdale Memorial (Osborn) Hospital. My family moved to 36th Street and Medlock, which is about a mile-and-a-half down the street, when I was six months old. I graduated from All Saints’ in 1996 and Brophy in 2000 and lived in that house on Medlock until I moved away for college. We lived two blocks from the canal, so my childhood bike rides were on the canal with my Mom traveling between the David and Gladys Wright House to the east and the Arizona Biltmore to the west. In high school, I walked the canal behind my house every night that my father was in town, so this part of Phoenix is very much home to me. Ultimately, the David and Gladys Wright House is an expression of the love of a father and son. It is a story that I hope resonates with everyone. For me, the house is a reminder of the love of my parents, my childhood and the memory of my father. It feels like home, and that is what I love about the place.
Q: Why are you called a Las Vegas real estate lawyer?
A: I do not know. I never practiced law in Nevada. I went to college at the University of Virginia and studied economics with the intention of going to law school. I studied law at UCLA in Los Angeles and wanted to work for a federal judge after graduation. I applied for judicial clerkships in about 20 states and was very honored to be able to accept and serve as a clerk on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I moved to Las Vegas for that clerkship, planning to remain only for the year and then to move back to Los Angeles to practice law. My father died in the final month of my clerkship. I paused to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life. I had always loved architecture and design, and after some time off I decided to start a small custom home building company with a friend from college. We were in business in Las Vegas for several years building custom homes before I moved back to Phoenix to work on the David and Gladys Wright House. I am a full-time Arcadia resident.
Zach Rawling, President
David and Gladys Wright House Foundation