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Massaro House

Frank Lloyd Wright's posthumous work

The Massaro House long building, similar to a yacht, anchored off a rocky island in the Mahopac lake in upstate New York. Its silhouette is projected upon the water in long horizontal lines; concrete, glass, stone and copper blend surprisingly well with the surrounding natural landscape. This house, projected by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright over 50 years ago, was finally built in 2005.Is it fair to call it a Wright building? Should it have been built? Would Wright like the end result?


Joe Massaro bought Petra island on Lake Mahopac in 1991. His initial aim was to restore the guest house built on it, also designed by F.L. Wright. The original owner, A.K. Chahroudi had backed out of building the house that the famous architect had designed for him, the whole project being very expensive and daring for the time, not to mention technologically challenged. But those original plans would be realised 50 years after they were born.


Wright had only done a few pencil sketches before the project was shelved. So when Massaro decided to realize the architect's dream, he turned to F.L. Wright Foundation to get renderings of the original plans. The Foundation had back then a program called Legacy, to enable people to built un-realized Wright projects. Unfortunately they did not see eye-to-eye on this one and parted ways. After this turn of events, Massaro decided to hand over the project to Wright scholar and architect Thomas A. Heinz.


Heinz has written thirty books on Wright and has restored and rebuilt more than forty of his designs. No doubt he is the ideal architect to handle a project like this. Being technically challenged even at this age of computer software design and advanced building techniques, the original plans were realized almost intact. Huge thin roofs without supports across the living areas meant finding clever ways to build them with concrete on those rocks (now part of the house) as well as the massive triangular grid of skylights, done in a single pour, with a specially made concrete mix.


The cantilevered 78 foot long wing reaches out across the lake, soaring over a single column towards the water. The original plan included stairs reaching far down on the water surface but modern building regulations meant this feature had to be omitted. The result looks very much Wrightian but also has modern touches that make it unique.


The furniture inside the house are modern F.L. Wright original designs, while some of the outside ones were made from ancient mahogany trunks (see above). The bedrooms are typically small (below), like in all Wright's homes: he preferred having people live in their living rooms - pun intended.


It was, mostly, a variation from the concepts used in Usonian Houses and the famous Falling Water, with which it has remarkable similarities.

Regardless of the innate qualities of the house that has now been built and the valuable History lesson that this "time travel" gave, there are other important issues at hand here. The most evident one is the sense that building a project designed 55 years ago makes, in a totally different context. It's like, in a radical perspective, if we built, today, a Greek temple... That's the only way of understanding why, instead of being a ravishing and innovative work (as Wright's work was indubitably, in his time), the end result seems out-of-place.












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