House on the Mesa
As everyone should know by now, there are *no* official Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Colorado. When you inevitably see his name dropped by ill-informed Colorado real estate agents in their ads, feel confident that they are quite mistaken.
Wright did design two structures for Colorado, his unbuilt version of The Horseshoe Inn in Estes Park in 1908 and his 1932 entry into the the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the unbuilt House on the Mesa.
The House On the Mesa was a four-car luxury home made of steel, glass and concrete with a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. A long building, it extended 360 feet on a flat site of several acres. A concrete blockshell wall faced the major highway that ran past the property. The house featured a swimming pool covered with a cantilevered roof and an open lake with surrounding woods.
It is not likely there was ever a true location identified for this building in Denver or even in Golden where two large mesas separate the town from the rest of wider Denver. No location in the area fits all of Wright’s plans, orientations and descriptions.
The House on the Mesa was designed for a moderately wealthy American family of considerable culture — master, mistress and four children, cook and two maids, chauffeur and gardener.
Their architect intended to help them make something of machine-age luxury that would compare favorably in character and integrity with the luxury of the Greeks or Goths, within the limits of an expenditure of some $125,000. -Frank Lloyd Wright 1932
Wright’s inspiration of the wealthy American family of considerable culture comes from a visit in 1930 to give a speech at the Denver Art Musuem. He was invited to stay at the home of George Cranmer, who lived in a Italian Renaissance Revival villa designed by J.B. Benedict in 1917. The house still sits today in the Hilltop area on the edge of Cranmer Park with the mountains viewable to the west.
Robery Sweeney’s book Wright in Hollywood states “Wright explained later that he had used the Cranmers’ family and situation merely as an ideal American family … as an example to the country, when designing House on the Mesa; their set up seemed worth interpreting. He added that he had no idea whether they would at all like the interpretation.”
In 1935 George Cranmer became manager of Denver’s parks and recreation system and oversaw the construction of Red Rocks Ampitheater, the Valley Highway (now the Denver portion of I-25), the Boulder Turnpike, Winter Park and the purchase of the land for Stapleton Airport.
(Information and photos borrowed from SaveWright.org’s WrightChat using information from Robert Sweeney’s book Wright in Hollywood, [©1994 Architectural History Foundation/MIT Press] and Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer’s third volume of collected writings [Rizzoli, 1993, pp 126-30]).
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 at 8:43 am and is filed under Homes, International Style, Usonian. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.