March 15, 2019

Preservation Personals: Frank Lloyd Wright's Proto-Guggenheim

  • By: Emma Sarappo
The exterior of the David Wright house and its guest house.

photo by: Bob Hassett

Phoenix, Arizona 85018.

When he began working on me, Frank Lloyd Wright labeled his plans “How to Live in the Southwest.” Considering that his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Gladys, lived here from my completion in 1952 until their deaths—Gladys in 2008, at age 104—I think I've found the answer.

My concrete block sits gracefully below Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. If the gentle spiral ramps that lead to my entrance and my tower remind you of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, then you have a good eye.

I was a precursor to that project and one of three “rounded style” buildings Wright worked on at the end of his career. My unique design’s job is to better connect you with the surrounding landscape. For example, the semicircular arrays of windows offer a panorama of the mountain just outside, and the best view is in my third bedroom, where the roof was specifically designed not to block it.

I am, truly, a family home. David and Gladys lived private lives, tucked away from the contemporary houses in the neighborhood, and I was nearly forgotten until a developer wanted to demolish me in 2012. Previous attempts to make me into an architecture lab associated with another Wright building in Arizona, Taliesin West, provoked resistance from the neighbors. Now, my nearly 2,600 square feet of living space—and my 360-square-foot guest house—are waiting for new occupants. You’ll have a few repairs to make, but you’ll get a replica of the rug Wright designed for the space, a dining set, and the warm desert breeze through my elevated main floor.

If you want your next home to be a classic work of art, see my listing here. If you’re looking for something a bit more conventional, browse our other historic real estate listings.

The interior of the David Wright house.

photo by: Bob Hassett

Wright designed the carpet, "March Balloons," to complement my space.

The interior of the David Wright house.

photo by: Bob Hassett

David and Gladys Wright reportedly called me their "Taj Mahal."

Emma Sarappo is a former Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She can be found writing or in the kitchen of her century-old DC rowhouse.

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