Tag Archives: Frank Lloyd Wright

ASU Gammage Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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More than 50 years ago, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright walked the Arizona State University campus in Tempe with then-ASU President Grady Gammage. At the time, Gammage was looking for a way to make ASU a cultural center for the Phoenix area. Wright, meanwhile, had recently designed an opera house for Iraq’s King Faisal II, but the king had been assassinated before the building could be constructed, and Wright was looking for a new use for the design.

At one point, Wright put down his cane and said he had found the place where he would build a building with outstretched arms that said, “Welcome to ASU.”

That building became Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, which begins its 50th-anniversary season this month. Neither Gammage nor Wright lived to see the building completed, but Colleen Jennings-Roggensack says both would be proud of how the building (since rebranded as ASU Gammage) has evolved.

“What’s happened in the last 50 years is exactly what they thought would happen,” says Jennings-Roggensack, who has been ASU Gammage’s executive director since 1991. “It’s become the leading cultural center in the Southwest and the leading Broadway touring house in the country.”

Interestingly, she adds, Wright once said that all of his buildings should fall down after 50 years. But thanks to Gammage’s continuing evolution, it’s remained relevant and become an important part of the identity of ASU and the Phoenix area. That’s even more remarkable when you consider that the venue receives no financial support from the university.

Jennings-Roggensack helped bring Broadway shows to Gammage; the first time The Phantom of the Opera came there, it sold out in seven minutes. That change required extensive renovations to the Gammage stage, as well as the addition of ramp systems and accessible seating for disabled patrons. A national study showed that Broadway shows at Gammage pump $50 million into the local economy each year, Jennings-Roggensack says.

Gammage has been a place for political theater, too: A 2004 presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry was held there. Before that, in 1998, 30 sitting U.S. senators and former first lady Nancy Reagan came to Gammage for the funeral of Arizona’s Sen. Barry Goldwater. And President Bill Clinton first gave his “Bridge to the Future” speech from one of Gammage’s trademark arms.

Jennings-Roggensack also includes a less famous event among her favorite Gammage moments. At a Camp Broadway event in the venue’s lobby, she met a young girl who told her that her grandfather, who also was attending the event, had been one of the building’s construction workers. “I went over and met him,” she says, “and he said that he was one of the workers, but he had never been inside Gammage. I took them into the house and had them sit down, and I had their granddaughter get up on stage. She sang The Star-Spangled Banner. And we cried.”

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, ASU Gammage is hosting three residency projects:

  • A developmental workshop on BASETRACK, a multimedia performance based on the real worlds of modern-day Marines and their families;
  • Another developmental workshop on Lemon Andersen’s ToasT, a new play about Willie Green, a.k.a. “Dolomite”; and
  • A residency by Aaron Landsman, an actor, writer and director who has performed around the world.

There’s plenty more to say about ASU Gammage, but it’s a venue that you really should experience for yourself. For information about upcoming shows and other events, call 480-965-3434 or visit www.asugammage.com.

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Filed under Et Cetera, History, News

PHX Art Museum Presents Frank Lloyd Wright Exhibit

Image courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

On the 75th anniversary of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, studio and architectural campus in Scottsdale, Phoenix Art Museum presents a major exhibition that offers a fresh perspective on the celebrated architect’s seven-decade career. Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century is the first exhibition to explore Wright and his relevance today through a survey of more than 40 projects, including his vision for the decentralized city, presented through rarely seen drawings, scale models, furniture, films and photographs. The exhibition will be on view starting December 18.

“This exhibition provides an exciting forum for which Wright’s work can be re-examined and applied to concerns of the day. The Museum is privileged to have the opportunity to partner with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Milwaukee Art Museum to bring this exhibition to the people of Arizona,” says James Ballinger, The Sybil Harrington Director, Phoenix Art Museum.

Image courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

The design of Arizona’s own Taliesin West exemplifies Wright’s architectural philosophy. The dramatic rugged landscape of the Sonoran Desert provided the inspiration for buildings that evolve and blend with the environment. Wright first came to Arizona in 1928 as a consultant for the Arizona Biltmore hotel. He returned the following year to work on another large resort commission, setting up camp near Chandler. This project fell victim to the financial collapse of the 1930s and it would be another seven years before Wright would return to the area to begin building a permanent residence, Taliesin West, 10 miles north of Scottsdale. Over the next 22, years he designed dozens of Arizona residential and commercial structures, some of which were never built, eight of which are still in use today.

To celebrate the state’s upcoming Centennial, a special focus of the exhibition will be a large model and drawings of a new Arizona State Capitol building proposed by Wright in 1957.

The exhibition will be on view in Phoenix Art Museum’s Steele Gallery and is included in general Museum admission.


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Filed under Centennial, In the Area, Things to Do, Vintage AZ

The Letters of Frank Lloyd Wright

Building the Pauson House:  The Letters of Frank Lloyd Wright and Rose Pauson

Alongside newly discovered site photographs and Frank Lloyd Wright’s original drawings, more than 50 previously unpublished letters between Wright (American, 1867–1959) and his client, artist Rose Pauson, chronicle the design and construction of one of the architect’s most creative houses—the Pauson House in Phoenix, Arizona. The letters reveal ongoing debates over bills andvdesign changes and the emotions behind these arguments, offering a rare candid glimpse behind the formal image of Frank Lloyd  Wright. No other book so fully reveals the architect’s personality and working methods through his correspondence with a client.

Edited and introduced by Allan Wright Green, the great-nephew of Rose Pauson, and with a foreword by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer,vdirector of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, the book is available through Pomegranate Press for $24.95: http://www.pomegranate.com

Pomegranate offers a wide range of art and architecture books, including C. F. A. Voysey: Architect, Designer, Individualist,vEdward Hopper’s New England, and Louis Sullivan: Creating a New American Architecture, all available in March 2011.


Filed under Et Cetera, Inside Scoop, Loco for Local