by Eric Jackson-Forsberg

When Frank Lloyd Wright inscribed a copy of his Autobiography to Darwin and Isabelle Martin of Buffalo, he characterized their role in supporting his career as an architect in characteristically dramatic terms: “To Darwin D. Martin and his wife—hero and heroine of this tale—with esteem, affection and gratitude from their architect – Frank Lloyd Wright.” But, aside from the definitive, Prairie-era commission of the Martin House Complex (1903-05), how did the unassuming Martins warrant such top billing in Wright’s self-styled biographical drama? Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture: From the Larkin Building to Broadacre City, coming to the University at Buffalo Anderson Gallery October 2 – December 30, will illustrate the depth and breadth of the Martins’ role in sustaining the work of America’s greatest 20th century architect.

Curated by Jack Quinan, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Visual Studies at UB and a leading Wright scholar, this exhibition opens in conjunction with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s meeting in Buffalo. The group is dedicated to saving Wright’s built work, and Quinan was a founding stakeholder. Through more than 130 objects including drawings, photographs, models and original Wright furnishings, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture will explore the rich story of the Martins’ patronage, from the Larkin Building—seminal to European modernism and Buffalo’s greatest architectural loss (and the logo for the Conservancy itself) to unsung, unbuilt projects such as the Rosenwald School for “Negro Children.” The exhibition will make the case that, while Wright’s best-known clients may be larger-than-life figures like Susan Lawrence Dana, Solomon Guggenheim or Edgar J. Kaufmann, his most important client might just be an obsessive, self-made accountant from Buffalo, NY.

The UB Anderson Gallery is open Wednesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 5 PM and Sunday, 1 – 5 PM. Admission is free. Visit www.ubartgalleries.org

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by Ed Healy

greatbatchpavilionFrank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House Complex truly comes into its own today as a tourist destination with the opening of architect Toshiko Mori’s brilliant Greatbatch Pavilion. This 8,000 square foot interpretive center will provide visitors to Wright’s Prairie Style masterpiece with museum quality exhibits, interactive touch screens, and a state-of-the-art orientation film that artfully and eloquently tell the story of Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin and the young man from Chicago who would go on to become the greatest architect of the 20th Century. For more information on Wright’s work in Buffalo click here. 


Toshiko Mori

But as impressive as the interpretive elements are, it is the unobstructed panorama of the massive Martin House Complex framed in a series of uninterrupted glass panels that will hold visitors’ awestruck attention. Toshiko Mori has succeeded in creating a sophisticated counterpoint to Wright’s masterpiece that is both deferential as well as dazzling in its own right. This wedding of innovative architecture separated by more than 100 years offers visitors an unparalleled architectural experience, one with few peers anywhere in the world. It’s really that special and sophisticated.

Standing in the magnificent glass pavilion, I was struck by the scope of the ambition that has always had a world-class visitor experience as its endgame. The Martin House – and Buffalo – have come a very long way in a relatively short period of time thanks to the dedication, vision and sheer force of will of the Martin House board, staff and volunteers. It is a truly impressive achievement.

While the final phase of the ongoing restoration of the Martin House interior remains to be completed, there is no need to wait to experience this true American treasure. In fact, the time has never been better. The Martin House is offering a special “Buy one, get one free” promotion from March 18 through March 31st. For more information on tours, click here.

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