#6. George Barton Residence (1903) / #7. Darwin D. Martin Residence (1904)

Buffalo, New York

Located in Buffalo, New York, the Darwin D. Martin Residential Complex is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s largest and most prominent prairie style home designed for his longtime friend and client Darwin D. Martin. It is a composition of three main homes and a pergola, a conservatory, and a horse stable. The three main structures include the Martin House, the Barton House, designed for Mrs. Martin’s sister and her husband, and the Gardener’s house, displaying the three economic classes in one large complex. It is now owned by the Martin House Restoration Corporation. Frank Lloyd Wright’s intent for the design was to unite the Martin family by reducing the number of separate rooms to a minimum and connecting spaces by implementing a cross axis to the plan. The entrance balcony continues that axis, and was an element that Frank Lloyd Wright had to fight for, despite its excessive cost. The balcony continues the central axis of the living space and library, and reinforces the idea of unity. As the epitome of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style houses, horizontality is expressed through materiality and form. The Roman brick is horizontally accentuated, with the horizontal mortars dug deep and vertical mortars flush to the brick. The two main spaces of the house are connected by an elongated pergola, leading to the conservatory.

Horizontality is accentuated by the concrete ledge on the top floor and bottom floor, and along the footing of its perimeters. What further emphasizes the horizontality is the low cantilevered hipped roofs which cast a deep shadow and gives a weighted appearance to the roof. The absence of a structural mass directly below give the heavy roofs the appearance of floating. On the porch, the roofs are supported by brick piers. In other instances of the house, rows of clerestory windows, rather than brick masonry, support the roofs. This imagery of the heavy floating roof structure is further induced by recessing back the structural brick corners, hiding the appearance of masonry support as well as providing privacy from the outside.

The elongated pergola connecting the main house to the conservatory is a fascinating space that blurs the line between interior and exterior space. The brick wall of the pergola comes up to about a meter and is met by a concrete ledge that extends throughout the perimeter of the house, emphasizing its overall horizontal language. The deep cantilevered roof of the pergola is supported by brick colonnades, met on each sides by the wooden lining at the ceiling, exaggerating a repetitive rhythm in the path. The roof is cantilevered far enough that the path can be treated as an interior space, excluding the need for gutters and other exterior treatment for the walkway. The anticipation from the house to the conservatory and back is induced by the strong perspectival view created by the square brick colonnades met by the wooden frames. At night, lights placed on the interior side of the colonnade accentuate the rhythm and the pergola becomes a warm, beautifully lit space. The combination of the brick, concrete, and wood; and the permeation of nature through the colonnades make the pergola a truly dynamic space that defines Frank Lloyd Wright’s idea of organic architecture.

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