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The David Wright House, an iconic design by Frank Lloyd Wright himself, will never be the same, that much is certain.
What will be missing is an occupant.
Our friend and colleague, Tim Gillis (gone now but of whom we miss daily), often used to talk to us about this house. He spoke of a recurring dream in which he was able to buy this home. In the midst of his sleep imaginings, he would take delight in the space: how if functioned, how it caught the breezes in Spring, how he would walk up the ramp to the front door, a sweeping view of Camelback Mountain to astound you, it’s visual beauty to carry with you as you enter this house like a special parcel. I very much liked the idea of Tim living there. He would have been an excellent caretaker.
Having recently sold to a development company, now begins a discussion on how to save this house. What manner of action protects it…keeps it intact? What potential lot line delineates the past from the future of this home? There’s enough momentum now that I feel that the prospects of saving this home on some level is good, but the integrity of the experience may very well be gone forever.
Because without an Owner to live in and experience the house daily; to sweep open the doors and windows to a spring of orange blossom, to enjoy a shaded respite between the pool and sun by gathering under the shelter of the ramp, the joy of stoking the hearth on a winter’s night, the glow of the mahogany, the wrap of the space, the gentle caress of the compressed entry, this goes unnoticed. All of this, may forever go unexperienced ever again.
So often there is the Devil’s choice of “progress” versus, preservation. Of what may be the greatest potential of a parcel of land, regardless of its past or history. We have always faced these decisions and they are made, every day, with outcomes that can be truly better and truly unfortunate. The concept phrase so often uttered to justify all manner of change is “Highest and Best Use”.
To me, the Highest and Best Use of this structure and the land it lay on is clearly as a Home. Unless someone steps forward soon that would accept the adventure of owning and living in such a stunningly beautiful space, this former home will, at very best, become a house. At best; a still icon that leaves much to our imagination, but with no one to share its secrets of living with. Possibly something in between carrying forward on a diminished site that changes the experience. At worst a memory.
You may recognize the transition of this home to house. Anyone that’s been to any number of cherished and beautiful homes, from Greene and Greene’s masterful Gamble House, to our locally beloved Carraro House, or the finest house ever, Fallingwater, will recognize the thrill of touring and enjoying these spaces if only for a few hours. It would be wonderful to think that such a home could be open to all, but this may preclude it ever again being occupied and called home.
And what of LIVING in it? How transcendent it would be to have experienced this first hand? Certainly, the vail is lifted and you get to experience the home, warts and all, but once locked into a transformed place we can only rely on stories and nostalgia to inform us of what it was like, not how it IS.
This House was vulnerable because someone forgot to consider it as Home. The last remnants of what was once a very large site just becoming a very tempting couple of lots. Why have we decided that in our community, if a home is built on two acres that it must be filled with structure? Have we forgotten the pure luxury of land? Are uncompromised views from a modest structure just not grand enough?
To live in this Home, as it is and where it sits, is an unbelievable opportunity for someone to define Luxury. It is an orchestra of design; a culmination of decades of experience and talent from not only the most celebrated Architect of our time, but a gift from a Father to a Son. To share this legacy with a loved one would be an unequalled experience. Would that this house be passed on to someone as a Home, I can see no higher use.
But if there is to be no sole persons for it, then is there not someone that would use this moment to say ” this home matters to us”; that they believe in maintaining a glimpse of the optimistic past we share here in Arizona, and in one grand and lasting gesture, secures the future of this house and the site to make it a home for all of us, resident and visitor alike, to walk the restored orange grove in the spring, to imagine the life lived there? This would not be unfitting. A gift of Home for all that enter.