You win some. You lose some. That’s how the new owners of a 1952 historical Phoenix home built by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright might feel.
Businessman Jim Benson and architect Bing Hu were part of a buyers group that purchased the David and Gladys Wright House for $7.25 million in August. Hu apprenticed at Wright’s Taliesin West school for architects in nearby Scottsdale, Arizona. That probably gave him an appreciation for Wright’s work.
Unlike other investors of the past, this group sought to purchase the 2,500-square-foot concrete block home with the intention of preserving it. Other offers for years had come from developers seeking to tear it down and replace the home with other structures.
The whimsical-looking desert residence was designed by Wright for his own son David and wife Gladys. The couple lived in it until their deaths in 1997 and 2008, respectively. Family members sold the house in the Arcadia neighborhood under the shadow of Camelback Mountain after Gladys’ passing.
Wright often gave his buildings titles. He called this residence “How to Live in the Southwest.” Others call it the last residential masterpiece of his career. The structure is built not of angles and corners but in a spiral design. Its sweeping curved spaces make use of the region’s natural wind patterns to cool the home. The house stands on columns, giving it a view of citrus orchards and the surrounding desert. The living space is wrapped on the exterior by an entry ramp, which served as a precursor to the design of Wright’s famed spiral Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty company says the big sale went through after the buyer group promised it intended to preserve and restore the house—not tear it down for further development. But though the house is protected now from the wrecking ball, that’s where plans stalled. The group also hoped to expand the property with a garden pavilion and an underground museum. Those aspirations failed to be realized, partly due to opposition from surrounding residents.