BARTLESVILLE, OK – Described by its creator as “The Tree that Escaped the Crowded Forest,” the Price Tower (click link for a selection of images from Flickr) was visionary in its time - and remains relevant today - as Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper.
First imagined in the 1920s for a New York site, St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie, then redesigned and built on the Oklahoma prairie for the H. C. Price Company, the Price Tower realized one of Wright’s cherished ideals: integrating office, commercial and residential space within a tall, richly decorative structure whose cantilevered floors “broke the box” of conventional construction. Since completion in early 1956, the Price Tower has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, praised by architect Tadao Ando as “one of the most important buildings of the 20th century” and transformed into the home of Price Tower Arts Center as the centerpiece of the museum’s permanent collection.
Now, to mark the building’s 50th anniversary, the Arts Center will present a major exhibition, Prairie Skyscraper: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower. With an installation designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, the exhibition will be on view at the Arts Center from October 14, 2005 to January 15, 2006, followed by a two-city tour. (emphasis added - JLT)
photograph by Christian M. Korab
Organized by Price Tower Arts Center, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in cooperation with The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona, Prairie Skyscraper presents for the first time a comprehensive selection of the Arts Center’s collection of historic artworks and objects relating to the Price Tower, including never-before-exhibited Wright documents and drawings from its own holdings and from those of the Wright Foundation’s archives. On view will be approximately 108 drawings, models, photographs, documents, building components (such as exterior copper panels and louvers) and furnishings. The latter objects include desks, chairs, tables and textiles designed for the Price Tower by Frank Lloyd Wright, in keeping with his conception of the building as an integrated work of art.
“Prairie Skyscraper documents how this singular building came into existence and demonstrates how it epitomizes Frank Lloyd Wright’s lifelong passion for merging architecture, design and art,” notes Richard P. Townsend, Executive Director and CEO of Price Tower Arts Center. “At the Arts Center, we aspire to follow Wright’s example in exploring the intersection of these disciplines - a mission we pursue through collections, public programs and special exhibitions such as Prairie Skyscraper.”
Visitors who see the touring exhibition at its point of origin, in Bartlesville, will be able to enjoy the interplay between Wright’s designs and the installation by Zaha Hadid. Internationally renowned not only for her buildings but also for her stage sets and exhibition designs - including The Great Utopia (1992) at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York - she is celebrating her ongoing relationship with Price Tower Arts Center by contributing her installation to Prairie Skyscraper. In 2002, she was selected to design a new museum facility for the Arts Center, to be built immediately next to Price Tower.
According to Richard Townsend, “Zaha’s installation design combines the past, present and future in a beautiful conversation that amply speaks to the influence that Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Price Tower, has had on modern and contemporary architecture and design.”
Visitors to Bartlesville will also have the advantage of being able to tour both the exhibition and the building’s historic Frank Lloyd Wright interiors, which have been preserved by the Arts Center with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. A highlight of these permanent installations is a new space on the fifth floor of the Price Tower, in which museumgoers will see, for the first time in decades, an example of the decor that Wright designed for the commercial offices in the building.
After being shown at Price Tower Arts Center, Prairie Skyscraper will travel to institutions in two cities - the School of Architecture Gallery at Yale University in New Haven, CT (February 13 - May 5, 2006) and the National Building Museum in Washington, DC (June 17 - September 17, 2006) - bringing its wealth of insights and materials to viewers throughout the anniversary year.
As a further educational effort within Oklahoma, the Arts Center is circulating a free traveling exhibition for younger audiences, Building It Wright!, documenting the construction of the Price Tower through period photographs and texts in English and Spanish, supported by the American Architectural Foundation, Washington, DC.
Accompanying the exhibition will be an illustrated catalogue, published by Rizzoli International Publications and edited by exhibition guest curator Anthony Alofsin, a noted scholar of Frank Lloyd Wright and Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas. The large-format, 176-page book, with 150 color illustrations, features a chronology and catalogue entries by Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Price Tower Arts Center, and major essays by Alofsin; Hilary Ballon, Chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University; Joseph M. Siry, Professor of Art and Art History, Wesleyan University; and Pat Kirkham, Professor at the Bard Center for the Decorative Arts, New York.
Among the public programs associated with the exhibition are a day-long symposium on October 15, 2005, featuring speakers including Anthony Alofsin, Joseph Siry, Hilary Ballon, and Pat Kirkham and Scott Perkins. Other public programs include a lecture on November 13 by Luis Carranza, speaking on “Uncontaminated Truth: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mexico and the Primitive Modern,” and on December 4 by Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, speaking on “The Tower Rises: Price Tower’s History.”