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Thursday, 16 April 2015 21:57cat

Dispute Over Frank Lloyd Wright Design in Great Britain

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Dispute Over Frank Lloyd Wright Design in Great Britain Dylan Thomas for The Wall Street Journal

While on a 2004 business trip to Phoenix, Arizona, British electrical engineer Hugh Pratt visited the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. As a lifelong admirer of Wright and a fan of midcentury modern architecture he asked the foundation if he might build an unrealized design for himself and his wife. The foundation affirmed his desire on the condition that Stephen Nemtin, a legacy fellow at the foundation, draw up the detailed plans. Pratt then purchased a 12-acre site in Wraxall, a small Somerset village 130 miles west of London, and the foundation agreed that the 1947 design that was intended for Santa Barbara, California, could be transplanted to the UK.

Containing a curved central section and a circular stonewalled kitchen, the single-story home has two wings with space for two studies, three guest rooms, and a playroom for the couple’s eight grandchildren. The living room has huge windows and the master bedroom is cantilevered over a small river that runs across the site.

Mr. Pratt applied for building permits in September of 2013 – this was the start of the controversy he suspected might occur. “There are some people who, if presented with a Picasso, would not take it seriously, would say: ‘My kids could do that,’” he said. “It’s the same with the house.”

In December of the same year the council refused to grant permits for the house. The proposed site is within Britain’s Green Belt – open land protected against development to prevent urban sprawl. It is possible to build on the Green Belt, but only if the design is shown to be “innovative” and “exceptional”. This is not the case according to councilor Bob Cook. “To me it looks like a concrete bunker, never mind who designed it,” he said.

So far, neither the local council nor a national planning inspector brought in to adjudicate has been convinced the design exhibits the qualities to warrant an exception. “I am actually hugely embarrassed,” said Mr. Pratt. “It is like us trying to export Nelson’s Column to America and them slighting it.”


Source: Wall Street Journal

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