Celebrating FLW

Update: The FLW museum has closed its doors and Dilemma City has been redeveloped.

A new museum has opened – not without controversy – in Second Life. It’s on a subject dear to my heart: the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Located on is own sim – Dilemma City – the museum primarily consists of five reproductions of Lloyd Wright’s buildings, coupled with two museum facilities and a small retail area.

The museum is of particular interest to me as it contains two reproductions of FLW houses I really admire: the Robie House and the Kaufmann House – the latter being more popularly known as … Fallingwater!

FLW-1_001Take the LM / primary SURL to Dilemma City and you arrive at that Museum’s main entrance. This is an imposing building style after Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, containing exhibits relating to his life and works that visitors can wander through at their leisure. Fronting the ocean, this section of the museum is the most developed, with paved footpaths  that mix brickwork and water in a fashion beloved of FLW, a small marina / dock and footpaths that lead to the commercial sections of the sim – of which more anon.

In keeping with the FLW theme, the main building comprises two blocks linked by a central walkway. Behind this sits an open plaza-like space – again very redolent of FLW’s use of space within his builds – which abuts Wright Street. Here the visitor is transported back to the start of the century – the 20th century, that is – as across Wright Street sits the Robie House.

FLW-2Built in the Hyde Park neighbourhood of Chicago between 1908 and 1910, the Robie House is a fitting model to have in the museum, given it has now reached its centenary. Regarded as the finest example of his “prairie” style houses, the property took its name from its original owner – Frederick C. Robie – who was just 28 and the assistant manager of the Excelsior Supply Company based in Chicago, and owned by his father.

As was common with Wright’s designs, the commission not only encompassed the house and grounds – but also the fixtures and fittings, many of which weren’t installed until 1911, by which time Robie and his family had already moved in. Sadly, the Robies did not enjoy the fruits of FLW’s labours – the house was sold just fourteen months after they moved in.

FLW-5The reproduction at the FLW museum has been donated by Miltone Marquette, and is a beautiful model very faithful in looks and layout to the original. Just as FLW provided the interior furnishings for his Robie House, so has Miltone for this one. Each of the rooms has been finished in a decor matching that of the original and with furniture very similar to that of the original.

Walking through the house, the attention to detail amazed me – from the positioning of the furniture to match photographs taken inside the actual house, through to the careful reproduction of the distinctive glass designs used in the windows throughout the house. The other thing that struck me was that while some of the rooms were perhaps a little on the small side, the entire house was entirely “livable” for an avatar.

Behind the Robie house lay a number of smaller FLW properties – the Jacob’s Houses 1 and 2 and the Seth Peterson Cottage, with plenty of room for further builds to be added, or for builds to be rotated on display. But I have to admit, it was the Kaufmann House that drew my attention.

FLW-3To be honest, when I read Pathfinder’s piece on the museum, I was somewhat confused. The main picture showed what was clearly a terrace from the Fallingwater build by Lox Salomon and Ethos Erlinger. I’m particularly well-acquainted with this SL build, as it was a visit to it that persuaded me that a decent reproduction of the Kaufmann house could be made within SL – and that with tweaking, could be very avatar-livable. As the Salomon / Erlinger build is elsewhere within SL, however, I was confused at to why Pathfinder and the FLW museum’s principals were sitting on the terrace…

Well, the answer was simple: Salomon and Erlinger have donated a copy of their build to the museum! True, it is something of a bare bones version of the house compared to Erlinger’s and Salomon’s original, but it more that gives one a good feel for the actual house; and while the landscaping around it is not as extensive as I’d like (prims, prims, prims!), it does give a comfortable setting for the house.

Elsewhere on the sim is a combined gallery / “wine bar” / social centre called “Breeze”, and somewhat based on an FLW design. With a rooftop dance floor, this is clearly intended to host events held at the museum which in turn will hopefully increase traffic flow. Downstairs is an area that I understand will become a gift shop, as which is already selling a small selection of furniture items made by Frey Bravin, who has done much of the work necessary to make the museum possible.

FLW-4Abutting Breeze sits a small commercial area containing a number of shops. Both Breeze and these shops have been made the subject of controversy in the short time the sim has been open – as anyone reading the comments in Pathfinder’s blog entry will see.

For my part, while I can see some faults in the arrangement, I have to say the loudest criticism against it does smack of a clash of personalities than it does of any other issues, real or imagined. The person shouting the loudest clearly has issues with one of the store owners (who, it has to be admitted, is a major donor / builder involved in the project) – and it unfortunate to see what appears to be an genuine effort to celebrate FLW’s work subject to such ill-placed backbiting.

If one had to fault the museum at all, it would be that some of the signage is confusing (or missing altogether), and that the place would benefit from a little more landscaping (prims permitting)  – or from the inclusion of a sim-based Tp system to move those disinclined to walk / fly to the exhibited houses to Tp to them. But these are really minor issues. Overall, the museum represents what SL is really best at: showcasing good, resident-based activities and projects. It could benefit from perhaps being on a full sim – lag is very evident throughout, this being a homestead sim – but then, locating it on a full sim either massively increases the tier costs, thus reducing its potential longevity or (if the sim is shared) risks little in the way of performance benefits with a large reduction in the available land area.

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