December 6, 2023

All images here by David Romero

From the humblest home renovator to the most powerful skyscraper author, every architect shares the common experience that they don’t build their projects. This also applies to Frank Lloyd Wright himself: during his lifetime he created 1,171 architectural works, of which 660 remained unrealized. How these never-built Wright designs would fare in the physical realm has been a topic of great interest to generation of architects after generation of fans.

But one Wright aficionado has gone far beyond speculation and created faithful, photorealistic 3D renderings of these non-existent structures, some of which you can see at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation site.

Remarkably, the digital artist paying such careful homage to this most American of all architects hails from Spain. David Romero is the creator of the site Hooked on the Past, which is a showcase of his various architectural renderings.

“The project began in 2018 when the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation commissioned Romero to depict some of the architect’s most ambitious works for its quarterly magazine,” he writes Smithsonianis Molly Enking. “Each series of images corresponds to a different theme – such as designs related to cars. More recently, Romero has handled several unrealized Wright skyscraper projects for the foundation.”

Romero’s most ambitious undertaking to date has been the rendering of Broadacre City, Wright’s proposal for an entire urban-rural utopia previously featured here on Open Culture. “Broadacre took me over eight months to model,” says FLWF. “The virtual model contains more than a hundred buildings, from which all exterior facades, including doors and windows, are modeled. There are also one hundred ships, two hundred “aerotors”, 5,800 cars and more than 250,000 trees in the virtual model, each made of “hundreds of thousands of three-dimensional polygons”.

Although Wright left behind a fairly rich set of materials documenting his plans for Broadacre City, Romero had to draw on other sources to fill in the surrounding landscape (the Midwest, por supuesto) and create a properly “retro-futuristic” environment. “A reference that seemed particularly relevant to me was Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car,” he says, “a design that has points in common with Wright’s ideas.”

The almost fantastical Broadacre City would probably never have been built in history, but others would face serious challenges today: “At Trinity Chapel, for example, Wright designed beautiful access ramps with a single constant slope all the way. This design, perfectly valid in 1958, would not meet the requirements of the ADA code today, and the design would lose the elegance of its simplicity.”

Romero also brought to digital life a number of Wright’s other demolished or never-built projects, including the Thomas C. Leo House, the Arizona Capitol Building, the Lake Tahoe Summer Colony (with cabins that seemed to float in the water), the massive National Life Insurance Building, and the Universal Portland Cement Co. Pavilion Given the work that Romero and his collaborators (including several other enthusiasts with a keen eye for imprecise-looking details) had done, Frank Lloyd Wright would surely have recognized more than a few of his own visions in the results—and in the project itself, something of his own ambition.

via Smithsonian Magazine/Messy Nessy

Related Content:

Frank Lloyd Wright designs an urban utopia: See his hand-drawn sketches of Broadacre (1932)

A virtual tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s lost Japanese masterpiece, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo

Take 360° virtual tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces, Taliesin and Taliesin West

What Frank Lloyd Wright’s extraordinary windows tell us about his architectural genius

Build wooden models of Frank Lloyd Wright’s great buildings: Guggenheim, Unity Temple, Johnson Wax Headquarters and more

When Frank Lloyd Wright designed the doghouse, his smallest architectural creation (1956)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcastson cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books about cities, book The Stateless City: A Walking Tour of 21st Century Los Angeles and video series City in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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