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1                                   In the early twentieth century, the thrust in American architecture was toward a style rooted in the American landscape and based on American rather than European forms. Two architects who worked independently yet simultaneously at endorsing an American architecture were Mary Colter (1869–1958) and Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959). Both developed regional styles that paralleled the regionalism seen in the other visual arts. Colter created a uniquely Southwestern idiom incorporating desert landscapes with Native American arts; Wright and his followers in Chicago developed the Prairie style of domestic architecure that reflected the natural landscape of the Midwest.

2                                   Mary Colter’s hotels and national park buildings are rooted so masterfully in the history of the Southwest that they seem to be genuine pieces of that history. Her magnificent Watchtower, overlooking the Grand Canyon in Arizona, was built to suggest an ancient Native American ruin preserved for the delight of the present–day traveler.

3                                   Colter was a lifelong student of art history, natural history, and human civilization. Her well–rounded artistic talents empowered her to work historical references into buildings constructed with modern methods and materials. She preferred to use materials indigenous to the region, such as Kaibab limestone and yellow pine. She took great stock in materials and setting, gathering many of her materials on–site and incorporating them in their natural state into her projects. She treated building and site as integral halves of a single composition and merged them seamlessly. Her Lookout Studio, for example, appears to rise straight from the rim of the Grand Canyon because its layering of stonework matches the texture, pattern, and color of the canyon wall below it.

4                                   When Colter designed the Watchtower, she wanted the building to be a part of its environment while also enhancing the view of the surrounding desert and the canyon and river below. She decided to recreate a Native American watchtower because it would provide the necessary height while assuming the appearance of a prehistoric building. Colter was familiar with the architectural remains of ancient villages scattered about the Southwest and was especially fascinated by the stone towers—round, square, and oval monoliths. The ancient Round Tower at Mesa Verde became the direct inspiration for the form and proportions of the Watchtower. The Twin Towers ruin at Hovenweep, whose stone was closer to that available at the Grand Canyon, was the model for the Watchtower’s masonry. The Watchtower is perhaps the best example of Colter’s integration of history, architecture, and landscape in a unified work of art.

5                                   Like Mary Colter, Frank Lloyd Wright believed that architecture was an extension of the natural environment. Wright was appalled by much of what he saw in the industrialized world. He was not fond of cities, and although he designed office buildings and museums, his favorite commissions were for homes, usually in the country. Wright is associated with the Prairie style of residential architecture, whose emphasis on horizontal elements reflected the prairie landscapes of the Midwest. Most Prairie–style homes have one or two stories and are built of brick or timber covered with stucco. The eaves of the low–pitched roof extend well beyond the walls, enhancing the structure’s horizontality.

6                                   Wright’s own studio–residence in Wisconsin was completely integrated with the surrounding landscape. He nestled his house in the brow of a hill and gave it the name Taliesin, which means “shining brow” in Welsh. Every element of the design corresponded to the surounding landscape. The yellow stone came from a quarry a mile away, so Taliesin looked like the outcroppings on the local hills. The exterior wood was the color of gray tree trunks. The stucco walls above the stone had the same tawny color as the sandbanks in the river below.

7                                   Wright’s most famous house, Fallingwater, was built right over a waterfall in Pennsylvania. The house blends harmoniously with its surroundings, yet it departs from the Prairie philosophy of being a completely integrated extension of the natural landscape. Some features of the house are more like those of the simple, unadorned International style, particularly the interlocking geometry of the planes and the flat, textureless surface of the horizontal elements.

indigenous: originating or growing in an area; native

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