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An American Treasure In Buffalo

A look at two landmarks in the city's architectural history.

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The announcement that Rem Koolhaas’s firm, OMA, will design the upcoming Albright-Knox Art Gallery expansion (its first museum commission in the U.S.) marks a new milestone in Buffalo’s remarkable architectural history. Elsewhere in the city, the $50 million restoration of a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is currently nearing completion, 20 years after it began—and just in time for the 150th anniversary of his birth. Darwin D. Martin, a wealthy businessman, met the rising young architect in 1902 and commissioned him to design his home with a practically unlimited budget. Wright built a Prairie-style house, a home for Martin’s sister, a pergola, conservatory, carriage house, and gardener’s cottage. He “considered the project his opus,” says Susana Tejada, curator of the nonprofit behind the complex. Martin lost his fortune in the stock market crash and died in 1935. His widow abandoned the place, and it suffered years of neglect. Now three demolished buildings have been reconstructed, architect Toshiko Mori has designed a visitor center, and the main house has been meticulously reconstructed with existing elements and replicas. And it possesses half of its original 394 art glass windows, in all 16 patterns. In 2017, landscape architects expect to replant the historic grounds. What would Wright, a perfectionist, think if he saw the Martin House Complex today? “He would know it had been rebuilt,” Tejada says, “but I think he’d love it as much as he did back then.” Visits are by guided tour only; 125 Jewett Pkwy.; darwinmartinhouse.org.

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