The State of Wright: The Martin House Visitor's Center (the Eleanor & Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion)
Status: Open for visitors
Location: Martin campus
History: A national competition was held to find an architect to design a new building that would serve as an orientation point for those arriving on campus. This structure would stand next to a national landmark, perform all the functions required for visitors and tourists, and yet be respectful of its context. The winning design can be seen in Toshiko Mori’s glass pavilion.
What to look for: The size and scale of the new pavilion are the result of a geometric dialogue between it and its surrounding buildings. The site reads as one campus, but at the same time there is a subtle separation between what is old and what is new. The actual footprint of the visitor’s center is similar to that of the Martin House.
Mori’s design reinterprets the Martin House with the same proportions and geometries as the original structure, except that the pavilion’s exterior is an envelope of glass and its interior is skillfully layered in glass. Mori uses huge glass panes to dematerialize the volume of the new building. Notice, too, the pavilion’s roof; it echoes Wright’s Prairie trademark gently sloping hip roof, but boldly inverts it.
Comments: Although this structure may seem the very soul of simplicity, the building is far from simple. It pays attention to every detail and incorporates the latest technologies and environmental efficiencies. The pavilion acts as a highly serviceable setting to help the historic site function to its fullest potential, smartly fading into the context of the entire composition.
Over the next two weeks we will post a series that organizes each Wright gem by location, history, what should be seen, and additional information that may pique visitor interest. There are many more resources, including guided tours for most sites, excluding the private homes. It is hoped that this guide will inspire readers to see firsthand the reasons why visitors from all over the world make the trip to Buffalo to experience Frank Lloyd Wright.