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Video transcript

(bubbly and funky pop music) - 1913 is a year that is so associated with the Armory Show in New York, breakthroughs in the world of Cubism, of Futurism, that people often forget that extraordinary things were happening in Chicago. In 1913, Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America's great architects, gets two commissions of a scale that he had never experienced before. Midway Gardens, represented in this model, a great pleasure ground, beer garden, in Chicago, and one of the other seminal buildings of his career that represented a whole new scale, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Neither exist today, and therefore many forget that in 1913 Wright was experimenting, pushing his search for an abstract architecture of intersecting spaces to a whole new dimension. (bubbly and funky pop music) At first glance, Midway Gardens appears almost, especially if we see its red roofs and its pavilion system, and its monumental symmetrical axes around a great courtyard space, almost to be a re-creation of an Asian palace. One might think of Chinese or Japanese palaces. But one would be hard-put to find anywhere in the history of architecture a building that interweaves indoor and outdoor spaces in such complex and exciting ways. And in every direction, space and material is pierced to allow the light to come down through the building, it originally would've also sported an enormous system of vines and come into flower in the spring and summer. No longer an architecture of walls, but an architecture of piers and columns that allow the eye to gravitate and move through the space. (bubbly and funky pop music) He was in quest of what he called the organic. By this he meant not only an architecture that might grow and change, but an architecture in which all of the parts, from the smallest fragment to the overall composition, were interrelated to one another. And he begins to introduce precast concrete panels, thinking about architecture in relationship to the machine, which was a major theme of the 20th century and a preoccupation of Wright's, but at the same time he realizes, if he's going to cast, he can incorporate many of the geometrical experiments of the larger composition into the single piece. So the single piece becomes a kind of microcosm, with this incredible play between symmetries and dynamisms, different spaces, different depths, so that the material itself becomes penetrated. These panels actually would have lined, and in a certain sense, dematerialized, into a filigree of light and shade, in almost a textile way, this entire intermediary zone of the pavilions and the main building. So this is a building that simultaneously culminates almost 20 years of Wright's experiment in the so-called Prairie Style, but also the opening of a new period in material exploration in which this industrialized concrete will be introduced into the more traditional system of building with brick. (bubbly and funky pop music)