8 Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Join the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mariano Mantel Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Mariano Mantel Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The UNESCO World Heritage Center recognizes sites of great cultural, historical, or scientific importance, from manmade cities like Venice to natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef. A group of new locations honored this month aren't nearly as old as some other sites on the list, but in just the past century or so, they've made a huge impact. During its 43rd annual session, the World Heritage Committee elected to add eight buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the American architect who pioneered the Prairie School movement in the 20th century.

The Frank Lloyd Wright structures joining the UNESCO list include Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona; Hollyhock House in Los Angeles; the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago; Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City; Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania; the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin; and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Each building was constructed between 1905 and 1938, and they represent just a handful of the more than 400 Wright works still standing today.

The group makes up a single World Heritage Site known as "The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright." Together, the buildings are the 24th World Heritage Site recognized in the U.S., accompanying such places as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Everglades National Park in Florida, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They're not the first example of modern architecture to be added to the list, though. The Sydney Opera House, the city of Brasilia, and the Bauhaus School in Germany are also World Heritage Sites.

According to organization's website, adding landmarks to the UNESCO World Heritage list "helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation," and that "greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties." Countries that house heritage sites are also eligible for funding from UNESCO to preserve them. All of the sites included "The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright" are already protected as National Historic Landmarks, and many are open to visitors.

You Can Take a Virtual Tour of Fallingwater and More of Frank Lloyd Wright's Most Famous Buildings

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.
Daderot, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

If you only know one architect by name, there’s a pretty good chance it’s Frank Lloyd Wright. The 20th-century visionary, whose most famous works include Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and New York’s Guggenheim Museum, ushered American architecture into a modern era that prized simplicity and natural beauty over Victorian ostentation.

Since most of his buildings are closed to visitors right now, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and Unity Temple Restoration Foundation are working together to bring the buildings to visitors via virtual tours.

Smithsonian reports that every Thursday at 1 p.m. EST, participating sites will share a new video of a Wright-constructed property across various social media accounts with the hashtag “#WrightVirtualVisits.” Last week, for example, Minneapolis’s Malcolm Willey House shared a video on its Facebook page of the Seth Peterson Cottage in Mirror Lake, Wisconsin. This way, fans who follow a certain building on social media will get to learn about others.

The video tours, hosted by the property owners or directors of Wright-affiliated organizations, cover everything from specific architectural elements, like sloping ceilings and built-in seating, to general themes in Wright’s work, like his commitment to accentuating features of the natural landscape. Some even touch on the process of adding modern technology to the houses; the Willey House, which was built in 1934, was outfitted with air conditioning during the early 21st century (though modern trappings don't necessarily make the houses any easier to sell).

In short, the videos are a great way for newcomers to be introduced to Wright’s legacy and for longtime fans to pick up behind-the-scenes details about his buildings. So far, 17 properties have volunteered to take part in the initiative, including Wright’s own Wisconsin estate, Taliesin, and Fallingwater, a summer residence for department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann that Wright built on top of a waterfall in the mid-1930s.

You can discover the videos by searching for #WrightVirtualVisits on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or you can bookmark this page from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s website, which will be updated with new videos as they’re made public.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Explore Two of Pompeii’s Excavated Homes in This Virtual Tour

A photo of the Pompeii ruins from November 2019.
A photo of the Pompeii ruins from November 2019.
Ivan Romano/Getty Images

It’s been nearly 2000 years since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius decimated Pompeii in 79 C.E., and archaeologists are still uncovering secrets about life in the ancient Roman city. As Smithsonian reports, they’ve recently excavated two homes in Regio V, a 54-acre area just north of the Pompeii Archaeological Park—and you can see the findings for yourself in a virtual tour published by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

The 7.5-minute video comprises drone footage of the houses and surrounding ruins, along with commentary by park director Massimo Osanna that explains what exactly you’re looking at and what types of people once lived there. Osanna’s commentary is in Italian, but you can read the English translation here.

The homes, both modest private residences that probably housed middle-class families, border the Vicolo dei Balconi, or “Alley of the Balconies.” The first is fittingly named “House With the Garden” because excavators discovered that one of its larger rooms was, in fact, a garden. Excavators pinpointed the outlines of flowerbeds and even made casts of plant roots, which paleobotanists will use to try to identify what grew there. In addition to the garden and vibrant paintings that feature classic ancient deities like Venus, Adonis, and Hercules, “House With the Garden” also preserved the remains of its occupants: 11 victims, mostly women and children, who likely took shelter within the home while the men searched for a means of escape.

Across the street is “House of Orion,” named for two mosaics that depict the story of Orion, a huntsman in Greek mythology whom the gods transformed into the constellation that bears his name today.

“The owner of the house must have been greatly attracted to this myth, considering it features in two different rooms in which two different scenes of the myth are depicted,” Osanna says. “It is a small house which has proved to be an extraordinary treasure chest of art."

To see what Pompeian houses would’ve looked like before Mount Vesuvius had its fiery fit, check out this 3D reconstruction.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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