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ESD, Martin House announce groundbreaking for historic landscape restoration at Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Martin Estate in Buffalo

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Thu, May 31st 2018 11:20 am
Buffalo Billion-funded project is the final component of the overall restoration effort
Empire State Development and the Martin House on Wednesday announced work has begun to restore the extensive Frank Lloyd Wright-designed landscape on the grounds of the Darwin D. Martin House estate in Buffalo.
Funded primarily by Buffalo Billion Phase 2, this final component is part of the overall restoration effort, which has spanned more than two decades and seen a $50 million investment in this National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was on hand with Martin House representatives to ceremonially break ground on the historic landscape restoration project. See site plan and images HERE (historic photographs are property of University at Buffalo Archives).
"This historic landscape restoration project enhances the incredible architecture and distinct character of the Darwin Martin Estate in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood," Hochul said. "The improvements to the grounds and buildings will elevate the experience at one of Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest engineering achievements. With projects like this, the Buffalo Billion continues to invest in attractions that provide local residents and visitors from around the country an opportunity to explore the treasured landmarks and hidden gems that are truly unique to our city."
Martin House Board President Keith Stolzenburg said, "With a fully restored landscape surrounding our National Historic Landmark, the Martin House will take its place at the heart of this heritage of great American architecture that is Buffalo's trademark."
ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Phase two of the Buffalo Billion will allow the final landscaping to complete the restoration of the Darwin Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural treasure and a Buffalo landmark that will ensure visitors to the city for decades to come."
The historic landscape of the Martin House is a significant example of the intertwined design relationship between architecture and landscape and represents an important contributing feature to the overall significance of the 1.5-acre estate. Wright created homes in harmony with nature. He developed an integrated design approach unifying buildings, their interior decorative elements and exterior landscape in an organic style deriving inspiration from the natural world.
Coining the term "organic architecture," Wright's concepts were a dramatic shift in design from the traditional houses of the day. Wright envisioned buildings as a bridge to the natural world, blurring the lines between interior and exterior spaces, and creating "rooms" in outdoor settings.
The Martin landscape plan combined formal aspects of the English Garden tradition and informal landscape elements more akin to Frederick Law Olmsted's naturalistic approach to landscape design - a nod to the site's context in Olmsted's planned Parkside community.
Wright arranged the Martin House plan to frame the trees and gardens beyond the walls and windows, each space open to view outside, artfully giving landscape features a presence within. Gardens took on the character of outdoor rooms, framed and formed by the patterns of the interior plan.
Darwin and Isabelle Martin's fondness for the gardens transcended three decades, during which time they nurtured and maintained Wright's design.
Scheduled for completion this fall, landscape elements to be created include:
•Restoration of the visual and spatial relationships between the site's architectural and landscape features.
•Recreation of the floricycle, the most intricately designed element of Wright's plan, which was aided by his apprentice, Walter Burley Griffin.
•Replacement of vegetative screening elements; naturalistic shrub massings; selected ornamental flowering shrub focal points; vine trellises; urn, fountain and box plantings; and perennial gardens.
•Reinstallation of the English border gardens that flanked the pergola, contrasting the more naturalistic plantings that defined the boundaries of the historic property.
•Redefinition of the outdoor "rooms" and architectonic garden elements conceived by Wright and Griffin.
•Preservation of the mature Copper beech tree - one of only two remaining vegetative features from the historic period.
•Replacement of trees at historic locations on the property, as well as the return of street trees along the borders of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue in conjunction with the City of Buffalo.
Planned improvements also include site lighting, wayfinding and a courtyard/café area. The restored landscape will be a new source of education programs and interpretation for tours, community events and dialogues about the importance of nature and design in everyday life.
The total estimated cost of this ambitious restoration project is $50 million, which includes design and construction of a visitor center - the Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion - an award-winning building adjacent to the historic site.
The restoration effort was supported by $24 million in funding from New York State, beginning in 1993. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo closed the gap on capital funding as part of a recent $5 million commitment included in Buffalo Billion II awards. Those final funds will be used primarily to rehabilitate the historic landscape and to preserve the Barton House, a secondary residence on the estate.
Bayer Landscape Architecture Principal Mark H. Bayer said, "The landscape rehabilitation project at the Darwin Martin House will bring dramatic changes to the property. For the first time in over 80 years, one will be able to again experience the vision that Frank Lloyd Wright and the Martins shared for this special place - where the house and landscape were conceived as one."
Martin House Executive Director Mary Roberts said, "We are so very grateful to New York state and its' leadership for their investment in the Martin House and the economic promise it represents. If you are a citizen of New York, and aware of what we are doing at the Martin House, you should be very proud."
The 15,000-square-foot Martin House has been restored to its condition of 1907, with extensive original Wright furnishings as well as elaborate built-in cabinetry and wood trim. Three structures attached to the Martin House, an open-air pergola, a conservatory and carriage house that were demolished in the 1960s to make way for an apartment complex, were reconstructed in recent years, also funded in part by New York state.
The Martin House Restoration Corp. is a New York not-for-profit corporation founded in 1992. It has a 30-member board of directors and approximately 400 active volunteers. The historic Martin House site is open for tours year-round. More information about this Nation Historic Landmark, including tour information, can be found at www.martinhouse.org.

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