December 1, 2020

Frank Lloyd Wright Dream Vacation

Since many of us are confined to the locale in which we are currently inhabiting, I have taken to planning dream vacations for the time when travel restrictions are only a bad memory.

For you architecture buffs, I have found five Frank Lloyd Wright structures which are rentable in Wisconsin and Michigan, thanks to a site called “Plans Matter,” which features selected architecturally significant venues.

I would begin in Lancaster, WI, with two nights in the Kinney House, commissioned by Patrick Kinney, a local attorney in the early 1950s. Built of wood and limestone, Wright’s double hexagonal design, which features three bedrooms and three baths, includes a wing addition that was supervised by Taliesin Fellow John H. Howe. Jane Kinney, who grew up in the home, says school children called it a “space ship.” (Daily price $395; 2-night minimum; 5-person limit.)

Next up would be the Seth Peterson Cottage in Mirror Lake, WI, which qualifies as a tiny house at 880-square feet. Situated on a bluff overlooking Mirror Lake, the sandstone structure features floor to ceiling windows that blur the distinction between indoors and outside. (Daily price $250-300; 2-night minimum; 4-person limit.)

Built for a design project sponsored by “Life Magazine” and “The Architectural Forum,” Still Bend in Two Rivers, WI, was fabricated with brick and red tidewater cypress board and batten. The main “recreation” room in this 1940 Usonian home is sixty-five feet long and contains built-in bookcases and a fireplace. (Daily price: $295+; 2-night minimum; 8-person limit.)

In Ann Arbor, MI, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s finest later private residences, the Palmer House, made of brick and red cedar and ensconced on two, tree-filled acres. There is also a teahouse on the property with a fireplace, kitchen and bathroom. (Daily price: $350+; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

I would wind up our Wright progressive vacation at the Eppstein House in Galesburg, M i. This property has been lovingly restored with new technology, but also has some of the original Wright-designed furniture. Three outdoor terraces allow you to soak up the beauty of The Acres, the 50-acre community designed by Wright in which the Eppstein House is located. (Daily price: $408 through airbnb; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

Let’s honor one of the most famous Chicago architects by spending time in these Wisconsin and Michigan Wright-designed homes. Many of these properties are open now and following Covid protocols. For now, I will dream about staying in these Prairie-style dwellings when all is well with the world.

Click the link “View Architects” for the list of Wright homes available to rent:

https://plansmatter.com

Anish Kapoor, Sculptor of Chicago’s “Bean”

In my quest to know more about my city, I have been noting public sculpture and what is more popular in Chicago than “The Bean,” or what is officially called “Cloud Gate,” in Millennium Park.

Anish Kapoor, sculptor, has a multi-cultural background. Born in Mumbai/Bombay, India to a Jewish mother and a Punjabi Hindu father, he spent time in Israel living in a kibbutz and studying electrical engineering. He had an artistic epiphany of sorts and moved to London where he has lived as a sculptor since the 1970s.

His sculptural work can be seen all over the world, most notably “Cast Iron Mountain” in Japan, “Simcoe Place” in Toronto, versions of his “Sky Mirror” in Nottingham, England and Rockefeller Center in NYC, “Earth Cinema” in Pollino National Park in Italy and “Cloud Gate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Kapoor also collaborates on projects with architects such as Arata Isozaki, Cecil Balmond, Herzog and de Meuron, Phhilip Cumuchdjian and David Connor.

Kapoor was knighted in 2013 and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 2014. Chicago has bragging rights for having Kapoor’s “The Bean” be one of the artistic centerpieces of Millennium Park.

Cloud Gate

5 Major Works from Anish Kapoor’s Groundbreaking Career

Fort Sheridan Nature Preserve

As the Lake Michigan shoreline in the city continues to be officially off-limits, I have explored other nature spots in the Chicago environs.

The Fort Sheridan Nature Preserve, with a Lake Forest address, provides visitors not only beach access, but several trail options. The first path I chose, the Lake Overlook Trail, took me past a lovely pond, allowed me to see Lake Michigan from a 70-foot high bluff and provided a photo op in front of a wondrously green ravine towards the north of the property.

The site brags that the Fort Sheridan preserve is a North American flyway for migratory birds with 236 species having been spotted in the park’s savanna, ravines and lakefront foliage.

On a future visit, I hope to explore the Parade Grounds Trail, the Fort Sheridan Cemetery which has gravestones dating back to 1890, and the surrounding Fort Sheridan Historic District which ceased being used by the military in 1993.

The property is interesting as a historical site, but free access to this stunning lakeside preserve is the real draw with hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, swimming, fishing, bird watching and picnicking being allowed.

Fort Sheridan Nature Preserve is open 6:30 am to sunset daily. Free visitor parking is near trail entrances.

This is the perfect get-away for city dwellers needing to commune with Lake Michigan. The forest, ravines and trails are a bonus.

https://www.lcfpd.org/fort-sheridan/

117 Sheridan Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045

“The Library Book” by Susan Orlean

If you like books and libraries, “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean is highly recommended. Her journey starts with her son fulfilling a school assignment to interview a city worker. He chooses a librarian. Orleans starts to reminiscence about happy childhood times with her mother as they regularly visited their local library.

The 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Central Library starts as Orlean’s point of departure, but she quickly branches out to include how the LA library system began, thumbnail sketches of notable past library directors, and then segues farther afield to consider the history of books and libraries. Fascinating sections deal with Andrew Carnegie’s library building boom, book-mobiles and book burning.

Each chapter begins with a handful of seemingly random book titles that cleverly appear in the subsequent writing. Throughout the work, running questions include: Who or what started the fire? Will the Goodhue library building be salvaged or torn down? Will libraries stay relevant as we enter ever more deeply into internet culture?

Some of my favorite sections of the book illustrate what libraries, worldwide, are doing to keep libraries as not only repositories of information, but as community meeting places for people of all ages and needs. You can see a concert, take a yoga class, get tax help or sign up for free computer time at many libraries.

Orlean, a staff writer for “The New Yorker Magazine,” also counts 
“The Orchid Thief” and “Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend” as some of her previous books.

One final note. My lovely hardcover library copy of “The Library Book” is a brilliant red with gold lettering; the trompe l’oeil check out card inside the back cover shows none other than Ray Bradbury and Susan Orlean as having both checked out the same book. Long live libraries!

Great Big Story on CNN and as a downloadable app

When all of the negative and scary news starts to get you down, consider visiting the Great Big Story initially launched by CNN.

Short documentaries on various POSITIVE topics might just keep you from slipping over the edge. I especially like to have these clips playing when I exercise, cook or clean.

The link I included will send you to a Great Big Story on Hungarian piano-maker David Klavins who is veering away from Steinway, Fazioli and Bosendorfer in a big way.

https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/piano-maker/?xrs=CNNHP

The Great Big Story site hosts short films on a myriad of topics that will amaze and uplift you. For kicks, type “Paris,” “London,” “China” or “Italy” in the subject line which will bring up short films for those of us who would prefer to be traveling the world right now.

Politics, illness, floods and bad economic news will become background noise, at least for a few minutes.

You can download Great Big Story from your app store or go to the GBS link:

https://www.greatbigstory.com

Virtual Tours of Notable Places: The Prado in Madrid

People have been posting ideas on how to use one’s “home time.” As much as I love music, I do, on occasion, need to explore other topics.

I was remembering visits to favorite art museums which led to thinking about famous museums that I have not yet visited. Uppermost on my wish list is the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Here is a five minute clip that highlights some of the Prado’s art treasures, including paintings by El Greco, Velazquez, de Goya and my personal favorite, the triptych work by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

I erroneously assumed that Guernica by Pablo Picasso was also at the Prado. In reality, the famous large canvas is in Madrid, but at the Museo Reina Sofia.

Here’s to seeing Madrid and its art treasures when the world returns to health.