Wright’s ‘Capitol’ idea

Spanish architect and artist David Romero created this computer-generated rendering that shows what Frank Lloyd Wright’s Capitol would have looked like.; Photorealistic rendering by David Romero, courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

By Rebecca Rhoades | PHOENIX Magazine

It was a chilly morning in February 1957 when Phoenix Gazette reporter Lloyd Clark met with Frank Lloyd Wright in his office at Taliesin West. A few days earlier, the newspaper had published plans for Arizona’s new Capitol. Clark had reached out to Wright, who at the time was perceived as the world’s foremost living architect, for his reaction. Wright, unimpressed with the proposed structure, responded, “The thing is its own comment on Arizona and Phoenix.” Clark’s meeting with the architect sparked a controversy that would dominate the media and divide the city for much of the year.

The Capitol’s turbulent architectural history dates back to when Arizona was still a territory. The original four-story, copper-domed Beaux-Arts statehouse on West Washington Street was built in the late 1800s and opened in 1901. Designed by Texas-based architect James Riely Gordon, it was constructed of Southwestern materials at the cost of slightly more than $100,000. According to a 1941 report by politician Mulford Winsor, taxpayers at the time denounced the project as a “useless extravagance.” Their assessment proved in some measure to be correct.

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