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VC Morris Gift Shop, aka Xanadu Gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright 1948

Posted by George Pudlo on January 18, 2012 at 1:45 AM



VC Morris Gift Shop

140 Maiden Lane

San Francisco, CA 94108


San Francisco's only Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure was originally named the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, and was designed by Wright in 1948. The V.C. Morris Gift Shop was originally a warehouse that Wright remodeled into this renowned building. It is quite unlike any of Wright's other structures, yet it retains characteristics that cross different periods of Wright's extensive career. The outer facade is unassuming, and would not stand out as a Wright designed structure to the common fan, but there is a certain complex modernism in its simplicity. The vast span of windowless, uninterrupted brick would normally strike the viewer as plain, but Wright's use of bold, yet simple geometric shapes creates a visually exciting experience. The arched entrance is the most identifiable feature of the building, and is reminiscent of Wright's employer of more than half a century earlier, Louis Sullivan, as well as the Arthur Heurtley House of 1902 in Oak Park, IL. The precise curves against a wall of sharp lines invite the viewer to enter this mysterious building, unmarked and unrecognizable as any particular form of establishment.


The interior of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop in San Francisco is not unlike a unrefined version of the Guggenheim Museum. Here is one of Wright's earliest tangible expressions of the spiral ramp, which would culminate in the Guggenheim. Wright would have already been well into the design process of the Guggenheim Museum at the time of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop design, but Wright's origin of this type of spiral ramp came from his design of the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective. An unbuilt project that looked like an inverted Guggenheim Museum, the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective was originally designed for Sugarloaf Mountain, Florida, and was built as a destination reachable only by car. 


In 1979, the V.C. Morris Gift Shop building was reestablished as the Xanadu Gallery, an upscale purveyor of Asian art. 

Categories: Large Commissions & Commercial Structures

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1 Comment

Reply Thierry
3:20 AM on January 22, 2012 
It's a fantastic building and really fits in to the space on Maiden Lane despite being so different http://www.maiden-lane.com/

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