Larkin administration building by Frank Lloyd Wright – Part 1

The building

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A masterpiece by a very young Frank Lloyd Wright, so revolutionary that the critics needed some time to understand the impact implied by his proposal, today the Larkin Administration Building rightly occupies a place of honor in the history of modern architecture for its technical, aesthetic, and social advances. While some of its ideas seem strange today, such as the organ in the middle of the atrium and the desks with built-in chairs, others have become part of the architectural landscape that surrounds us in the workplace, such as the glass doors, the open-plan work spaces, and the closed, climate-controlled environment.

The end of a legend

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The building had almost a 50-year lifespan, lasting until the company that constructed it, the Larkin Soap Company, dissolved. After a time during which no permanent occupant for the building could be found, in 1950 it was decided to demolish it, something that today would be unthinkable. Despite lasting nearly half a century, hardly any high-quality photographs remain that would allow us to admire the architecture, and of the few that do exist, none are in color.

The daunting but exhilarating task

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To recreate this building in the images that can be seen here took no less than 8 months of work in my scarce free time. But all this time was needed, not only because of the difficulty of modeling a building of this size, with its intricate details of statuary and furnishings, but also because I needed that time to acquire the technical knowledge necessary to accomplish the task.

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But here is the result, which as far as I know is the first time anyone has recreated this building in photorealistic form and in color, a step necessary in order to return to this masterpiece some of the life and magic that it had in its day, and in any case a declaration of my love for an inimitable architecture.

Technical aspects

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The building was modeled and rendered in AutoCAD, 3ds Max, and V-Ray.

The car is a model of the era purchased in TurboSquid, the materials of which I had to adapt for V-Ray.

The vegetation makes use of Forest Pack, and I also utilized RailClone for some repetitive elements such as the furniture and capitals.

The recreation of the sculptures was particularly complex; for this I used the software ZBrush.

For the skies I used 2 Peter Guthrie skies: 0902 Overcast and 1941 Dusk blue

The complete set of images can be found here.

Enjoy it!

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Flossie says:

    Alas, his gorgeous renderings include a few unfortunate misspellings.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I hope you contacted him with your concerns rather than simply posting an indiscrete snark.

  2. Rob Barros says:

    Bravo! Model looks wonderful and hopefully may inspire the reL thing… someday.

  3. Mel Wood says:

    Thank you so much, that was fantastic. My Mum and I have visited the remains of the one wall left from the Larkin Building in Buffalo and picked up a fragment of the brick left rotting there on the ground as a souvenir. How exciting to see the building brought back to life in this way. Much appreciate all the hard work that must have gone into this effort.

    1. Dr. Blake Stone says:

      The crushed brick that is on the ground near the conserved pier of the Larkin Building fence wall is not “left rotting” from the building. It was purposely placed there when the pier was conserved to symbolize the destroyed building.

  4. nitramnaed says:

    Simply Awesome!

  5. Steven says:

    One of my favorite FLW buildings. These images are just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the hard work you put into re-creating a lost masterpiece.

  6. Jerome Puma says:

    Great work!! However…..”Intelligence” is spelled wrong in your rendering of the inscriptions in the light court surround.

    1. Don’t you just hate it when that happens! ~ LEJ.org

  7. Ivan says:

    Simplemente excelente trabajo. Con buena acojida podrias estar dentro de algun tipo de actividad que se lleve a cabo en 2017, relacionada a la celebración del 150 aniversario de Wright. Éxito.

    It is simply an excellent job. Might be good if you can be hooked as host in some kind of activity carried out during the 2017, related to 150th wright anniversary. Success.

  8. David Steele says:

    These are wonderful . Would you allow me to use these images in a story on Buffalorising.com?

  9. JC Rotunda says:

    Excellent job David. You brought the building to life, and it looks beautiful!
    I am writing a monograph on Wright’s creativity from a cognitive psychology viewpoint.
    The Larkin Building is one of the structures I’m going to include in my study.

    Thank you,
    JC Rotunda
    Rotunda Research Center for Frank Lloyd Wright
    Charlottesville, Virginia 22901
    434-295-1161

  10. Mike R. says:

    I loved in Buffalo from 1984-1989 and during that time became a huge Wright fan. Even today, when I go back and visit I am always saddened when I drive on Swan or Seneca Street and recall what should have been.

    Thank you for your work on this.

  11. Thank you all for such positive comments! I take note of the errors, I’m working to update the images

    David: Be aware that the images contain several historical inaccuracies which I’m trying to solve, please be patient

    You can follow the evolution of the project here:

    https://www.savewright.org/wright_chat/viewtopic.php?t=9792

    Thank you!

  12. Ed Jarger says:

    Wonderfully done, thanks for sharing your passion and hard work with everyone!

  13. Jesse says:

    As someone who has loved Buffalo architecture for a very long time and now works in 701 Seneca, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your effort. Every day, I look out our office’s window across the street to the parking lot where the administration building used to stand and WISH I had a way of looking into the past to see that building in its rightful place. I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to do just that by loading your model into and augmented imager.

    For now, I am working on hanging a picture of the building next to the window I look out 🙂

    Thank you for this, David.

  14. It is being more complicated than expected to update the images, but I fixed the error in the text. Thank you!

    Thanks to all, it is very rewarding to know that so many people appreciate the effort of restore the image of this gorgeous building.

  15. John Moes says:

    Bravo to you. The detail, textures, weathering and light have helped to bring this demolished masterwork to life for me in a way that historic photos have not. My admiration and thanks.

  16. I have had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time in the SC Johnson Administration Building, which Wright considered the feminine offspring of its male sire, the Larkin Building.

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