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The Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative wants to bring back lost masterpieces

Founder and filmmaker Michael Miner wants to restore great buildings lost to “short-sighted, capricious changes in taste.”

Hundreds of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings are still standing, providing a catalog of the architect’s creativity and influence. But what about the ones that, through unfortunate decisions or tragic circumstances, have been torn down or demolished? A new nonprofit, the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative, wants to help bring back these lost works, one restoration at a time.

Founder and filmmaker Michael Miner is intimately familiar with Wright’s work. Since 2002, he’s focused almost exclusively on a series of documentaries about the architect’s many projects: Sacred Spaces, A Child of the Sun, Romanza, and Masterpieces. During his last project, he began reflecting on the Wright buildings that he profiles and discovered, and those he found had been torn down, and thought, why don’t we reverse the trend, and instead of tearing buildings down, put great ones back in their place?

The realization led to the creation of the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative, a nonprofit focused on rebuilding lost Wright works lost due to "short-sighted, capricious changes in taste" on their original site.

"Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the greatest creative geniuses of all time," says Miner. "There is no shortage of adoration for him, which is evident by the outpouring of interest we’ve already received."

The first building the group will focus on, the Banff Pavilion in Alberta, Canada, offers the most straightforward restoration opportunity. A relatively simple, Prairie-style structure built in 1913 and demolished in 1939, due in part to flooding on the site, the long, rectangular structure should cost somewhere around $2.1 million to rebuild, estimates Miner. T

The filmmaker first tried to make a case for rebuilding in 2013, taking a trip to Banff to speak with the city council. He even penned an op-ed in a local paper. While the plan was rejected at the time, three years later, the situation has shifted, with development slated to occur at the former site, which was used for tennis courts and a skate park. The city council gave the go-ahead this spring.

The project will follow Wright’s original blueprints, minus some slight updates due to contemporary building codes. The group has begun fundraising, and plans to put out a call for a lead architect for the project, with an eye towards potentially breaking ground in 2018.

While there are dream projects on the group’s list, such as Midway Gardens, the lost entertainment complex in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and the Larkin Building, an innovative, turn-of-the-century headquarters for a Buffalo Soap Factory, the FLWRI has also been practical in the selection of its second potential project. The Pilgrim Congregational Church in Redding, California, was one of Wright’s last designs before he died. Blueprints were finished in 1958, but only part of the multi-building complex, inspired in part by a tent in the desert, was finished by the time construction stopped in 1963.

Miner's group doesn’t have any connection with related groups, such as the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Miner noted that they will now be one of the many Wright projects seeking money for restoration or rebuilding.

The FLWRI isn’t the first to try and resurrect the Banff Pavilion. A pair of Canadian architects in the ‘80s attempted a similar feat, but weren’t able to get permission and funding. And, as Miner points out, he has a few advantages.

"They were polite, nice Canadians," he says. "I’m a brash American who won’t take no for an answer."