Searching for higher and drier ground, Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman Wilson House was disassembled last spring and made the 1,200-mile journey from Somerset County, N.J., to Bentonville, Ark., where it was then carefully reconstructed piece by piece. At its new home at the Moshe Safdie, FAIA–designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the 1,700-square-foot residence will open to the public on Nov. 11, available for tours and limited programming.
Wright designed the Usonian house for Gloria Bachman and Abraham Wilson in 1954. Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, architects and co-founders of Tarantino Studio, a Millstone, N.J.–based firm specializing in the restoration of Wright buildings, subsequently purchased it in 1988. The Tarantinos meticulously restored the house, which features a dramatic open floor plan, mahogany-framed glazed panels, Wright-designed furniture, and a deliberate use of natural elements. However, the house suffered damage from consistent flooding at its original site, and the Tarantinos reluctantly decided that relocation was the best option for preservation. Crystal Bridges purchased the house in 2013 for an undisclosed amount.
The reconstruction process, led by Crystal Bridges’ director of operations Scott Eccleston, Rogers, Ark.–based Hight-Jackson Associates architect Ron Shelby, AIA, and Bentonville, Ark.–based Bill Faber Construction founder Bill Faber, began in the fall of 2014 and took about 18 months to complete.
"The goal for reconstruction was to create an authentic experience by integrating the house into the natural landscape so it feels like it has always been here," Crystal Bridges chief engagement officer Niki Stewart said in a press release. "We put great effort into upholding Frank Lloyd Wright’s design principles—he believed in connecting physically and spiritually to the natural world through the use of horizontal lines that ground the structure into the landscape and dissolve the barrier between the interior and exterior."
The museum aimed to honor Wright’s original site intentions by locating the house in luscious landscaping near a natural water source. The house sits near the museum's south entrance on an elevated two-acre site overlooking the Crystal Spring, which flows into Crystal Bridges’ pond system and replicates the house’s former proximity to the Millstone River, in New Jersey.
The Bachman Wilson House is the only Wright structure in Arkansas, but the famed architect's influence has long been visible at Crystal Bridges. Wright’s protégé was Arkansas native E. Fay Jones, whose work connecting structures to the typography of their surrounding environment influenced Safdie’s design of Crystal Bridges, which integrates the museum into the landscape.
Crystal Bridges partnered with the University of Arkansas' Fay Jones School of Architecture to design and build the welcome pavilion that serves as an entryway to the house. Students in the design and fabrication program constructed the building—featuring information on Wright and his Usonian architecture inside—and a model of the house, which resides in the museum's south lobby.
Free tickets to view the house will be available to the public beginning November 2.