Take Ten: Beyond UNESCO with Frank Lloyd Wright

monona-terrace2Wisconsin is Frank Lloyd Wright country, and more of the world may realize this as early as next month, when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ready for a vote is a 2014 nomination to designate 10 of our native son’s most internationally significant architectural works as a World Heritage Site. This is the first year that approval can be considered, and the elite distinction is reserved for the world’s most significant natural and cultural treasures.

“Many nominations come up two or three times before they are actually inscribed, so it is difficult to predict the outcome of this one (they will consider 29 nominations),” writes Aron Meudt-Thering of Taliesin Preservation, Spring Green. “Committee members change and thus approaches also change.”

Selection as a World Heritage Site would bring “many new opportunities with increased awareness, visitation and perhaps joint programs among the nominated Wright sites.”

An Architectural Digest article notes: “This nomination marks a momentous shift for UNESCO, as it has typically favors sites of vintage (Chartres cathedral and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello) or natural (the Galapagos Islands) variety.”

Smithsonian magazine adds: “Though inclusion on the (UNESCO) list does not guarantee any special protection, it does encourage tourism, which can boost local economies and be potentially funneled back into preservation.”

Nearly 3,000 miles separate these Wright structures, and four are in or near Wisconsin, but you don’t have to leave the state to visit twice as many Wright sites of significance. Lovers of architecture, place these on your radar:

Taliesin, Spring Green: On an 800-acre campus is the architect’s main home and work studio for almost 50 years. It is among the most significant of all Wright sites, and tours are $21 to $100. New this summer are four-course farm-to-table dinners on Aug. 21 and Oct. 2 that include estate hikes and landscape talks, $85 to $125. taliesinpreservation.org, 608-588-7900

Wyoming Valley School, Spring Green: Wright’s donation of the building design and two-acre, rural location was a tribute to his mother, a kindergarten teacher. Children (grades 1-8, at first) were taught here from the 1950s to 1990; now it is a cultural center with art exhibits, monthly “hymn sings” during summer and other public/private events. wyomingvalleyschool.blogspot.com, 608-588-2544

S.C. Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower, Racine: Covering a city block is the corporate headquarters for the global producer of household cleaning solutions, buildings designed by Wright in the 1930s and 1940s. Guided tours are free, but reservations are required. The complex was in the original UNESCO nomination, but removed at the request of S.C. Johnson. scjohnson.com/visit, 262-260-2154

Wingspread, Racine: Five miles north of the corporate center is a 36-acre campus for retreats and conferences. It began as a home for the Johnson family and, like the corporate buildings, is a National Historic Landmark. Guided tours are free, but reservations are required. scjohnson.com/visit, 262-260-2154

First Unitarian Society Meeting House, Madison: Wright was a member of the congregation, and his 1951 “country church” also is a National Historic Landmark. A sleek addition in 2008, to accommodate the growing congregation, earned gold certification from U.S. Green Building Council for environmental design. Tours happen on weekdays through Sept. 30 and cost $10; tours after Sunday worship services are by donation. fusmadison.org, 608-233-9774

Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Madison: Wright’s 1938 civic center blueprints were shelved until nearly 60 years later. Now the curvy concrete beauty with massive walls of windows faces Lake Monona, hosting weddings to yoga classes. Guided tours, for $5, begin at 1 p.m. on most days. mononaterrace.com, 608-261-4015

Seth Peterson Cottage, Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo: On a wooded, lakeside bluff is the tidy cottage that sleeps up to four (one bed, plus sofa bed). Expect big windows, a big fireplace and space enough to entertain a dozen or two friends – perfect for a special celebration. The rate is $300 per night, with a two-night minimum. Guided tours happen monthly and cost $4. sethpeterson.org, 877-466-2358; sandcounty.org, 800-822-7768 (for rentals)

Arnold Jackson House, Beaver Dam: The prefabricated house, based on a Wright Usonian design, was moved here from Madison in 1985 and has three guest rooms. Overnight rates start at $129 and include a continental breakfast. Tours for non-guests, $50 per couple, are by appointment. arnoldjacksonhouse.com, 608-770-5120

Bernard Schwartz House, Two Rivers: For rent is a four-bedroom, three-bath and three-fireplace house that was designed by Wright, at the request of Life magazine in 1938, as a dream house for a middle-class family. Rates start at $350 per night, with a two-night minimum. Guided tours are offered occasionally. theschwartzhouse.com, 612-840-7507

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Milwaukee: Wright designed the 1,000-seat structure, which resembles an elegant spaceship, in 1961. Tours are only arranged for groups of 15 or more; Sunday worship services are open to all. annunciationwi.org, 414-461-9400

Near Wisconsin are six more Wright sites of significance.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Ill.: No city contains more of the architect’s building designs; he lived in this western Chicago suburb for 20 years. Open for guided tours is the house and studio that helped define his architectural style. gowright.org, 800-514-3849

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Ill.: Rent a headset and buy a map to find the National Historic Landmark during a self-guided tour of the neighborhood where Wright lived. The cube-like collage has no steeple or front entrance. It is closed for restoration, perhaps until 2017. unitytemple.org, 708-848-6225

Frederick Robie House, Chicago: The century-old structure on the University of Chicago campus shows off the architect’s classic Prairie style and is a National Historic Landmark. Although under restoration, guided tours continue and cost $17 to $55. gowright.org, 800-514-3849

Laurent House, Rockford, Ill.: The one-story home from the 1950s is billed as the only Wright structure designed for an occupant with a physical disability. Tours cost $15 and happen twice monthly. laurenthouse.com, 815-877-2952

Muirhead Farmhouse, Hampshire, Ill.: Restored prairie surrounds the only known farmhouse designed by Wright and built in the 1950s. It is open for tours, $20, by appointment. muirheadfarmhouse.com, 847-464-5224

Historic Park Inn, Mason City, Iowa: The world’s only remaining hotel designed by Wright was a 1909 prototype for Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, demolished in 1967. Rates for the 27 rooms start at $103. Also in Mason City is the Wright-designed Stockman House and its architecture interpretive center. wrightonthepark.org, 641-423-0689; stoneycreekhotels.com, 641-422-0015; stockmanhouse.org, 641-421-3666

The UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination includes these Frank Lloyd Wright structures:

Taliesin, Spring Green, taliesinpreservation.org, 608-588-7900

Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House, Madison, a private home and prototype for Usonian architecture. usonia1.com

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Ill., unity temple.org, 708-848-6225

Frederick Robie House, Chicago, gowright.org, 800-514-3849

Hollyhock House, Los Angeles, barnsdall.org, 323-913-4030

Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pa., fallingwater.org, 724-329-8501

Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Ariz., franklloydwright.org, 800-516-0811

Price Tower Arts Center, Bartlesville, Okla., pricetower.org, 918-336-4949

Guggenheim Museum, New York, guggenheim.org, 212-423-3575

Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael, Calif., marincounty.org, 415-473-3762

For more about the 1,031 World Heritage Sites (23 in the United States), go to whc.unesco.org. You’ll find the best of the best, Giza Pyramids to Grand Canyon to Great Barrier Reef.