Verizon Grant Will Provide Web Walk Through Frank Lloyd Wright Masterpiece

Release Date: September 8, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It will be a walk on the "Web side" when a 20th-century Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece goes virtual through a grant to the Center for Virtual Architecture in the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning.

Verizon Foundation (formerly Bell Atlantic) has given a $50,000 grant to the center to build a digital model of the Barton House, part of the Darwin D. Martin House Complex in Buffalo.

Maureen Rasp-Glose, community affairs director for Verizon Foundation, said the partnership "demonstrates our commitment to using technology to showcase the brilliance of Frank Lloyd Wright to our worldwide customers and encourage them to view these architectural wonders in Western New York."

Rasp-Glose said that because of its commitment to the community, the Verizon Foundation invests in technology projects that target education, health and human services, arts and culture, and neighborhood programs.

Jean La Marche, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Planning and manager on the project, said the grant will enable the university to use its strong technological capabilities and educational experience on behalf of an exciting architectural treasure.

"UB will be involved in laying the groundwork for new ways of testing spatial and movement theories in architecture," said La Marche, "while additionally studying and preserving architectural history in an interactive manner appropriate for the 21st century."

He explained that the project will produce animations in CD-ROM and Web-accessible formats so that viewers -- both scholars and a general audience -- can "walk inside" the Barton House as never before to explore Wright's work.

La Marche sees the project as the beginning of a long-range multidisciplinary effort that will result in a lab of computers able to design and build architectural models that bring history to life in 3-D.

He said there are many educational opportunities for advanced architecture students to assist with the development of the Martin House Complex model.

He and other scholars will be able to use the virtual model to analyze and test some of the commonly accepted theories about Wright's intentions regarding the visual and experiential aspects of his architecture.

Workers involved in the multi-phase reconstruction of the Martin Complex have more practical plans, such as using the computer model to solve construction problems in a virtual environment. This includes creating virtual 3-D models for demolished buildings that no longer exist at the site, before attempting a new bricks-and-mortar version.

La Marche said he plans to demonstrate the digital model, or the work in progress, at the 2001 Centennial Celebration of the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo.

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