All the Wright moods

Frank Bu­res checks into the Seth Peter­son Cot­tage in Wis­con­sin’s Mir­ror Lake State Park

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

At one with na­ture: The Seth Peter­son Cot­tage, built of wood, stone and glass, is one of a small num­ber of Frank Lloyd Wright-de­signed homes open to guests

Mod­est am­bi­tion: The main room of the tiny cot­tage, flooded with nat­u­ral light, has glimpses of Mir­ror Lake heart is a lie: the be­lief that there is some­thing in­her­ently good in na­ture, that it is su­pe­rior to the man-made. Philoso­phers call this the nat­u­ral­is­tic fal­lacy’’, and it has caused much con­fu­sion among eco-minded politi­cians, or­ganic par­ents and hip­pies the world over.

Be­cause if you truly be­lieve na­ture will never fail you, you must rede­fine fail. Na­ture will kill your chil­dren and wipe out your species without a sec­ond thought. It will turn your build­ing into a pile of worm­wood in half the time it takes to marry three dif­fer­ent wives. Na­ture doesn’t care. It’s value neu­tral.

And yet as I sit in the Seth Peter­son Cot­tage, looking out the win­dow as the sun stretches across the frozen sur­face of Mir­ror Lake, I can’t help feel there was ge­nius at work in this place, or that Wright was on to some­thing. Af­ter all, when all his con­tem­po­raries could think to do was recre­ate lit­tle Europes across Amer­ica, Wright looked into the trees and saw some­thing new. He looked at the land and saw some­thing great. And he looked into the wild and saw beauty and tried to cap­ture that.

Is that it? Not that na­ture is good or that it’s God but that it’s as beau­ti­ful as it is ter­ri­ble? Cer­tainly part of it is that Wright found a way to show­case that beauty while pro­tect­ing us from na­ture’s cold heart.

Maybe that’s why the Seth Peter­son Cot­tage feels so much more right than other works in Wright’s oeu­vre. It is a sim­ple struc­ture, stripped of pre­ten­sion and de­void of grand am­bi­tion. There is an el­e­gance to the way its rooms flow like a nau­tilus shell. There is a sim­plic­ity to the way the light pours in dur­ing the day and the shad­ows play on the stones.

I get out of bed, walk out of the bed­room and stand at the win­dow. It seems ironic that so much tragedy went into the gen­e­sis of this cot­tage. That such sad­ness could re­sult in an apoth­e­o­sis of all that Wright be­lieved: a build­ing that felt fully alive.

Or maybe not. Maybe that was the most nat­u­ral thing of all. Featurewell

Check­list

Nearby Lake Del­ton and the Wis­con­sin Dells are packed with restau­rants and things to do, so there is no short­age of diver­sions if you choose to ven­ture out. And just an hour away is Spring Green, where you’ll find Wright’s Taliesin home, ar­chi­tec­ture school and other build­ings. More: www.tal­iesin­preser­va­tion.org. The Seth Peter­son Cot­tage is one of a hand­ful of Frank Lloyd Wright homes open to guests, but plan ahead as the cot­tage is of­ten booked a year in ad­vance, though there are can­cel­la­tions, so it pays to check in. The cot­tage can sleep four, and is $US275 ($328) a night (plus $US30 han­dling fee); week nights from De­cem­ber to March are $US225. You can also tour the cot­tage on the sec­ond Sun­day of each month ($US4). More: www.seth­peter­son.org.

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