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