Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Welcomes Diana Smith and David Gross to Board of Trustees
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Dec 5, 2019
At a recent meeting, two new board members, Diana M. Smith and David E. Gross, joined the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Board of Trustees.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is excited to welcome two new board members to its Board of Trustees. Diana Smith and David E. Gross both bring a great amount of expertise, experience, and passion to the Foundation. Smith has been a resident of Scottsdale since 1986, and has been a force in the arts community for decades. Throughout her life, she has served in a variety of roles at significant cultural, art, and historic preservation organizations around the Valley. Gross is a practicing architect from New York who serves as executive and Co-Founding Partner of GF55 Partners: Architecture and Interior Design. His projects and renovation work are award-winning, and have been recognized by the AIA. He has been a visiting design juror at Yale College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Pratt Institute. We spoke with each of them to learn more about their backgrounds, their connection to Wright, and the importance of continuing Wright’s legacy.
Tell us a little about yourself and your connection to Frank Lloyd Wright and his work.
Diana: I think my interest in Frank Lloyd Wright was always there. I was reintroduced to his work when I moved to Scottsdale in 1986. As I got more involved in the community, I interacted with Wright’s former apprentice Vernon Swaback, and continued visiting Taliesin and Taliesin West. I was a tourist at a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings around the country. We lived in Chicago, so obviously there are many ties to Wright out there. My husband and I have lived in a lot of different places so we were able to at one time or another visit places like Fallingwater, the Robie House, and the Guggenheim. The more I learned about Wright, and the more I encountered his work, my interest was piqued.
David: I’m a New Yorker since 1980, born in Ohio and the son, grandson, and brother of builder developers. My father, who was a trained engineer, was a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, and had an interest in architecture so the name Frank Lloyd Wright is something that was always in my head since I was a young boy. As a teenager studying architecture, trying to learn how to draw, I had a book of Frank Lloyd Wright drawings and my drawing teacher recommended that learn to draw by picking out a drawing I liked and copy it. I must’ve copied a famous drawing of the Guggenheim several times into my notebook until I got it right, long before I ever saw the building in person.
What is it about Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and principles that you most connect with?
Diana: Space and atmosphere. I love the kinds of products he used to build. I still look at the walls at Taliesin West and wonder how they all fit together. The way it fits in with nature is inspiring to me, because so much of what we have today is not as connected to the outdoors, and grounded with the land. My favorite place is to sit in the Garden Room at Taliesin West. It’s the most special environment I know, it’s just continuously fascinating to me. He captured something there for me that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
David: I love how he went from 19th century brick buildings to 20th century buildings. I love his all-American attitude. As a midwesterner, he didn’t like the East Coast intellectuals and he was willing to be inspired by other things like the Mayan influence on some of his work in Los Angeles, or the Japanese influence seen in his work. He never accepted no
As a practicing architect I find Wright to be a continuing fountain and wealth of information on how to do things, how to approach sites, how to get light into a building, etc. The other thing I find fascinating is that he didn’t have one fruitful period that lasted 10 years, he had a whole career that lasted from his twenties to his nineties and he was constantly reinventing his art.
I’ve visited many of Wright’s buildings, but Taliesin West is one of my favorite buildings in the universe because of its handmade, organic quality. I think that the way it was built and what it looks like and what it represents in his life is so incredibly poetic. Nothing that he built looked like that before or really after because it was so site specific.
What inspired you to get involved with the work of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation on this level?
Diana: It’s inspiring to see how the Foundation’s leadership has transformed the value of Taliesin West for the community. To see how the Pavilion and the Cabaret are being used for productions, there’s this feeling of wonderment to be out there experiencing these spaces like Wright once did. These are living sites that are being made applicable to the future and aren’t just house museums. There’s a hope that all of Wright’s principles and philosophies can be applied to the future, to make our lives better. I find it so special that every time I visit, I have the opportunity to learn something I didn’t know about Wright, and what he brought that touches our lives.
David: It was an honor to be asked to be a member of the Board, and I’m thrilled to do it. The work the Foundation does is truly fascinating and vitally important. It’s a very noble and worthy cause being the caretaker of Taliesin and Taliesin West. These works are one of mankind’s ultimate cultural achievements and it’s important to respect that to move forward into the future. Wright’s work is timeless and if you let it deteriorate then I think a lot will be lost from the world.
As Wright’s legacy goes on, we are obligated to find a way to bring his work into the next phase and make it relevant to everyone today. I feel we have to look deep into his work to find the way to make it applicable to current day.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s mission is to preserve Taliesin and Taliesin West for future generations, and inspire society through an understanding and experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, architecture, and design. Advance our mission and vision by supporting this work.