V.C. Morris Gift Shop (1948), San Francisco, California
The V.C. Morris Gift Shop in San Francisco, California conceals a circular inner volume behind a simple windowless wall of fine brickwork. The vertical grille on the left of the entrance arch is created by removing every other brick and is backed by recessed lights.
In the interior, Wright placed a circular mezzanine reached by ascending a spiral ramp. Both are made of white reinforced concrete. The built-in wood and glass furnishings are also composed of circle segments. Light is provided by a grid of interlocked translucent globes suspended above the circular space. Circular openings for display of illuminated objects pierce the curved wall of the ramp.
Although the Morris Gift Shop was constructed before the Guggenheim Museum, the design for the museum pre-dates that of the shop. However, construction of this building allowed Wright his first opportunity to build an internal spiral ramp.
When questioned by the owner about the omission of traditional store-front windows on the facade of the building, Wright replied:
“We are not going to dump your beautiful merchandise on the street, but create an arch-tunnel of glass, into which the passers-by may look and be enticed. As they penetrate further into the entrance, seeing the shop inside with its spiral ramp and tables set with fine china and crystal, they will suddenly push open the door, and you’ve got them!”
For more about the building, see Xanadu Gallery.
References: Frank Lloyd Wright by Robert McCarter, ©1997 Phaidon Press Limited