Born in Buffalo, New York, Jeffrey Levine’s first experience of Wright’s architecture came as a child through a computer-based virtual tour of Wright’s Larkin Building at the Buffalo Historical Society. Even at an early age, knowing the groundbreaking building had been demolished left quite an impact. “I hated the idea that it was torn down and the land isn’t being used for anything,” he says. After studying literature and sociology, Levine joined the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in 2010 as communications and events manager. He directed numerous Wright events before moving on in 2014 but remains a Conservancy member. “I’ve long been fascinated with both the material design of Wright’s work as well as his vision for reshaping the way people lived in his houses. Broadacre City remains one of the foundational ways that I think about urban planning and society. Architecture is much more than just the building; it’s shaping how we function in that space. If nothing else, I’m really interested in going through as many spaces as I can and seeing all the possibilities that exist.”
What was your first experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture?
According to my mother, it was touring the Darwin Martin House in utero right before it was closed for renovations. If that doesn’t count, it was going to the Buffalo Historical Society and seeing an exhibit on the Larking Building. I was about 8 at the time and there was a fantastic computer program where you could navigate your way through the virtual interior of the building. My favorite view was floating somewhere between the second and third floor and looking down.
Is there a work of architecture that was demolished that affected you in a personal way, or spurred your interest in preservation advocacy?
I think that finding out the Larkin Building no longer existed was really hard for me to come to terms with. You see it, you get excited about it, and then you find out it no longer exists. It wasn’t an area I’d go by a lot but I hated the idea that it was torn down and the land isn’t being used for anything.
Is there one work of Wright’s that has touched you more than any other?
Beth Sholom. I had a good idea of what it looked like prior to the Philadelphia conference but to walk into that space and look up was both humbling and awe-inspiring. I remember sitting down towards the back and trying to take it all in and thinking, regardless of religion, how sacred and set-apart it felt.
Can you describe a best experience or favorite memory over your years with the Conservancy?
One of my favorite experiences was the Out and About Wright event in Cleveland. My parents came in for the weekend and joined the tour. They had never seen a Usonian before and I was so glad to not only spend the time with them but to introduce them to an entirely new style.
What have you enjoyed most about being a part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy?
The buildings, of course, but mainly the people. I was surprised how much I missed our members between events and looked forward to seeing everyone and catching up.
Posted on June 18, 2017