You can thank my brother Rodney for this follow up article on a Frank Lloyd Wright organic architecture designed golf clubhouse in Maui that Golf Digest’s Matt Ginella titled “The Coolest Clubhouse” for his article of November 2008. Since spring is almost here in 2014 and all you avid gardening golfers are itching to hit that little white ball, we thought it appropriate to recall the Maui first-hand experience that Rodney enjoyed. Be sure and watch the slideshow to see the experience yourself.
The coolest clubhouse- originally a house for Marilyn Monroe
Ginella begins his article by telling us that Frank Lloyd Wright was “the greatest American architect, most recognized for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.” He goes on to say that Wright didn't play golf, but is accountable for what is possibly the “most awe-inspiring clubhouse in the country today. The design, which he drew up more than 50 years ago, was originally intended to be a house for Marilyn Monroe.”
The essence of organic architecture
Golf Digest’s Ginella article states that when you fly into Maui, then drive west to Ka'anapali or Kapalua, about fifteen minutes into your drive, you can gaze to your right and try to see King Kamehameha Golf Club. The clubhouse “looks like a space station or a cluster of clams, but without a keen eye, you'll drive right by it.” It emphasizes Wright's philosophy of organic architecture- that “architecture should be inspired by the natural habitat.”
Matt tells some of what the head of the Frank Lloyd Wright design team had to say about the site adapted golf clubhouse,
"We very carefully made the rose colors consistent with the tone of the West Maui Mountains," says John Rattenbury, 79, who worked for Wright for nine years in the 1950s and still works and lives at Wright's foundation at Taliesin West in Scottsdale. "The golf course has bunkers, rolling greens and fairways. All of those soft curves blend in with the dome roof of the clubhouse -- not to mention the curves of Marilyn Monroe."
In January 2013 John Rattenbury joined with Michael Rust, another design disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright specializing in organic architecture.
About organic architecture design philosophy from Frank Lloyd Wright
From the current Wrightian Taliesin site:
"I know that architecture is life; or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived." Frank Lloyd Wright (quoted in Rattenbury, p. 14).
"Organic architecture seeks superior sense of use and a finer sense of comfort, expressed in organic simplicity." Frank Lloyd Wright ("All Wright Site" – Quotations).
In A Living Architecture, John Rattenbury writes that Organic Architecture is, "simply put, an intrinsic, natural, living architecture based on ideas"
The Marilyn Monroe house design
Marilyn Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller and they met Wright in New York in 1957 and commissioned him to design a dream house getaway they desired to build in Roxbury, Conn. The old master presented them a set of unbuilt plans he had designed for a well-heeled couple in Texas, then when that project was abandoned it later was to be a residence in Acapulco for a Mexican government official but that too was not constructed. The famous couple acquired the plans but then asked Wright to expand the design by adding servants' quarters, a larger closet, a pool and a movie theater. The Wright design doubled, increasing to 14,000 square feet. However, Wright died in 1959, at 91, and the pair divorced in 1961, thus, the house was never built. The plans were parked in an archival vault at Taliesin in Scottsdale for almost 30 years.
Read more at Frank Lloyd Wright dream house for Marilyn Monroe.
A project resurrected
Then, In 1988, a group of economic minded Japanese investors made a long trip to Taliesin West to negotiate the purchase of a Frank Lloyd Wright design for a golf clubhouse they wanted to build in Maui. "They weren't happy to find out there were no specific clubhouse designs available," says Rattenbury. "But I told them I had a design that Mr. Wright did for Marilyn Monroe. That really got their interest."
Rattenbury was obviously pleased at another possibly to promote Wright’s organic architecture designs.
For $27 million, the group, led by Takeshi Sekiguchi, built the clubhouse. "I kept asking them what their budget was," says Rattenbury. "They kept telling me to quit worrying about the budget and worry about the quality."
Original design integrity retained
Rattenbury, head of the Taliesin design team, preserved the integrity and the appearance of the original Wright design by placing two-thirds of the golf clubhouse beneath ground level. Two levels were added including men's and women's locker rooms and a cart outbuilding and golf shop. One of the notable design elements is the 4,300-square-foot banqueting room with a 270-degree bicoastal outlook.
The Ginella article states that,
“On a clear day, the elevation -- 773 feet -- gives you a spectacular vantage point for the dormant volcano Mt. Haleakala, Ho'okipa Bay to the left and the Ma'alaea Bay to the right. (There's a similar story to the Wright-designed clubhouse at Nakoma Golf Resort in California.)”
Some history of the golf club
Ginella describes a bit of subsequent history of the King Kamehameha Golf Club
Before it became the King Kamehameha Golf Club, it was the Waikapu Valley Country Club and then briefly the Grand Waikapu Golf Resort and Spa. But the Japanese economy collapsed, and the club closed in 1999. Another Japanese tycoon, Makoto Kaneko, used to fly into Maui over the dormant club. He's a golf enthusiast and wanted to leave a legacy to a game and an island he loved. He purchased the club in 2004 for $12.5 million, and it reopened in May 2006 after an additional $40 million in renovations. Ted Robinson Sr. designed the original golf course; before it reopened, changes were made by his son, Ted Robinson Jr. The wind can be a serious factor. The par-5 18th hole offers the best look at Wright's clubhouse. The club has 160 members, the most famous of whom is Clint Eastwood.
"We're a pure golf experience in Maui," says Rick Castillo, director of golf. "For now we're the only 18-hole private club here, we have a Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse and we honor the Hawaiian tradition, history and culture."
An interesting perk
Ginella concludes the article with an aside comment from John Rattenbury.
"At one point Mr. Wright interviewed with Marilyn Monroe when she came to Scottsdale," says Rattenbury. "She was shorter than I thought she'd be, but she was beautiful. When she arrived, Mr. Wright sent everybody away. None of us know what took place that hour or two that they were together. Obviously nothing happened, but it makes an interesting perk to the story."