Mayan Revival in Richland Center


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A.D. Warehouse - Frank Lloyd Wright - Richland Center
A.D. Warehouse - Frank Lloyd Wright - Richland Center

A ride through the Kickapoo River Valley is a classic Wisconsin country drive. Along the way you may find yourself in Richland Center. There is at least one unusual reason to take a break and step out of the car. Planted in this rural agricultural hometown is a world famous piece of erudite architecture. It's a warehouse designed by America's most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

The A. D. German Warehouse is an example of Frank Lloyd Wright's brief flirtation with the Mayan revival style. Albert Dell German commissioned Wright to design a warehouse to store the wares of his wholesale grocery business. He got a bit more than he bargained for. The decorated structure ran several times over the original budget.

Today it is in ruins, but Wright fans might still consider paying a visit to this structure and the town of Richland Center, Wright's birthplace. It's not far from Taliesin in Spring Green a popular destination for architecture tourists.

Mayan Revival Fountain - Pan American Building
Mayan revival is a decorative style that first emerged in the design of a fountain at the center courtyard of the Pan American Building in Washington D.C. The decorative fountain and courtyard described Pre-Columbian relief and simplified geometries.

These exotic designs appealed to architects at the turn of the 20th century. The simplified forms, patterns, and rhythms appeared more authentic than the prevailing extravagance of European decoration. Simultaneously, there was global intrigue generated by archaeological discoveries that were unearthing mountains of treasures from the mummified remains of Egyptian pharaohs to lost Mayan, Aztec, and Inca cities. Machu Picchu was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, which exposed to the world the heroic building accomplishments of Pre-Columbian Americans.

A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center
A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center
Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center WI. The prairie style of architecture, which Wright was instrumental in developing, was influenced in part by the surrounding landscape of his boyhood home. The famous architect maintained lifelong ties to this area of the State. The story goes that he owed some money to A. D. German and offered to design his warehouse.

That story may be true, but Wright may have had some other motivation. The A.D. German Warehouse was designed in 1915 and its construction halted in 1921. Concurrently, in Germany the Deutscher Werkbund movement began. The werkbund was a movement to elevate the role of industry in society. Major German architects devoted themselves to designing factories and other industrial buildings. This movement resulted in imbuing erudite qualities into industrial structures. I believe that the success of the werkbund influenced Wright in deciding to take on a project such as a warehouse.

A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center
A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center
The A.D. German warehouse remained a warehouse almost up to this current day. It has recently been transferred to a person who has an interest in historic preservation. A preservation fundraising campaign is underway to restore the warehouse and change its use to one that can support the community in Richland Center.

The A.D. Warehouse is an important historical object. It is important to architecture and art historians because of who designed it more so than the activities it was used for. It is also important because it is a visible reminder of what buildings can be. How many warehouses have you seen that are remarkable? The A.D. Warehouse reminds us that average buildings, buildings of everyday use and function can be great. And that buildings anywhere, in small rural towns or in an urban metropolis can be great. The warehouse is a Wisconsin treasure and shows us important aspects about Wisconsinites and their devotion to achieve great things in our common everyday lives.
A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center
A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center

A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center
A.D. German Warehouse, Richland Center

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Address for your GPS: 300 Church Street Richland Center
| coordinates: N43.333887, W090.384019 |

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