Proposed Rosenwald School Design Featured in MoMA’s Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive

A Frank Lloyd Wright proposed design for a Rosenwald School for African American children will be presented by Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia University and the Society of Architectural Historians, during a special study day at MoMA on June 2.

A sketch by architect Frank Lloyd Wright envisions the Rosenwald Foundation School. It will be presented along with many other items from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives in a major retrospective planned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2017. – Original Credit: Handout (Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / HANDOUT)

The MoMA Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive will run from June 12 – Oct. 1, 2017. It marks the 150th anniversary of the American Architect’s birth and the fifth anniversary of the transferof the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives to the joint stewardship of MoMA and the Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

Prof. Wilson is the author of Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums, a runner-up for John Hope Franklin Prize for the best American Studies publication in 2012. Her scholarly essays have appeared in numerous journals and books on critical geography, memory studies, art and architecture. She has received awards, fellowships and residencies from Getty Research Institute, New York State Council for the Arts, and ID magazine. She is currently developing the manuscript Building Race and Nation: How Slavery Influenced Antebellum American Civic Architecture and collaborating on a collection of essays on race and modern architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s proposed design in 1928 was probably never built because it would have been too expensive. His version was ambitious and included a courtyard with a swimming pool and a proscenium stage. Its construction would have included pioneering use of concrete and fieldstone that he would use on later buildings.

In total, there were 5,357 Rosenwald schools, shop houses, and teacher’s houses built. Most remained in use until the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling went into effect in 1954 and black schools were no longer a necessity. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to restore many of the school and many of the buildings have found new uses as town halls, community centers and more.

Read more on Prof. Wilson’s presentation here.
Read more on MoMA’s exhibition here.