The Wright auction house is offering the Louis Kahn-designed Margaret Esherick House for auction as an objet d'art. This isn't a fluke. The first time Richard Wright did this, he turned a $1.5 million Pierre Koenig house (details in the continuing page) into a $3.19 million bid-fest. One assumes, since he is so eagerly entering the market again, that this approach is more than a little profitable for Wright.
Koenig's Case Study House #21—by which, in 1958, the newly emerging architect demonstrated that steel framing could convert what was considered an unbuildable lot into an elegant, Modern, two-bedroom jewel with views out to surrounding reflecting pools and L.A. beyond—became in 2006 the first property sold as art rather than real estate, according to Wright.
Arguably, this is too fine a point, since Christie's sold Philip Johnson's Rockefeller Guest House for 11.1 million in 2000 and Sotheby's sold Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House in 2003 for $7.5 million. Both took advantage—as does Wright—of the auction-catalogue cachet to ratchet prices beyond the appraised real-estate value of the properties.
On the facade of it, this seems at least an interesting phenomenon; perhaps a revelation. Architecture as a transcending experience is hardly new. But is it so transcending to have architecture devolve to the realm of mere art?