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Marin County Civic Center, Frank Lloyd Wright, San Rafael, FLW, organic architecture

This week, to mark the building’s 50th anniversary, the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects hosted tours and a panel discussion about the building’s legacy as part of the annual Architecture and the City Festival. When Wright arrived in San Rafael to survey the site, he was 90 years old; he reportedly stood on one of the site’s rolling hills and envisioned a building bridging them.

The indoor and outdoor spaces of the Marin Civic Center blend seamlessly together. As the building climbs up the hill, the roof stays at the same height, such that it feels as though it is coming out of the ground. Wright’s original design called for the building to be open to the elements, but skylights were later added. A jagged 200-foot gold spire that towers over the building can be seen from the nearby 101 highway.

Marin County Civic Center, Frank Lloyd Wright, San Rafael, FLW, organic architecture

The center’s exterior has an almost carousel aesthetic with rounded forms that feature bronze ornaments. Inside, the building is very tactile, inviting visitors to reach out and touch different architectural elements. Long interior corridors are filled with plants, and large openings allow fresh air to circulate from below.

The building has also had its share of problems; the roof began to leak soon after it was completed and county workers have complained that it takes too long to walk from one part of the building to another. But overall, the civic center is one of Wright’s most impressive works, and it perfectly embodies the architect’s concept of organic architecture.

To view more photos of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin Civic Center, visit Inhabitat’s Flickr set.

+ Architecture and the City