There is only one commercial building in downtown San Francisco, however, by the legendary architect. It's at 140 Maiden Lane. Built in 1949 for V.C. Morris as a gift shop, the intriguing structure now houses Xanadu Gallery. It's facade is flat brick, imposing and only lightly detailed. Its portal draws the visitor in with a series of diminishing arches that feel a bit like going down the rabbit hole or into a cave. Once inside, though, the grand show room opens brilliantly, featuring a spiral walkway that echoes the Guggenheim in New York built a decade after this one. As with most Wright buildings, furniture was custom-built for the client's building as a kind of total environment. The Xanadu Gallery has maintained this harmony of design, even if there is a kind of strict discipline, nearly a totalitarian worldview, when the design demands get right down to the napkin holders that MUST be used by the building's inhabitants to strike the right design note. Wright was a notorious control freak. Still, this easily-overlooked jewel box is one of San Francisco's great hidden treasures.
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