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Inside a structure's life

AT NATURE'S EDGE: FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S ARTIST STUDIO, by Henry Whiting II, The University of Utah Press, 125 pages, with drawings and photography (black and white, color), $39.95

"At Nature's Edge" recounts the history of Frank Lloyd Wright's only completed artist studio (other than his own), created for the Idaho landscape painter Archie Boyd Teater and wife Patricia in 1952.

The structure, intended to foster the creative life, is located in the desert terrain high above Idaho's Snake River and is a testament to Wright's ideas of organic architecture.

Organized as a reverential, quasi-operatic documentary, this book — by author Henry Whiting II, an architectural writer who now lives in the Teater studio with his artist wife — tells a compelling story of the studio's design (birth), construction (life), abandonment (death) and remodeling (resurrection).

To Whiting's credit, "At Nature's Edge" is hard to put down. The book is replete with letters written back and forth between the Teaters and Wright, drawings by the architect, and a tell-all structure that is not unlike a romance novel, full of broken dreams, angry renunciations, changes of heart, etc.

You'd almost think you weren't reading about a building.

Here's a sample of the book's verbiage: "In the end, though, the Teaters had the audacity to dream a great dream, to see a farsighted vision, and had the courage and tenacity to see the dream through to conclusion when no one else dared. It is a heroic story."

Whiting takes what could have been a sterile recounting of an edifice and made it engaging, and he does it with skill. His description of the abandoned and weather-ravaged studio brings such a sense of remorse for the destruction of beauty that you can't wait to hear how he plans to heal the wood and stone.

There might be some Wright purists who consider the very idea of altering the venerated architect's designs reprehensible, but Whiting's love for the studio is evident in his tender care in the necessary upgrades.

Anyone who admires Wright's architectural feats will want to read this account and will also want to visit this gem of the desert.