When the threat of recurrent flooding forced the drastic decision to move Frank Lloyd Wright's 1954 Bachman-Wilson House in New Jersey to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, not all of the building made the journey. Despite the museum's assertion that the "entire structure was … taken apart and each component … labeled, packed, and moved to the Museum, where it was reconstructed in 2015," photographs of the reconstruction and other statements by the museum confirm otherwise. In reality, only the mahogany linings, timber surfaces, joinery, and furniture were reused—much of the building's structure was left behind or in storage.
Like many buildings reconstructed for display ex situ, the Bachman-Wilson house has undergone a major transformation. Detached from their supporting structures, architectural fragments, facades, period rooms, and entire houses have become new, distorted, and ambiguous objects in museum collections, often likened pejoratively to theatrical stage sets. What, however, should be made of such exhibits, and what might they reveal about architecture more generally? Through a focused study of the Bachman-Wilson House, this essay offers a theorized account of the transformation of architecture relocated for display, providing new insights into such aberrant and misunderstood monuments.