The Nakoma Memorial Gateway
Frank Lloyd Wright's Winnebago Sculptural Models
In 1923, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a clubhouse for the Nakoma Country Club on the Winnebago ceremonial grounds in Madison, Wisconsin. A year later, Wright was also asked to design what is known as the "Nakoma Memorial Gateway," which would serve as the entryway to the nearby Nakoma subdivision.
The Nakoma Memorial Gateway plan consisted of two hexagonal pools, one on either side of the road, with each having a massive sculpture of a Winnebago tribal figure: one being "Nakomis" and the other "Nakoma." According to Wright's original concept, Chief Nakomis would be rendered eighteen feet tall "teaching his young son to take the bow to the Sun God," while sixteen-foot Nakoma would be shown with "brimming bowl and children, symbolic of domestic virtue."
In keeping with Wright's organic design philosophy, the figures are rendered with simplicity in their features and a subtle, abstract geometry overall. Wright produced smaller-scale plaster models of the Nakomis and Nakoma sculptures as part of his presentation. Numerous versions of the sculptures were created thereafter, some earlier renditions using the plaster examples as their molds, in terracotta, black glazed ceramic, glided concrete, and bronze.
Due to financial constraints, neither the clubhouse nor the Nakoma Memorial Gateway came to fruition at the intended location during Wright's lifetime, but the designs were later adapted for a new site in California in 2000.