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« Milwaukee Art Museum | Main | Tacit Knowledge -- Digital Film Editing »

September 11, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright Redux

Friedrich --

It's been fun to watch the Frank Lloyd Wright discussion make its rounds through the blogosphere. Culturegab -- all right! Participants have seemed to fall into two camps: the "it leaks, therefore the hell with it" camp; and the "its beauty trumps all its other faults" camp. I'd like to think I hit a slightly more subtle note in my own posting (here), something perhaps along the lines of "he's a major figure, sure, and his work is often beautiful, sure; but it's often more troublesome and rigid than its reputation indicates, and than many people would be willing to put up with for long." But maybe I didn't.

Anyway, many interesting contributions from every which where. It's heartening to see such a conversation take off at all, come to think of it. Oftentimes when the name of one of the Greats comes up, the conversation stops dead in its tracks -- the word "great" too often seems to have that effect, doesn't it? I for one much prefer taking part in a lively and open conversation to bickering over whether something or someone is Great.

There's one thing that I do think it's worth trying to straighten out. Some of the "beauty trumps all else" crowd seem under the impression that their opponents are weirdos for raising such questions as livability and flexibility, let alone whether or not you're going to go broke trying to keep the place together -- why, they're just missing the point of True Architecture (let alone True Greatness)!

Um, er. What's weird isn't worrying about bumping your head, or the rising damp, or whether you're going to have to put out buckets in the middle of the living room to catch the leaking rainwater -- these are normal concerns, and more than valid in a discussion of a building's worth. What's weird is trying to confine a discussion about an architect's work to the sole question of whether or not it's beautiful.

This isn't just my perverse opinion, by the way. Here are the terms by which architecture has almost always been discussed: "Commodity, firmness and delight." (From Vitruvius, the earliest ancient whose writings on architecture we have.) Which means: the appropriateness and fitness of the design to what it's intended for; the quality of its construction; and its beauty. (And notice the order these criteria are presented in.) Through all of recorded history -- the modernist era aside, of course -- these are the terms by which the judgment and discussion of architecture have taken place. That's a couple of millenia vs. one century, by the way.

So, focusing on beauty and beauty alone in a discussion of architecture? OK, sure, fine, and I'd be the last person to try to pass a law against it. But let's get one thing straight: historically speaking, it's weird.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at September 11, 2003




Comments

I actually think that this is a perfectly legitimate criticism of Wright. Architectual criticism should consider both form and function. However this does beg the question of why in so many books, articles, etc... Wright is considered in the small group of greatest architects of the 20th century and in terms of American architects is seen as first or in the top handful. Has this been some sort of fantastic snow job by an evil cabal of deluded, misguided Wright lovers, or did Wright's ability to sell his beautiful but impractical ideas to his clients somehow overwhelm the entire population?

More likely is that in architectual criticism form pretty much trumps function, however weird that may be. And it may be that when it comes to designing houses that people have to live in, this is an unfortunate reality. Philip Johnson's glass house is considered a modernist icon, but how practical is that? Or Buckminter Fuller's geodesic domes? I think part of the problem is that Wright's p.r. has just been fantastic, partly due to his longevity and tremendous amount of work, and nobody else, especially that has designed houses has ever gotten anywere near the same amount of attention in the popular mind. And because of that his reputation is probably overblown.

Posted by: Harry Phillips on September 11, 2003 11:27 PM



Excellent points, Harry, thanks. And which all prompt the question: why is that, as you say, "in architectural criticism form pretty much trumps function, however weird that may be"? I tend towards a Tom Wolfe-esque explanation for this. How about you?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 11, 2003 11:50 PM



According to Stewart Brand in his book How Buildings Learn, one source of trouble is that architects--he was speaking of specifically of architects of large buildings--are typically responsible only for the appearance of the building. Other folks end up deciding where the load-bearing members go, and how the plumbing is routed, and so forth--structural engineers and the like. And second, architectural design awards are usually given on the basis of pictures taken before the building is occupied. According to Brand, architects of large buildings almost never go back to see whether the building actually "works" for the people who work there.

Posted by: Will Duquette on September 11, 2003 11:53 PM



Hey Will, that's great. "What photographs well" certainly isn't necessarily the same as "what works well," or "what people like," or any of that.

Another question for you. Harry's got me thinking of this. Why FLW, particularly? I mean, why has become the icon he has? There are other people who've made buildings as beautiful, and many others, it seems, who've made buidings more useful and solid. So why has he become the kind of pop icon of the bunch, the one architect everyone just knows is the Great American Architect?

I wonder if the question can be fully answered. Maybe we simply have a need for heroes and gods, and we'll create 'em if we don't actually have 'em. I'm thinking, for instance, of Marilyn Monroe. Why should she be such a giant, iconic figure? She wasn't more beautiful than any other woman of her era, and she certainly was a long way from being the best actress. Yet there she is, an icon. Can it be explained, really, or do these things just happen? I mean, FLW had his talent and his virtues -- but do they (and they alone) explain why his name is so well-known by so many people who can barely name another American architect?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 12, 2003 12:19 AM



Hmmm.

Perhaps because FLW's son invented Lincoln Logs?

(No, really, he did.)

Posted by: Will Duquette on September 12, 2003 11:03 AM



Maybe ... "marketing trumps quality."

Posted by: David Sucher on September 12, 2003 11:11 AM



Michael--
I'll pipe in yet again on Wright. My take on why he has the reputation that he does is that he deserves it. Ok, I'll admit that that sheds no light. So let me try again:

Wright has the reputation that he has NOT because his buildings are notably beautiful--although many of them are, in very untraditional ways--but because they are in fact very livable--but, again, in very untraditional ways. Wright helped people come to see a house not merely as a place of refuge, but as a place prospect and refuge.

Are you familar with Grant Hildebrand's book, The Wright Space? There are certainly many things in Hildebrand's book that I'd quibble with, but I think Hildebrand has some very insightful things to say about why people find Wright's work so appealing. His book might also be of interest to you given the Blowhard interest in evolutionary biology. I highly recommend it.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on September 12, 2003 11:24 AM



I see expensive architects as primarily sculptors working in the medium of large boxes. The question, then, is how important is the usefulness of the inside of the sculpture? After all, no one much cares what the inside of a Remington bronze looks like.

The difference between sculptors and architects is that architects should care about the inside as well as the outside; about use as well as beauty; about leaks as well as sightlines.

Wright was a terrific sculptor in his chosen medium; too bad about the other bits.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on September 12, 2003 11:41 AM



Wright helped people come to see a house not merely as a place of refuge, but as a place prospect and refuge.

I t don't think so. The idea of house as place of "prospect and refuge" long predated Wright.

Posted by: David Sucher on September 12, 2003 02:17 PM



"Wright was a terrific sculptor in his chosen medium; too bad about the other bits."

Screw that. I am a great doctor in my chosen medium, which doesn't happen to be diagnosing and curing people.

The point is that the general population clings to, for mysterious reasons, the canonization of FLW as "the" architect. He's the poster boy for wanting to have a house that looks good and says good things about its owner.

(Geodesic domes have all sort of engineering fetish associations. The geodesic structures are supposed to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes and make bread rise more evenly and keeps cats from yowling in the yard.)

FWIW, Marilyn is dead. She wasn't that famous before then - don't take my word for it, spend 16 hours pawing through moving magazines of the six years before and the six years after her death. What a difference a Warhol makes.

Posted by: j.c. on September 12, 2003 02:19 PM



David Sucher writes, "I don't think so. The idea of house as place of 'prospect and refuge' long predated Wright."

Ah, the technique of refutation by means of bald denial. Argumentation at its best. That, and straw man.

I didn't say that Wright originated the idea. Still, I'll acknowledge that the point I should have been making was not that Wright spread the idea (which was the point I was making, not the one Sucher credited to me), but that he so effectively incorporated the idea in his houses.

And Doug Sundseth wrote, "Wright was a terrific sculptor in his chosen medium; too bad about the other bits." This would make sense to me if it were said about someone like Frank Gehry. But about Wright? It makes me wonder whether Doug really knows much about Wright's work. Wright's work generally doesn't have a scupltural quality to it, does it? I suppose the Guggenheim does, and maybe Fallingwater. But the Prairie and Usonian houses? I don't see it. And more bizarre is the comment "too bad about the other bits." Why is everyone agreeing so readily that Wright's houses didn't work well. Yes, some of his houses' roofs have leaked at times (a reparable problem, by the way). And Fallingwater's porches are sagging (but remember that this daring feat of engineering has far outlived the original clients). What exactly are the other bits that it's "too bad about"? If Wright's houses were so damned unlivable, why have so few of his clients, who you'd think would be better qualified to make the judgment than most, said so?

Posted by: Mike Kelly on September 12, 2003 03:17 PM



Ummm ... could it be because they're afraid that if they did say so, their fellow Americans would deem them philistines, unworthy of the sublime spirituality Wright had so generously bestowed upon them? Or could it be because they genuinely believed these uncomfortable houses imposed a spiritual dicipline, moving them further along the path to enlightenment? (Wright may be the perfect designer for today's "BoBos.")

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on September 12, 2003 04:00 PM



Or could it be because they simply did find them to be wonderful places to live and that you are wrong in your assessment?

There's something strange that goes on here in Blowhardville: The arts elite is looked down on when it displays a thickheaded inability to appreciate what the masses appreciate, and the masses are looked down on when...well, when they like something that the denizens of Blowhardville don't like.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on September 12, 2003 05:26 PM



Mike Kelly says that he should have said that FLW "...so effectively incorporated the idea in his houses."

Great. Maybe FLW did; I won't dispute that (though from all the stories about Wright's total indifference about his clients' concerns, maybe someone would do it.)

But many thousands of unknown architects and carpenter/builder/developers also incorporated the idea of house as place of "prospect and refuge" --- and no calls them "geniuses."

Posted by: David Sucher on September 12, 2003 06:52 PM



Or could it be because they simply did find them to be wonderful places to live and that you are wrong in your assessment?

To be fair, some did -- but not many. The Kaufman family liked Fallingwater as a concept, but it wasn't a great place to live. Lucky for them it was only a vacation spot: A few weeks with Wright was about as much as they could stand.

A good test of how much a family house is appreciated might be whether future generations are willing to live in it. Wright's houses get turned over pretty quickly to foundations: Even his smaller Usonian homes have become museums now. (One of his last structures, in Wisconsin, is a nightly rental in a state park.)

It seems that, given the choice to live in an FLW house or not, most people just say no.

But many thousands of unknown architects and carpenter/builder/developers also incorporated the idea of house as place of "prospect and refuge" --- and no calls them "geniuses."

Not necessarily true. We're starting to appreciate architecture outside the academic mainstream, with a new awareness of old rural buildings (which is where you tend to see this sort of thing).

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on September 12, 2003 10:47 PM



While I think architectual criticism could probably be improved by more discussion of buildings in terms of their functionality, I will say that in the end architecture is an art, one that relies heavily on the abilities of engineers and/or craftsmen, but an art nontheless. And Wright as one of its great artists, was not it's most practical. Is some architectual criticism more hyperbolic fluff (the Tom Wolfe critique) than common sense? Yes some is, but not all.

I do think that Will makes a good point. In the end designing and creating a building is a collaberative effort, more like opera than painting. The best experience comes when all the pieces work together for the best possible outcome. Wright's ego probably made it impossible for him to collaberate with anyone who might have been able to make suggestions on improving the functionality of his designs. From what I have read with respect to his clients it was the FLW way or the highway, and I think this can be regarded as a genuine character flaw that may have caused his creations to be less than perfect.
But sometimes artists are like that.

Like you I am fascinated by how his superstar status came about. But, like it or not, he's got it.

Posted by: Harry Phillips on September 12, 2003 10:57 PM



I seem to be monopolizing too much space here, but I'm having trouble keeping quiet.

David Sucher seems intent on arguing irrelevantly against me. He correctly quotes me as praising Wright for "so effectively incorporat[ing] the idea [of prospect and refuge] in his houses." But then he goes on to say, "Maybe FLW did; I won't dispute that ...
But many thousands of unknown architects and carpenter/builder/developers also incorporated the idea of house as place of 'prospect and refuge' --- and no one calls them 'geniuses.'" But what's the relevance of that? I'm praising Wright for how well he incorporated this idea, not merely for the fact that he did incorporate it. Furthermore, it has been my experience that very few houses do incorporate this idea well, and that almost none do so as well as Wright at his best. Perhaps Sucher can provide us with examples.

Sucher also takes a swipe at Wright's supposed "total indifference about his clients' concerns." Here too I'd like to request evidence. Certainly there are stories about how difficult Wright could be to work with. But total indifference to his clients' concerns is, as far as I can tell, nonsense. To see several examples of Wright's willingness to comply with one client's wishes, see pages 99 and following of the book on Fallingwater by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.

And now let me turn to Tim Hulsey, who claims that "The Kaufman family liked Fallingwater as a concept, but it wasn't a great place to live. Lucky for them it was only a vacation spot: A few weeks with Wright was about as much as they could stand." Where's the evidence for this? It's been a few years since I read either Kaufmann's or Hoffmann's books on Fallingwater, but quick skims of them tonight left me with no support and some contrary evidence to Hulsey's claim. True, Kaufmann discusses on pp. 49ff faults of Fallingwater, but he doesn't there suggest that his family could stand only a few weeks with Wright. Pages 54ff in fact suggest quite the opposite.

Further Tim writes, "A good test of how much a family house is appreciated might be whether future generations are willing to live in it. Wright's houses get turned over pretty quickly to foundations: Even his smaller Usonian homes have become museums now. (One of his last structures, in Wisconsin, is a nightly rental in a state park.)" True, the Seth Peterson cottage is available for rental. And a few other Usonian homes are museums now: e.g., Cedar Rock in Iowa, the Rosenbaum house in Alabama. But the vast majority of Wright's houses are either still owned and occupied by the original owners (e.g. the Trier and Grant houses in Iowa, the Lewis house in Tallahassee, the Rudin house in Madison) or have been owned and happily lived in by other families. Wright designed and had built hundreds of houses, most of them still extant, fewer than two dozen of them now "museums". Unless I have misinterpreted Tim's claim, I think these facts effectively refute it.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on September 13, 2003 12:48 AM



And a few other Usonian homes are museums now: e.g., Cedar Rock in Iowa, the Rosenbaum house in Alabama.

Add about 25 others to that list, including the Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria VA, the Barnsdall, Ennis, and Freeman houses in LA, the Charnley House in Chicago, the Robie and Cheney houses in Oak Park IL, and so forth. As far as I know, most of the Wright buildings that people still live in -- in other words, that haven't been turned over to foundations or demolished -- are midwestern Prairie Houses.

As for Fallingwater (or as some wags call it, "Fallingdown"), I can't claim encyclopedic knowledge of the Kaufmann family. I know the Kaufmanns' son studied with Wright at Taliesin, and the commission for the house was his idea. I think he also wrote that book you're referring to.

The Kaufmanns found Fallingwater cold in the winter and hot in the summer (ah, the joys of uninsulated concrete and stone!). It was stuffy, with poor air circulation, and its location directly over a creek led to problems with flooding. And did I mention all those biting flies? All said, it just wasn't much of a vacation place. Small wonder the family got rid of it in the early '60s.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on September 13, 2003 05:43 AM



Tim, of the houses that you mention as now being "museums," only the Pope-Leighey house is Usonian. And the Charnley house, a very early work (certainly not Usonian) may not even be by Wright; it's often credited to Louis Sullivan. I'm not sure how you're helping your case there. Then when you write, "As far as I know, most of the Wright buildings that people still live in -- in other words, that haven't been turned over to foundations or demolished -- are midwestern Prairie Houses," is the implication supposed to be that many Usonians have been demolished or turned over to foundations? Well, only two Usonian or other later-period Wright houses have been destroyed, and those through acts of nature or accidental fire: One, the Fuller house, survived Hurricane Betsy in 1965 only to be swept away by a giant tidal wave caused by Hurricane Camille four years later. The other, the Pauson house, burned down in 1942. All other Usonian or later-period Wright houses still stand. As for those that have been left to a foundation, of the nearly 200 built, by my count only 7 or 8 have been turned over to foundations; the rest are occupied by the original clients or later owners.

And, by the way, so what if they've been turned over to foundations? Are you implying that the reason they have is that no one would want to live in them? I think an alternative reason is far more plausible and fairly obvious. I'll leave it as an easy homework assignment for you to figure out what that reason is.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on September 13, 2003 07:19 PM



Look, can't we just all agree that he was a good architect? And he tried hard?

Posted by: David Sucher on September 13, 2003 07:45 PM



I'll admit the Usonian houses don't get their due; I think that, on the whole, they're better-designed that Wright's larger commissions, if only because their middle-class status kept Wright's excesses in check. But the chief complaint I've heard about them is that, according to many of their owners, they "feel like motel rooms." Wright's interior design is built-in and heavily overdetermined; it really doesn't allow for "personal touches" or redecoration. In that respect, Wright has run against the individualistic grain of American culture, and most homeowners just don't like that. If you want a space that reflects Frank Lloyd Wright, a Frank Lloyd Wright home is very nice. But if you want a space that more closely reflects yourself, and that you can control, you don't want a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on September 14, 2003 01:26 AM



BTW, in that list of 25, I wasn't referring to Wright's general career, not just the Usonian houses. I just saw that -- apologies for the confusion, folks. That is, assuming any of you are still listening ... ;^)

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on September 14, 2003 01:30 AM



Oops again -- "wasn't" should read "was." Typos aplenty.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on September 14, 2003 01:30 AM



"And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

With apologies to Kipling, FLW's work was inargueably pretty, and it certainly was good architecture, at least as defined by the many decades of adoration by professional and layman alike.

However, the question still remains: Does acclaimed "Architecture" result in a usable building that will stand the test of time?

The Post-Modern/Memphis building style was once the height of architectural discussion. Even popular magazines ran photo spreads on the latest building trends. Today, Post Modern buildings already look hopelessly dated and somewhat frivolous. Their facade just screams "last decades fashion".

In the same manner, I would argue that FLW buildings have NOT withstood the test of time, as nobody is duplicating them on a regular basis. His works are a cultural icon, as proved by the numerous banal coffee table books available in any mid-sized bookstore. Yet where are the FLW inspired subdivisions?

Joe Six Pack is NOT living in anything that is even remotely related to FLW. Even driving through a monied suburb (where Joe Nouveau Riche and associated commissions fluorish), houses in the FLW style are few and far between. Plenty of new faux French chateauxs and Greek-columned Southern mansions, but FLW? I think not.

Even the affectionados of the Prairie style (myself included) might have a modern house built in the Prairie style as far as overall appearance, but the influence of FLW ends even before the threshold. Who needs low ceilings and a leaky roof? Where is the wall space for my Marilyn Monroe poster?

Once you start deviating from FLW's rigid design to accommodate mundane issues as day-to-day liveability as defined by the (gasp) occupant, FLW's all inclusive design philosophy quickly shatters. You might end up with a Prairie Style House, but it is not FLW.

The FLW style is ground to dust by the daily routines of common existence. If his buildings were true masterpieces of both form and function, then would not owners/occupants hold onto them tenatiously? Instead, most of his works are quickly and eagerly converted to a sterile existence as museum pieces rather then actual useable living space. Obviously being an architectural icon is completley different from a living icon. Hence the problem.

Posted by: Biased Observer on September 14, 2003 08:57 PM



"If his buildings were true masterpieces of both form and function, then would not owners/occupants hold onto them tenaciously? Instead, most of his works are quickly and eagerly converted to a sterile existence as museum pieces rather then actual useable living space."

I’ll try this one more time: Almost all of Wright’s hundreds of houses, from all periods of his working life, are still lived in, not museum pieces. Most of these houses were—or are being—lived in by their original owners for the rest of their lives.

I can see being critical of Wright for various reasons, but why people here persist in incorporating into their criticism claims that readily available sources clearly show to be false, I'll be damned if I know.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on September 14, 2003 11:01 PM



Mike: Re "Museum pieces"

Ouch. Point taken. I withdraw that remark. I was thinking of the Fallingwater example mentioned above when I wrote it, and obviously does not apply to the whole spectrum of his works.

However, I am not sure that the frequency of original owners tells us much about the actual liveability factor. After all, many people buy ridiculously expensive sports cars that are entirely impractical and damned uncomfortable, yet they refuse to part with them. For some, there is the lure of celebrity/exclusiveness in owning a unique work of a known master. Do these considerations hold for FLW?

Given FLW's salesmanship and flair for self-promotion, perhaps the owners are still refusing to admit they bought a static (and very expensive) version of the "emperors new clothes". Then again, just as an sports car is lots of fun, maybe owners find other factors besides liveability makes the house work for them.

I am sure FLW could be dissected against measureable (ergonomic) standards, or even less quantitative metrics such as Alexander's A Pattern Language. The ultimate litmus test would be a survey of actual owners (who actually use the house over a long period) and to compare their experience/opinions with the familiar professional/popular view. That would hold more sway then any comments from curbside viewers such as ourselves.

Posted by: Biased Observer on September 15, 2003 03:16 AM



It seems I'm about 5 months late to this discussion and you all are probably on to "blowhard" on other topics but this one is near and dear to my heart.

First off, my "superficial" impression of the posts prior to mine is that the arcitecture of FLLW is being discussed with only a "superficial" understanding of what it is. The key to understanding Wright is to to see that Wright is one of the few of us humans that could get to the essence of all things physical. He could get to the "bones" of a thing as he liked to say. The word Nature is often associated with Wright's work but most understand that to refer to the birds and trees. Though Wright used the study of these to discover the real "Nature" he often spoke of. This "Nature" being the nature of the materials and the space he used to create his architecture. Eveything in our physical existance has inherent properties that control their fuction and usefulness.

"Things Wrightian" in popular culture these days most often completely ignor this concept and often try to replicate certain details that give the "Look" of a Wrightian structure with complete disregard for the "Nature" of the circumstance. There are many "things Wrightian" that are occuring more and more today because they are true to their "Nature" that are never attributed to Wright. One example, infloor radiant heating, is becoming the heating system of choice where comfort and efficiency in a priority. Another widely marketed system is structural insulated panels - a direct evolution of Wright's Usonian plywood sandwich wall construcion. Wrights infamous "Leaks" were due more to a lack of ongoing maintenance than poor design. Either way the "Leaks" problem today is solved by single ply membrane roofing material that requires very little maintenance and is quite relyable - more so than the traditional asphalt shingle roof. Even Wright's ultimate intent for his Usonian house to be built in the shop in modules and assembled in days and not months on site at a much reduced cost is the common method of construction in the tract housing industry today. I've seen none of these houses marketed as Wrightian.

In defense of the average housing consumer a working knowledge of Wright is not taught in public school 101. In my opinion the "Fellows" most equipt to bring the lagacy of Wright to the rest of us is the "Taliesin Fellows". Namely Taliesin Architects, not suprisingly now defunct. Mr. Wright created a well defined system of home construction, uniquely American and with potential to make the superior spacial design of Wright available to most everyone in America. The Fellows at Taliesin choose to each make their own unsuccessful attempts to reinvent Wright in their own image, slaves to their architect egos I guess. When finding that did not work they are resorting to offering Wrights unbuilt designs for sale to be built for the price of a big design(?) surcharge wad of cash placed in their pockets.

I guess I shouldn't complain. This leaves us postumous "Students" of Wright's teachings to use what we've learned to build the way buildings are ment by "Nature" to be built.

My "Blowhard" for today on this important subject.

Posted by: Steve Klohn on February 15, 2004 11:16 PM



Re Wright's houses get turned over pretty quickly to foundations: Even his smaller Usonian homes have become museums now. This was from Tim Hulsey on 9-12-2003. As a point, there are over 400 FLLW buildings in existence, and about 75, as I understand it, that are open to the public. The rest are still used.

Buying a Wright structure definitely is a commitment, there is no question. As an example, however, I've met an original Wright-client who still owns his Wright house, and he loved it. Of course, he's one out of hundreds, but I think it should be stated.

On the other hand, I once heard (this is FOAF) of a person who bought a home in Boston that included a Frank Stella painting that was made specifically for the space. The person didn't want the Stella, but to get it out of the home, they would have had to cut the painting in half. So the person bought the house with the $1 million pricetag added for the Stella. Crazy, yes, but it doesn't make for extensive conversations.

I'd still love to live in a Usonian home, but for now I'll take my 1930s log cabin.

Posted by: Keiran on April 19, 2004 12:07 AM



Wright opus is comparable to those of Shakespeare or Beethoven or Picasso.

To make generalizations, pretty much everything a gifted writer or dramatist strives for in their work was accomplished masterfully by Shakespeare. The man appropriated existing stories and reinvented them, creating true masterpieces. Hamlet contains some of the finest characterization ever created. Period. Plot, character development, language, drama, wit...it's all there.

A very similar analogy can be made for Beethoven, who singlehandedly shattered the structure and formalism of classical composition and created a music that could be astonishingly new, bold, majestic, and abstract. In his later years, the man was experimenting with atonality a century before Schonberg and Stravinsky.

So it is with Wright--everything that any great architect has endeavored to master in their own work can be found throughout Mr. Wright's work. It's something that goes far beyond mere aesthetics or "style." It's about composition--the manipulation and contrast of spaces, of scale and proportion, of light and dark, lightness and weight, of procession and focus...

Wright's greatest spaces are perhaps first and foremost an EXPERIENCE.

I'm a student of architecture, and architectural history. I love the works of many architects of many periods. But of all the buildings I've thus far encountered, it's been buildings by Wright that have affected me most deeply.

Entering the living room of Taliesin (Wright's own home in the Wisconsin countryside) has been one of the most profoundly moving experiences of my life.

You enter that room from a low, dark entryway, and the space and light gradually open you until you are in the middle of the room with a soaring, breathtaking panoramic view over tree tops of the river valley below through the horizontal band of windows encircling the room. At exactly the same time, you are held in check by the sheltering gravity of a rustic, cave-like hearth behind you that is the center of gravity of the entire room.

A single room that offeres exhilaration and restful repose. A true communion with nature.
Everything that the painters of the Hudson River School ever tried to capture on canvas, Mr. Wright more than captured in that single room.

Examples such as this are why Frank Lloyd Wright was, and is, respected and revered.

The history of any archihtect or any type of building includes it's fair share of leaky roofs, settling foundations, and infrastructures and living arrangements that become outmoded due to changing uses or lifestyles. I don't know that Wright necessarily had more than his fair share. Even if he did, it's worth it.

Wright took a risk with the cantilevered balconies of Fallingwater--he was pushing the structure and materials far further than most would have dared. Structurally, it was a near failure, but it would have been better for that house to have existed and failed than never to have existed at all.

Posted by: Anthony on May 6, 2004 03:37 AM



I wish there was an edit function. I've must reread my post, and my spelling sux.

Posted by: Anthony on May 6, 2004 03:39 AM






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