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September 09, 2006

The Zaniness of FLW

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Thanks to Prairie Mary for pointing out this fascinating Christopher Hawthorne article about "The Fellowhip," a new study of Frank Lloyd Wright. The authors did their best to discard the Eternal Genius lens through which Wright is usually seen, and to consider him as a mere mortal, if one with enormous talent. That's something I tried to do myself -- in a much more modest way, of course, and confining myself entirely to his work -- back in this posting, which I wittily entitled "Frank Lloyd Wright Is Not God." It generated some controversy, to say the least.

Mary has put up a wonderful posting of her own about how she learned to write.



posted by Michael at September 9, 2006


I visited my first Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Obviously it is designed to within an inch of its life. The layout of all the spaces along a series of axes, multiplied somewhat nervously and arbitrarily, is instantly palpable--sort of an East Asian on caffeine aesthetic. However, when I thought of actually living in the house, with a wife and three children, it simply seemed impossible. It would be like taking up residence in an art installation or on a movie set; it would always have been "his" house and never "yours." The notion of coming back from a tough day at work, making yourself a drink and sprawling out to nurse a black mood was simply unthinkable in that setting.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 9, 2006 10:15 AM

"The notion of coming back from a tough day at work, making yourself a drink and sprawling out to nurse a black mood was simply unthinkable in that setting."


Posted by: Brian on September 10, 2006 4:58 PM


What, you never have black moods? Or tough days at work? Or have small children running around scattering everything and yelling loudly? Or just want to put Aunt Martha's bureau someplace in the house to remember the old gal by? If you don't recognize any of these situations as part of your daily life, then FLW was the designer for you. If you have any interest in living in a space that is YOUR space, FLW would be about the last person on earth to hire as your architect.

Since he is now gone, if you miss him so, you could try moving into a window display at a nice upscale department store. That has very much the same homey feel as the Hollyhock House. BTW, none of this is to dismiss his obvious talent at graphic design. But if you haven't been in that house, I don't think you can understand the many, many parts of it that seem to make no sense other than design sense. (Including items like dining room chairs that work just dandy as sculpture and would kill your back and hindquarters to sit on for more than 20 minutes.)

AND...there are elements of that house that virtually constitute negligence on the part of an architect (unnecessary changes in floor level so you're always walking up and down a few steps, long dark windowless hallways, doors so low a very short person would concuss themselves on them if walking in the dark, etc. etc.) To call aspects of the design quick-and-dirty is to be generous.

I, for one, would go crazy in that sort of environment. I notice the original patron lived in the house for a few years, then moved out and donated it to the city of L.A. She spent her declining years in another structure. Geeze, I wonder why.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 11, 2006 7:35 PM

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