ACCORDING TO A RECENT SURVEY. women prefer architects as their favoured professional mate -— a fact that would doubtlesst have left Frank Lloyd Wright chuffed bttt unsurprised. Notorious for a private life fairly scattered with wives and lovers. Wright — with his craggy features — was not so much a man on the charm offensive but knowingly cori- fident of his credentials.
Wright has been called the greatest architect of the 2()th century. He also had an attendant ego that was fully turbo-driven. liamously he wished to demolish Manhattan. decrying it as an inhuman city jungle. and replace it with stretches of park land punctuated by the occasional mile- high skyscraper. Not that he was an easy lover of the century’s greatest building feat. the high rise. The fiercely opinionated Wright was no follower of Le (‘orbusier‘s dictum that buildings should be ‘machines for living in'. Wright was more the ‘organic man'.
‘Before Wright. dwellings were little boxes.‘ says Alexandra Gerny. curator at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany. which has put together the exhibition Frank Lloyd ll’rig/ir And The Living (‘iryx ‘Wright made the space fluid. There is very strong sense of being led through the building.
there is a strong sensation of
space.‘ For Gerny. Wright’s prairie houses. developed from the 1890s onwards. typified this idealism. Built around Chicago. the prairie home was conceived as perfect for the neat. suburban. apple—pie-loving American family.
The story goes that wooden building blocks were an all- important influence on Wright. Born in Wisconsin in l867. toddler Frank was placed among these toys by his no-nonsense
Welsh mother. a follower of
liroebel. the German educa— tionalist and advocate of wooden blocks to help young minds develop rationally yet spon- taneously. The prairie houses. with their angular lines and overhanging eaves. often slung low into the landscape. are. for many. Wright‘s boyhood building blocks made bricks and mortar. ‘Nature. however. was as important as culture for Wright.‘ believes Gerny. '11 was important for him to connect the building to the landscape.‘ Wright‘s Falling-
water. built to the south of
Pittsburgh in the 1930s. straddles a waterfall and incorporates trees: he wanted his architecture to have real. live original features.
A prolific all-rounder whose apprentice—filled office apparently
'Wright did not compromise. Perhaps that's what you get when you are genius and an egomaniac.’
Frank Lloyd Wright STYLELIST
fell quiet when he started to draw. Wright turned his hand to designing furniture. books and china. lf Wright designed you a house. invariably he insisted that he would furnish it for yott. ‘lle did not compromise.’ says Gerny. ‘l’erhaps that‘s what you get when you are genius and an egomaniac.‘
'l‘ypically. when moves were made in the 1950s to appoint Wright to build what is probably his most famous building. New York‘s Guggenheim Museum. he showed little initial interest. A letter saying the Guggenheim l’oundation required ‘a fighter. a lover of space. an originator. a tester and a wise man‘ left him little moved by the flattery. When finally convinced by the commission. he conceived a spiral building — a glorified dome- covered internal walkway that curls and curves as it rises up and up. A staggering exploration of space and form. it is Wright at his most fluid. The art on the wall is made to play second fiddle to his architecture but that's hardly surprising.
Frank Lloyd Wright And The Living City is at the Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow from Fri 19 Feb-Sun 11 Apr. Admission free.
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