Monday, 6 February 2012

Frank Lloyd Wright

It's interview season. Thousands of students join architecture degrees thinking the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright is absolutely brilliant. They leave three years later thinking nothing of him at all. There is only one decent critical essay on FLW's work to my knowledge, Colin Rowe's excellent 'Chicago Frame' in The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays, and a smattering by Vincent Scully. The rest is picture books. This, for the master who would demand you live a hexagonal life, or sleep on a futon as a millionaire. No one even seems to have stepped up to the plate to write that biography so waiting to be written, you know, the scandalous one 'The Architects Life as a Dog'. Nobody seems to stick him out. If only Fiona McCarthy was American.
Either I'm missing something or there is an elephant in the room. Even Dos Passos got FLW wrong in his fabulous novel 'USA', rather bemoaning our lost opportunity with him. But I looked at a screen print the other day - 'Too FLW I said' by which I meant 'too straightforwardly decorative' and 'not in our base room'. Most of his interiors are too dark, the main spaces bordering on church like, and if you turned up at Taliesin West to join the clan, straight out of the desert, the first thing you had to do was make your own cloak for dinner. Fuck that.
They also join thinking Gaudi is absolutely wonderful, and leave loathing the very idea of the mad monk.
But I've never met a student who joined loving Mies who stayed the course at all. Peaked too early without doing the crap first one is tempted to think.

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