Over the years, it should come as no surprise that we've published a lot of stories on Frank Lloyd Wright. If we were a science-fiction publication, we'd have a lot of stories on Isaac Asimov. If we were a sports magazine, we'd have lots of articles on Michael Jordan. If we were a grocery store checkout line tabloid ... well, who cares, right? Anyway, the point is that Frank Lloyd Wright is the most famous architect who has ever lived. We can debate a lot of things—about Wright's vision, ability, impact, and whether or not he was even a very nice person—but we can't debate the fact that he's head and shoulders above everyone else when it comes to being the person who nearly everyone thinks of when you say the word "architect."
And, like everyone else, we love his work. From the Taliesins, to the Guggenheim, to all of the spectacular houses, to the unbuilt towers that never made it off a sketchpad, Wright truly was a master. So it's always a pleasure to cover all things Frank Lloyd Wright for you.
Having said that, here are a handful of some of the stories we've been fortunate enough to cover ...
Back in 2009, Hannah McCann covered the story of the forgotten women who worked for Wright over the years. In 2007, the Guggenheim Museum asked Beverly Willis (architect and head of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation which works to further the status of women practicing in the architecture profession) to delve into the issue. But she ran up against a screaming void. "The fact that there’s nothing out there doesn’t mean to me that there’s nothing out there," Willis said. "A woman’s designs are similar to chalk on a blackboard. You can write all of your accomplishments, but there’s an eraser following behind. I knew that there was a lot of information that had been lost." After two years of research, Willis was able to turn her findings into a 15-minute-long documentary A Girl Is a Fellow Here”: 100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. Read Hannah McCann's full story here.
In 2012, assistant editor Lindsey Roberts interviewed Wright's personal photographer, Pedro Guerrero, who at age 22 met the 72-year-old architect when he went to Taliesin West and made a cold call for a job. "I had no idea who this man was," Guerrero told Roberts. "If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have gone." Roberts talked to Guerrero, then 95 years old, on the eve of an exhibition of his life's work at the Julius Shulman Institute at the Woodbury University School of Architecture in southern California. (Guerrero died a mere five months later.) As someone close to Wright, Guerrero lends a lot of insight into the man behind the image. "The reason that I think that we got along so well," Guerrero said, "is that I was not bowing and scraping all the time. We had our little jokes. He was very playful. ... I was not always standing in awe of him. ... He was just another friend. And a good one." Read Lindsey Roberts' full interview here.
There's a new exhibition on Wright opening Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, but in 2014 there was another. All about the tall architecture of Wright, we sent Thomas de Monchaux to review that show for us. We think "Prairie Style" when we think Wright, with good reason, but this MoMA show revealed the skyscraper designer that always lurked beneath the surface. "Wright’s work is so familiar," de Monchaux wrote, "that it is easy to miss how strange it is. Grandiose solipsism, as modeled by Wright, is so much the manner of contemporary architects that it goes largely unexamined. ... To contemplate the Broadacre City model, as jolly and creepy as a model railroad in its self-contained perfection, in its accumulation of tidy artificial solutions for tidy artificial problems (including a grand house on a convenient mesa whose notional resident much surely have been Wright himself), is to see less and less the public proposal with which the exhibit, with perhaps willful credulity, presents it—and to see further and further into a private world. The model has the feel of one of those projects that, upon his death, an otherwise undistinguished clerk or draftsman is discovered to have constructed, complete with syncretic mythology and personal gods, in his basement." Read Thomas de Monchaux's full article here.
Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Every year, we spooky it up for Halloween, and in 2014 Chelsea Blahut put together this fun little roundup of Wright projects with "haunted histories." Like this building: "Completed in 1924 in Los Feliz, Calif., for Charles Ennis, a men’s department store owner with an enthusiasm in Mayan art and architecture, the house is considered a perfect example of domestic Mayan Revival architecture and one of Wright’s masterpieces. ... It was envisioned as the background for House on a Haunted Hill, a classic horror film made in 1959 directed by William Castle ... [whose] exterior was set as a mansion occupied by evil vampires [for Joss Whedon's] Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and again when its interior was used as the apartment of decidedly-less-evil Rick Deckard in Blade Runner." Read Chelsea Blahut's full story here.
At the end of 2014, we send author Logan Ward to Taliesin West, which was in the middle of a skirmish over the school's accreditation, infighting on the board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, a big master planned restoration by Harboe Architects, and the diminishing numbers and importance of the Legacy Fellows—"the last living Frank Lloyd Wright apprentices, six of whom reside year-round at Taliesin West," wrote Ward. It's a fascinating profile of the people and the campus in the middle of a transition. Read Logan Ward's full article here.
In 2015, flooding in New Jersey threatened to consume one of Wright's houses. "Searching for higher and drier ground," wrote Caroline Massie, "Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman Wilson House was disassembled last spring and made the 1,200-mile journey from Somerset County, N.J., to Bentonville, Ark., where it was then carefully reconstructed piece by piece." Read Caroline Massie's full article here.
Last August, ARCHITECT contributor and dean of the School of Architecture at Taliesin, Aaron Betsky, wrote about visiting Wright's Winslow House in River Forest, Ill. Betsky wrote that the house "represented American suburban architecture at its best, presenting itself to its neighborhood with confidence and elegance, while celebrating an active relationship with nature at its rear. It seems to me that what we have seen since for designs where domestic democracy and nature are meant to mix has been a slow descent from that pure statement. The Winslow House is a reminder of what single-family American homes could be." Read Aaron Betsky's full article here.
Also last August, associate editor Hallie Busta reviewed This is Frank Lloyd Wright (Laurence King Publishing, 2016), which was "written by design journalist and ARCHITECT contributor Ian Volner and richly illustrated by Michael Kirkham, follows the Taliesin founder from his childhood (difficult) through apprenticeships and his early career (successful, if volatile) to a host of mid-career setbacks (mostly personal) and on to the work for which he’s best known: pioneering Prairie Style architecture, founding the Taliesin school, developing the Usonian home concept, and many prominent commissions." Read Hallie Busta's full article here and see more images from the inside of the book.
And most recently, this February, we assigned Reed Karaim to report back on the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative, an ambitious project by Michael Miner, a documentary filmmaker who fell in love with the architect to such a degree that he has taken on the mission of bringing some of Wright's unbuilt projects into reality. "Eric [Wright] notes," wrote Karaim, "that his grandfather took a pragmatic view of his finished buildings. 'He would say, "I’ve already done that. It’s up to them now. I’ve moved on." ' Yet it’s hard to believe Wright, never known to be self-effacing, wouldn’t be pleased to see new buildings pay tribute to the enduring power of his dreams." Read Reed Karaim's full article here.