Monday, June 7, 2010

All Things FLLW

Well, it's the old boy's birthday, and so here's a small tribute to his tumultuous life and prolific output. If he had lived today, he wouldn't be able to practice his big architecture - being unregistered - he'd be on meds and living in West Hollywood licensing furniture designs. A (quasi) fictional account of his life is portrayed in the book "The Women" by T.C. Boyle, which captures the flavor of his life and his UU philosophical origins (Walden, Thoreau) that played out in his architectural projects using "organic architecture". A background article about Tom Boyle and his exploration of the essentially narcissistic character of FLLW is here.

I got to know his work at Taliesin West during my workshop in Arcosanti in 1978, as well as during a tour of the Arizona Biltmore. Built as one of Phoenix’s first resorts in 1929, the Arizona Biltmore was constructed in grand form by brothers Albert, Charles and Warren McArthur. Frank Lloyd Wright served as the consulting architect, and the Arizona Biltmore remains one of the only existing hotels in the world to benefit from his influence. That includes his Sprites in the garden. A real brief history on his career is here.

The AIA has produced a nice series on the development of his Fallingwater project in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, which is undergoing continual structural preservation. As always, it concerns water penetration issues, something that never seemed to concern him when designing and constructing his structures. All of his work is truly experimental, and he apparently primed his clients to accept that fact and support his artistic efforts.

A retrospective of his career is presented by the architect and historian Alan Hess for the Bowers Museum lecture. He reviews what are essentially the three careers of FLLW. A dozen of the famed architect's buildings are now offering digital tours of both the interior and exteriors of the spaces, also known as the #WrightVirtualVisits initiative. Much of his work has been archived at MOMA in New York, which has mounted a retrospective of his work. The archives are held at Columbia University.

Many restoration efforts are being undertaken on his Prairie House structures across the country, his Usonian houses, and also in Los Angeles for his "mayan architecture" block designs. The Crystal Bridges Museum has relocated the Bachman-Wilson house to its campus. A gem of an interior commercial design is reconstructed out of the country in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, for the same client who commissioned him to design his masterpiece, Fallingwater.

And of course there's Art Garfunkel's tribute to FLLW, as a former architecture student, a form of indentured servitude all architects know well:

I remember Frank Lloyd Wright,
All of the nights we harmonized 'til dawn
I never laughed so long...