Saturday, June 1, 2013


Wright and apprentices in the 1950s
  • Wright and Walter Gropius were two of the most influential figures in architecture in the 20th century but Wright held Gropius, Le Corbusier, and the rest of the European modernists in disdain as "the white box boys" because they took many of the ideas that he had developed around 1900 and abstracted them into a modernism that was alien to nature. Gropius was a particular target for Wright's wrath because, having left Germany in 1934 he became the chair of architecture at Harvard in 1937 where he profoundly influenced several generations of architects including I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph, and Ulrich Franzen. Lynda Waggoner, the director of Fallingwater, recently sent me this statement  that Gropius wrote sometime in the 1960s regarding a visit to Wright's Taliesin:

Walter Gropius

 Gropius writes:  Just two years before that, I had visited the city where the renowned American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, had worked. He was a great artist and his wife continued to run the school after his demise. I went there and found from 60 of its students that each drafted a second or third-rate design a la Frank Lloyd Wright. This was a sign of “Assistant upbringing” and not the upbringing of an independent artist. The contribution of the Bauhaus was that we composed “what I would like to call an optical science” of objective things, which emerged from human psychology and physiology where we started laying down particular things which are applicable to every individual and thus equipped young architects with specific observations and visions, based on which they had to form their own perceptions. This was the essence of the training. I also realized the need to connect the new production-making.

We have to wonder why, in spite of his feelings about the European modernists, Wright was friendly to Mies van der Rohe, Gropius's successor at the Bauhaus.

Wright, an interpreter, and Mies at the Johnson's Wax building site c1937

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