Saturday, June 03, 2017

#276 Happy 150th, Frank Lloyd Wright!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150 birthday is coming up on June 8, 2017.   

In celebration of that important event, I interviewed Kelly, the Wright expert in my life. 

When did you first learn of Wright?
It was Wright’s furniture, not his architecture, that first grabbed my attention.  My dad was a carpenter and I remember becoming interested in old oak furniture through my folks and their friends Jim and Phyllis.  I started looking at books about oak furniture and came across Wright’s furniture designs.  I’m lucky to have had such an early introduction to carpentry through my dad. 

What do you remember about your first visit to a Wright house?
In 1995, I visited Wright's last Prairie House, the Allen house in Wichita.  From the street, the red tile roof and horizontal lines stood out.  I remember the large, open living room.  We had to pass through the entry space, a gateway of sorts, and I felt special about being inside the house, standing in the living space, slightly elevated and sheltered from the street outside and still connected to the outdoors.  This house made me even more curious about Wright and the following year, I attended my first Wright Plus Housewalk in Oak Park, IL.

So you’ve been following Wright for more than 20 years.  Would you call yourself a fan?
Yes, I’m a fan of his architecture, his furniture, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his vision.  He foresaw how the auto would change the way we live.  And how it would change the way our cities look.  His Broadacre City urban planning ideas were centered around a mobile, auto-centric middle class which shortly came to fruition.

And how do you think your interest in Wright has changed the way you live?
It has made me more thoughtful about design and about how your surroundings make you feel.  The horizontal line as the line of domesticity is something I’ve thought about when renovating our Ozarks bungalow.  It really does inspire calm. I appreciate how Wright’s architecture blends with the landscape and helps the occupants feel connected to the landscape. 

I’m married to you so I know you may have more to say about this question.  How else do you think your interest in Wright has changed the way you live? 
Learning about how much he cared about the way house design impacts his occupants has made me more thoughtful and more intentional about that same topic.   Eliminating unnecessary clutter and ornamentation from life has simplified and improved it.  To learn about people, look at their buildings. 

You mention the Ozarks bungalow.  Would you say that its 1914 design was influenced by Wright?   
His Prairie houses from that time period blurred the line between inside and out and I think the design of this house does the same.  I see concepts that he popularized with walls of glass and connections to the landscape from each of the rooms. The wide overhangs do deliver that sense of shelter.  One of the reviewers for our National Register nomination commented that our house combines Craftsman Bungalow and Prairie elements. 

What are some of the benefits of your interest in Wright?
Wright connects me with a community of scholars, architects, students, lovers of Wright, haters of Wright, and has given me a reason to visit buildings off the beaten path from Japan to Buffalo. Through Wright, I first learned of Fay Jones, whose large body of work is centered around Arkansas, his home state, near where we live.  Training and volunteering as a guide for Wright’s Bachman-Wilson house at Crystal Bridges Museum upped my game while connecting me with like-minded guides and museum guests.  

What do you wish I would have asked you about Wright that I haven’t?
How many Wright buildings have you visited and which would you most like to see? 

How many Wright buildings have you visited and which would you most like to see?    
We’ve seen about 50 Wright buildings.  There are about 70 open to the public.   I’d most like to see Teater’s Knoll in Bliss, Idaho because of its remote dramatic location overlooking the Snake River and its soaring native stone and glass construction.  It is privately owned and not regularly open for tours. The pictures look fabulous!  

Finally, what are you going to do to celebrate Mr. Wright's 150th birthday?
We have two fun Wright events planned this week and another this summer.  This week, I'll be giving a couple tours of the Bachman-Wilson house at Crystal Bridges - which I love doing.  And we'll also be touring for the first time the Sondern-Adler home in Kansas City.  This summer, we'll be attending MOMA's exhibit, Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. In between, I'll probably pull a book off one of my Wright shelves for re-reading.  But, as you well know, we celebrate Wright a lot around here even when it's not his birthday.