thumbnail of Focus 580; Frank Lloyd Wright
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
In this hour of the show we will spend some time talking about the life and work of a man many consider to be America's greatest architect. Certainly a very important figure in the history of architecture and the man we're talking about is Frank Lloyd Wright. In this hour our guest is Ada Louise Huxtable she's been writing about architecture for quite a long time. She was between 1963 and 1900 to the architecture critic for The New York Times and during that time won a Pulitzer Prize for her work right at the moment. She is the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal and she's the author of a new biography of Wright that it is that is a new contribution to a series of brief biographies that's published by Penguin and there are a number of them out now. Oh and we have we here on focus 580 also on the afternoon magazine over the last few years have talked with a number of the authors of these books. And the book is simply titled Frank Lloyd Wright. It is published by Viking and is certainly available out in the bookstore somewhere near you along with a number
of the other books biographies of many different figures just to mention a few Crazy Horse Mao Zedong Rosa Parks Herman Melville Woodrow Wilson Joan of Arc Leonardo da Vinci and others and the to that list now has been added the name Frank Lloyd Wright. As we talk with our guest this morning you certainly are welcome to call people who are listening are welcome to call with questions and comments we just as people try to be brief so that we can keep the program moving but of course anyone listening is welcome to call in Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We also have the toll free line that means anywhere if you're listening it would be long distance call. Use that number that's 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Miss Huxtable Hello. Hello. Thank you very much for talking with us. Thank you very sheeted. That was something that I think that is true is if we if we went out and stopped people on the street and ask them Can you name a famous architect. My guess is that
rights name would come up and in fact there probably would be some people then that would be the only architect that they could name. And I absolutely agree he has enormous name recognition. Now whether they would recognize a right building when they saw that something else but but the name and I do wonder whether that is in fact it has a lot to do with the image that he constructed for himself. And if we think of anyone who is the archetypal heroic ARCHITECT This is the guy. Well he was the first star architect and he did construct that image and he did know he was very wise about the ways of publicists. And I think the film The Fountainhead which were supposed to be based on right. Did a great Gary Cooper play the part and I think that publicized him enormously and made generations of young women fall in love with him. He was as you say he was. He was very skilled in
creating an image for himself and I suppose that the challenge for anyone who would write about him or or try to understand him and truly come to understand him is to be able to to know both he has as as you say in the right in the early in the book that he lived two lives one that he created one that he lived. So you do have to take some pains to sort out the the the legend and much of that is created by Wright himself from the real facts of his life. You know good you know both to understand him because of the research it's been done since the Wright archives were opened about 30 years after his death. The emphasis has been on finding out the true facts what the lies were and he was a champion liar. And what the reality of his life was. But if you don't pay attention to what he thought he was who he thought he was and what he thought he represented and why he did it and you don't understand either the man or
the artist at the end. Certainly there are there are some fascinating and scandalous details about the band's private life that that you detail and certainly other people have detailed and were known in Wright's time I mean he was a controversial figure perhaps perhaps for his work and his work habits but also for his personal life. Some people I suppose would argue they would say in in their interest in getting to know his work would say something like I don't want to know just don't tell me that all I'm interested is in in the buildings in his approach to design and architecture and the other stuff doesn't matter to me at I guess that I'm interested in having you talk about it. Having gone through the exercise now of exploring the work in the man for the book to to what extent the you cannot separate the personal from the professional.
Well you've got to know they are really the same thing. When a story when the mythology tells you that he left a wife and six children and 19 0 9 to go to Europe with the wife of a client and this was unbelievably shocking at the time it's all put down to high romance and daring. And it was only partly that he had reached a dead end of this practice in his famous prairie houses. And he was in contact with everything that was going on in Europe which was very revolutionary at the time. He was interested in furthering his own career by close of contact by seeing the buildings. He had a contract for a large publication of a publication of his work which he knew would be international publicity that it would put him on the map. So the departure from this shocking departure from Chicago and the abandonment of his wife and his family was intimately tied up with the fact that he was pre-occupied dedicated to his own career and to
realizing what he considered to be his own potential. Well I suppose that it serves to remind one that architecture is a difficult business in that you you have to have clients. You have to have people who are willing to contract and finance the building it's not like other kinds of artists that can carry on their work relatively in a relatively solitary fashion and with painted canvas or whatever it is that they use if you're going to build buildings it's not a small thing and you your your contacts with people of influence people of wealth are vital. And the better known you are the more likely it is that you're going to have people approaching you to do the work so if you're going to get your work it's going to be anything more than something drawn on a piece of paper. Then all of those other things are are inescapable. Well that's so true you have to realize how radical his work was how strange it was to people. We're talking about the late 19th century beginning of the 20th century
when people lived very much according to Victorian standards of taste and he was a real shocker that was is that he did manage to build the early ones in Chicago were referred to by people as heretics. They considered them an outrage in the neighborhood so that he couldn't make himself seem very special and convince people that he was an artist and that they should become his cry and he couldn't build at all. It does and I think that that not only to get an appreciation for the throne for that kind of thing not only do you have to think of have to perhaps see the buildings it's sort of it certainly helps but also to think about the architectural context of the time and I guess it struck me some some years ago I we have a as a right house in Springfield Illinois and it struck me as I was touring the house and then you you can now go there and go through it and it doesn't seem particularly radical to us now but I guess I think about the time that it had been built and
what the other houses around it must have been like. And I'm I'm certain that that some people must've regarded it almost like it had fallen from from some other planet as if a space ship had landed it would have been that different from the other buildings that would have been around it. Yes it was that different but I think the reason you felt so comfortable in it now is because it has been so terribly influential. Actually the ranch house which is the typical house of the American 20th century comes directly from Frank Lloyd Wright from the model that he called his sone and house that was based on the early prairie has he cleared away clutter which the Victorian Age was full of he made a one story house close to the ground. He turned it into an much more intimate open environment he related it to the outdoors you could step out on to an outside terrorists. He
just everything that we take for granted now comes from what he did then. We talked a bit earlier about the fact that he had an identity and an image that he had crafted and that there are many untruths many of the things that he said. I guess I'll use the word that you you were as he lies about a lot of things and right from the start one of the things that he lied about was his birthday. Oh you know that everything at it. And that would contribute to what he wanted to be. He took two years off his birthdate which didn't come out until really quite recent scholarship. It made him more precocious it made him seem more remarkable as a nearly successful young architect in Chicago. Lied about his education but he never tells small lies he told Big Lies. He didn't just fudge his education he invented it he really had practically no college at all he was there for I
think one semester and he claimed that he spent three and a half years and almost graduated and that that kind of education was useless to anyone as unconventional as he was. And so he ran away he left at the very end it was always very dramatic and always done to build up this image of someone who is out of the mainstream. They backed Rick and he you know he was born and grew up in Wisconsin and then went on to Chicago and there was in Chicago where he went to work for Louis Sullivan who became a very very important influence. So certainly Wright is anchored in the Midwest in what ways do you think that shapes he has his style and in what ways do you think that right. Let's say if it would have been different and maybe this is a difficult question but it would have been different would have had taken a different approach to design if for example he had been born in
New York or in Los Angeles. Oh he couldn't have been he's so much a product of his home territory always came back to it. The wonderful house which is falling apart now it really needs some kind of preservation effort. Eleison out in Spring Green Wisconsin. What was the deal. What he believed the bucolic of farm life to be in that beautiful part of the country which is Welsh. To them they had emigrated to in the 1840s he was absolutely devoted to it it gave him a very strong sense of the land and of the attachment that architecture must have for the land. It's absolutely inescapable part of his personality and his work. He apparently as a boy there was maybe there was some concern that he might be a little too artistic and perhaps not masculine enough. So some of his his early relatively early summers when he was a boy he spent working on an uncle's farm.
And he talks about how hard it was it was very hard work and apparently he hated it. He hated it. And then later he is he looked on it with great affection. It was his mother very much. She fostered him as the youthful artist and then she began to worry that he needed a little toughening up. So he spent those early summers on his uncle's farm and worked so hard he said. They piled tired on tired but even in his old age he could out work as young cop or young apprentices. He was his father. His parents were divorced and his father left the family when he was relatively young so for him his mother was a very very important influence as and her. Family also were important. Oh very much so. The marriage was extremely unhappy. He was the child of a broken home at a time when if a woman divorced she would be an outcast and the devoted all of her ambition and
used to seeing that he became an architect. He was always very loyal to her in the family and when the split took part place he really felt that he was part of the Lloyd Jones family from then on. Well where does the idea come from to be an architect. Was this was this something that comes from his mother or was it something that truly came from. From me he was an interest that just sprang from him. I think you'd have to ask that of almost any architect when did you start believing that you wanted to be an architect when did you feel that it's my theory that this is in the development of the child but it was certainly fostered by his mother. Our guest in this hour of focus 580 Ada Louise Huxtable She's a Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic for a number of years she wrote for The New York Times and is now the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal and is the author of a new biography
a brief biography of Frank law. Right and that is the title and it's part of the Penguin Lives series and published the imprint is Viking but it's it's part of the Penguin Group and is joins a number of other brief biographies of interesting folks so you might seek it out and also take a look at some of the other books in this series. Questions are certainly welcome to if you'd like to call in and talk with our guest 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 that's for champagne Urbana listeners. We do also have a toll free line. That one's good anywhere that you can hear us and that is 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. We do have someone in pain a calling in here on our line number one will go right there. Well you know I'm I'm very much an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright and I visited a place in Spring Green and I was wondering if. The school that at Spring Green or the school he started out west were still
in use as schools. Also I don't want to comment I have read a few times that occasionally Frank Lloyd Wright would give up a function for design and decorative design especially in his furniture which times seemed uncomfortable although beautiful and I have read a few times that his roughly is his roof leaked occasionally. And also I wonder if the author would mention that his visit to Japan and his receiving ideas on design as particularly the overhanging roof that he was famous for and things of that nature. Thank you. All right well there's a lot there you can take whatever that you can get. There you're like there where should we start with a Japanese influence.
That would be an interesting place. Certainly one of the things that we know about him is that he was really fascinated with Japanese design he was a great collector of wood block prints for a for a lot of his life. And you could definitely see some influence of Japanese design influences in his work. Yes it was one of the very few influences that he admitted to. Most of the time he claimed that nobody influences at all and that everything came from his own special individual imaginative genius. But Japan was the love of his from early on when he was first in Chicago the 1893 Columbian exhibition there was the whole day and the Japanese opinion. He went back many times and you will see the influence of that even in the early houses his first trip was not to Europe it was to Japan and I think it was in 19 0 4. And he would disappear into the provinces and come back with works of art so this was always a love of his. He actually
was a dealer in Japanese print. He couldn't always live by is architecture. And he had south winds of these marvelous prints that the Japanese can too considered to vulgar they were 19th century prints and he bought them nothing. But he would tell them he'd sell them professionally and he is admittedly very much influenced by Japan. And it's a lovely influence. And that does come you think that the first influence was indeed from there. What would have been the Colombian exposition. That is one. He was a magpie. There was nothing new that he wasn't interested in the St. Louis Exposition had buildings by the Austrian secessionist and he went and he studied those over and over again and began to feel that was when he began to feel he had to get to Europe to really study them so that there was nothing new and this is true of almost every architect. They are tuned in to what's going on. They're fascinated by. They want to know more about it.
It feeds into creative work. Yeah. I think that it's also true that there was among the people we might call the creative class particularly those of the northeast at around that time a great influence in in Japan and in East Asia. And in the decorative arts. Yes it came right from the Victorian age and when you began to get the movements that were moving people toward modernism and Japanese and was a very strong influence you can see it in our new. Oh it was a drive was very much a product of the case and the education and the art movements of the 19th century he was a devotee of of reskin and William Morris and those influences lasted till the end of his life. So you see the influences moving through him and becoming something completely original. Yeah. Just to go to another point the caller raises on it I think that it is fair to say that
architecture is equal parts art and engineering although sometimes when it fails it is because it's weak on the engineering side and in fact right has been. Faulted for that. He did like flat roofs and Flat roofs are notorious for leaking. I'm glad he asked that his roof didn't leak Occasionally they leak to notorious. By many pockets. They would count the number of buckets to say it was a six bucket crew for a ten. And the reason is that he was so far ahead of his time always not only in design but in technology is laid at these buildings have been retrofitted with new silicone sealant new materials with STATE OF THE our techniques so that it doesn't happen. But there were all kinds of failures and it wasn't because he was a bad engineer he was an excellent and Ginny are a lot of it was intrinsic some of it was a little education that he got and
much of it was working with a fine engineer whom he literally picked out of celebrants office and carried along with him. Well yeah tell you what. Maybe we'll get back to some of the other points of the call. The races we do have some other callers and rather than continue to make them wait let's go on and we'll talk with some others. The Next up is someone in Urbana and that is line number two. Hello. Yeah. Yeah I was I was just reading a history of the 1920s and they let me get some like like right was just a total jerk. I mean he had he had four children and he could speak with that six six and he couldn't stand any of them any he ran out on the family ran away with a female client of his who was with a married Yvette or the wife of a client which which also didn't do as a business any is his business any any good and then the house he built burned down three times under under strange circumstances.
Well his Huxtable you want if you want to speak to some of the some of the scandal in Wright's life. Well I want one more. Well enough of that. Yeah ok sure. Yeah but you had Miss oxtail. Oh right. I think we we always seem to want to confuse character with ability. Wright was a scoundrel in many ways and it was always directed toward getting his work built to getting the client to a convincing the client he lived a very free and MRA life at a time when it was terribly shocking and very much frowned on they preached against him from the pulpits of the churches. Today it would be at Page Six It would not be quite so shocking but it was only because he was his own person and. Who is his own person whether it was moral or not. It's not something you can really stand in judgment for you can create a jerk you
can say zip genius. But ultimately is what he did with his life and what he did with his art. OK the other comment. Yeah you know on the other hand just just to show you the other side from the person from the professional side. Apparently when he couldn't get any business in the U.S. his first real big project was the Imperial Palace in Tokyo the Japanese government took him on and he apparently was able to be the soil in Tokyo is very sandy and I guess in Chicago were right. Learned his trade when it was muddy. He learned to instead of anchoring the building and the the bedrock. Since there was none he would use these big huge gargantuan hollow boxes called caissons or case ons and and literally float the building in in the in the mud or the sand. And that worked just wonderfully for this this Imperial Hotel. And. Think less than a year
later there was an earthquake in the whole the whole city burned down except for the except for the hotel. And the reason was that they put in a pool and you do this at a cost too much but he refused to take it out and it was the pool was and the solid foundation was the only thing that kept the hotel from falling apart. And like half the city was found shelter there because of Wright's work. Let me add my comment. You know that's a very very good description of what had actually actually happened. He saved a lot of Japanese lives because they took shelter in the hotel. He learned about the floating case and during his time in Chicago he had was already well-known in Chicago when he got to the Imperial Hotel contract which was negotiated over a number of years. It was demolished in the 1960s. It is part of it in an alley to a
museum but it and it was not the only building that stood. That was one of his great lie. He claimed that he had a telegram and Baron Okura saying that his was the only building that stood and it was a tribute to his genius. But there were others that employed similar engineering but his was the outstanding example. Let's continue we'll talk with someone else and callers in champagne. Line number. Hello did you say one. Yes a comment about right. My husband as a young professor at Florida Southern University was right guy appointed by the president of the university when he was there. Building the buildings on campus. My husband speaks highly of him. He was not an egomaniac as many stories. And inspired the students and as you know I got them to literally build the bill
the make the bricks and so forth. But my question is. What how much influence did right. Grandfather The Unitarian minister have on him. I believe I heard once from an architect a professor that the PRI got the commission for the Unity Temple because his grandfather was well-known and was a Unitarian. Mr. HOLMES. Yes well when he went to Chicago another one of his lies was that he went with no possible prospects he was just throwing himself into the city and he was going to make his way and prove who he was. But actually he had an uncle Jenk in Lloyd Wright who was a minister of a very prosperous and socially prominent church there. And he did go to see the construction of the church he just happened to meet the
uncle. And that led of course to his acceptance in Chicago society and the first chance he had to meet the kind of clients that he would need and in fact to the meeting with his first wife. He was always very shrewd very aware of what these things would do he was also a deeply religious man and that came from his family and from the Unitarian ministers in it. And he was a man. And all of this the surface charlatanism all of this showing. There was an integrity the integrity of the artist who really is primarily interested in what he's doing. Thank you. Thanks. You know and again we will go to another caller and I believe the next person is someone calling on cell phone so this is line 3. Hello thanks for taking my call Sharon. Being curious about what happened to wright children and wonder if you could shed any light on that. And I'll hang up and listen. Thank you.
And that's a very interesting subject he had a long and troubled and on again off again relationship with his children who were devoted to him and deeply upset by the lives they led and how they seem not to matter to him but his son and his grandson became an architect. He worked with his son Lloyd went to Europe when he ran away. Lloyd left school and came to work on the portfolio drawings with him he was a very difficult and and Lloyd was most distressed by the relationship. There would be times when Wright would blame him for everything went wrong and yet in the end Lloyd said his love of beauty his love of architecture all came from it. We are past the midpoint here I think I should just again quickly introduce our guest. Ada Louise Huxtable she is a Pulitzer Prize winning market. Picture critic and author of several books from 1963 until 1982. She was the architecture critic for The New
York Times and it was during the time that she wrote for the paper that she won the Pulitzer. And now she is architecture critic for The Wall Street Journal. She's the author of a new biography of Frank Lloyd Wright that's part of the Penguin Lives series published by Viking out in the bookstores now I'm sure you want to look at it and questions are welcome. 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 2 2 2 9 4 5. We have another caller here. Someone listening in Kankakee on our toll free moment. Hello good morning David and yes Ada Louise Huxtable. They don't always have to pull their caller wonders how it is. Frank Lloyd Wright houses have such a strong tendency to do today. One wonders if the designer materials Rod McKuen upon all of these houses are often striking but so difficult to maintain a beach house like Michigan that's recently been lost in transit to those in the Bradley house. With that there's a carriage house instead. This week the differences in the
main house and the carriage house makes this car wonder if the carriage bells really is his work. But the ephemerality of the structure in architectural times just right. Your comments please. Thanks. Well I think my first comment would be you're talking about a house that's over 100 years old and building material unless they are maintained in a dish in the comment that they answer to a previous caller of why these buildings do deteriorate in addition to age and lack of beignets is that technologically he was trying to do things that had not yet been invented and so they were very very vulnerable. The history of his buildings really is a rush and a competition really to keep them alive to preserve them now. Well again the other questions are welcome. 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 I would talk a little bit earlier about the
fact that after having. Grown up and lived in Wisconsin he went to Chicago which was a very important place for the development of architectural style at the time and was the place for a very important firm. There were a number of them and he worked for a number of different firms but perhaps the most important was Adler and Solomon. And that when Louis Sullivan met Wright he apparently saw something in the young man and of and of course for right. Sullivan was a very important influence and he learned a lot by studying Sullivan's style and imitating it and then going on obviously on from there what in what ways was Louis Sullivan important for as a teacher for right. Well first of all right. I hadn't realized when he went to Chicago that this would be the most important architect to him. Connect to it. He worked in a number of other offices first and then he suddenly understood that the most advanced
work was being done in the Adler and Sullivan office and when he did get the job and again he lied and used bravado to get many of these jobs. He intelligent bonded instantly they had a great deal in common They were both interested in what they thought was the future of American architecture is something that was unique to America something that would be progressive and would lead us into the future and they would talk till late at night. They were really very formal with each other. Sullivan never. They never referred to each other by anything except Mr. Wright or Mr. Sullivan but it was a relationship that was so deep. Professionally it meant so much to both of them. And I think it was a basic approach to architecture that brought them together. And yet this relationship only lasted a few years and they kind of had a falling out because.
Right I did something that awful McCullers caller would. I think Brendan is a jerk. He had married and built a house and moved his bride into the house and he had done it all with a loan from some Sullivan to build a house and a contract that would guarantee him five years in the office. Part of the contract was no moonlighting and because he had very expensive tastes had been an increasingly expensive home and family to maintain. He began to moonlight he began to do what he called bootleg houses. And when Sullivan found after all he done for him he was seriously fired him on the spot. One of the the words that Wright always used to describe his style his architecture was organic and that's something that again and again when you read about right in his work that's the phrase that you always see organic architecture one that in some fashion grows
out of nature. And this you know this relationship that human beings have two nature or a relationship the right thought they should have. What exactly does that mean what does organic architecture mean and how is that. How is that manifested in rights work. Well it's been defined in so many different ways and you can really almost make your own definition. But it was his sense of the relationship of the building to the law and the fact that you should use natural materials in a natural way that things should not be artificial or complicated. And he wanted words that looked like wood and a building that was open to nature. It was something that really grew out of his background of Ruskin's series of architecture. And then he pushed into the future it became a basic belief in many modern architects that when you
stripped away all of the complications of the fancy of the 19th century you were left with the relationship of the building to nature and to life. Yet at the same time in certainly has been I don't know that you would really say these buildings were simple or that his decorative style was was simple and certainly very distinctive and this gets us back to one of the questions asked by the earlier caller because if you see a right building and you see it with the furniture that he wanted to see in it he wanted to have complete control. All over what the environment looked like if he had his way he would have designed the rugs the tables the chairs the light fixtures everything that the interior finishes the colors that were used to paint the place he wanted to have complete control over everything and I'm sure that if he walked you know if you had one of his houses and he walked in and he saw that you had placed some personal object of yours down in the middle of the environment he might be inclined to pick that thing up and take it away and say Now does this thing doesn't belong in here I didn't make it to go
here. How Maybe you can reflect on this on this site first of all hit on his decorative style and his ideas about what they did those interior environments should be like. And the fact that they did seem in some cases to be ideals stuff that looks beautiful but you wonder what it would be like to actually live with with that and have to sit every day in the chairs that he designed. You know you could say that about almost every really talented architect practicing today or at any time. They have a concept they have a design idea that carries you right through it doesn't stop at the front door and they want to see that real. And when I did go in to move furniture around right in front of his clients and when they were away they'd come back and find it but back where he thought it should be. And even an architect today like Richard Meyer out at the Getty I have watched him moving chairs and lamps when he goes back to visit To be sure they're in the place
that he intended them to be. So that is a characteristic I think of of any really strong architect with a special style. It was often uncomfortable and he didn't care. He didn't care about comforts and few architects do if you tried to give up some of the stares of the done today where hand rails are considered a distraction. I've given up many of the modern architects interiors so he was a dictator he was a man who insisted on having new things his own way and clients had to be I think either a compliant a co operative or secretly change things around when he left. What did he himself live in spaces that were that were like that. Have walked in and said This is a Frank Lloyd Wright designed space with all I when I walk into the spaces I want to live there. You know yeah it would have been quietly Yes and he is so beautiful.
Be they there is a story that Philip Johnson recently and he is a very own man now and not well made a quiet visit to Talia's and raised East and said Just let me sit here. Let me just stay in this room because what an architect creates for himself is not just a way of advertising is where it's the way he wants to live. It's what he believes in and that's a very beautiful room. It combines sternest euro zone and the objects that he loved to eat Japanese screens and print Chinese porcelain Indian bronzes all with this marvelously ascetic eyes so that you are constantly surrounded by and infused with the beauty of the place. So he was so right himself the place the spaces where he lived. He he lived with his own style. Oh yes.
Let's talk with another caller here. As time is. Starting to grow short we have someone in a nearby community a Belgium line for battle. Yes good morning ma'am sir. I've been to a few of these right houses. Dana House from Springfield palace in the east and west and Fallingwater and I've noticed that they seem to be breaking down very easily some of those designs really stressed materials used to the point that they really have problems putting them back into shape again beings to form different things. Now they are older I understand that. But even given that they seemed he almost went too far with his materials and also in some of the furniture that he deals with doesn't look very comfortable to sit on. And here's his harnesses when you walk into the to the rooms and stuff. They all seem short and I'm not very tall. I think Mr. Inch would hit his head you know. Oh I would like you address.
Jake Fallingwater this was such a radical design it is such a beautiful building and it was such a radical design that to calculate how to count a lever those tray which is what the floors really are like trays on a waiter's fingers as he put it to calculate the engineering so that was a completely unconventional thing wish precomputed you could do it in 15 minutes on the computer today and know exactly what the stresses were and how to engineer for them you couldnt do it than a lot of it was an error call and there was a great fight over between the client and right over reinforcing whether the engineering was adequate or not. Actually what did happen was he was not a good man about being where he should be when he was needed and he would send people from the fellowship to supervise the construction. And a young man from the fellowship was left to make decisions and also the contractor left out
essential steel over a bedroom window so that you had almost immediately a selection of those cattle lives. And now there has been a total. Retrofitting and reconstruction the building has been put back into its proper condition. I was lucky enough to spend the last weekend in that house before I get cuffed and gave it to the Pennsylvania Conservancy and a doubly lucky to spend the night in the master bedroom over the waterfall. And it's an experience I've never forgotten. And I think one measures that kind of experience and that kind of house is the difficulty of getting it built. And then this essay of taking care of it. Thank you very much. Thank you. We heard coming down to a point we have maybe about seven eight minutes left in this part of focus 580 again. Our guest is Ada Louise Huxtable she's architecture critic for The Wall Street Journal before that for a number of years also wrote for The New York Times. The author of a new brief biography of Frank Lloyd Wright 3 3 3 9
4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2. 2 9 4 5 5 years calling someone on cell phone line number one. Well yes I wondered Did Frank Lloyd Wright design the Chrysler Building in New York City. Diddy did. Yes they got to know that was when in doubt Alan. Why they couldn't remember if he did that or not. And also was his daughter Susan Hayes or his granddaughter Susan Hayward. And then Croft I think you know I may have it wrong but there is a granddaughter who was a movie actress. Yes I think you know Susan he waives all right well thank you very much. All right. Go over to another call and this is someone in Indiana. Line 4 0 0 0 0. First thing I came to mind when you mentioned the lady and talked about it was that she worked for The New York Times and she worked for The Wall Street Journal and I can't think of any other situation where you can go
from one outstanding let's say in the broad sense world will be uber to one outstanding. You know Elise Keppler has the paper or if there's any differences in your approach what you wrote about architecture in either one of the places that your editors or whoever was over you require you to say things in certain ways or look at certain buildings or have a particular slant on what you did when you did right. I hardly know how to answer that because it is such a strange assumption to me of course I have not been affected by where I work my viewpoint is my own and I've always been given the dignity and the privilege of expressing it. But I like your thought of the comparison of the two papers. The fact is that there was a Street Journal I write for the leisure not leisure not the page and that is a totally honest and independent entity with some of the best critics in the country saying exactly they want to say about this subject and
we're not beholden to any editorial opinion of the paper. In either case that was true. All right let's again we'll talk with someone in Indiana this is a caller in Terre Haute on our toll free line hello. Yes I wanted to add a couple things One is and Baxter was his granddaughter Baxter. Thank you Baxter. The other thing is I wondered what the academic view of the biography of Wright commendably mask is at this point with new information coming in and then my final comment where folks in this part of the country. There's a house in West Lafayette Indiana designed by it right. It really does practice at the Sony House called. So Mara and it's still in the process of being built and finished by the architects plans by a retired professor who with his wife convinced Wright to design this house for them in the fall. In the early 50s and the foundation out the meat painted and
helped complete it it's just a wonderful example of a right not a fabulously neat house like the Dana House or falling water or the Robie House but a very simple house right never saw the site. It was almost by mail. But this gentleman who owns the house of his and his foundation what the art museum in Lafayette. I just love this place so much if you could actually go into a house and been to this day and and talk with this man and it's just a great opportunity to see a different side of rights applying up to listen to your comments about many many masks. Thank you. All right. Well not ending on that note as continuity and relevance and the fact that their work is still very much alive. Do you are you familiar with the book. The caller mentioned. Oh well I just want to say that I'm an architectural historian I'm not an architect and I spend a great deal of time reading all this marvelous new research that has come out since the 1980s the 80s and 90s have been the period of great
scholarship on Wright and I have tried in a short biography to incorporate what that material means in terms of his his life and his work and that's been the challenge and the fun of writing it. He in some ways I think you might look at his career as as being almost having two careers although they were certainly continuities between them and I guess I'm thinking about the differences between his and his work when he was younger and his work when he was older. And one of the notable things about Wright is that he he did live a long time he had a very long career. And it's remarkable as as you note in the book that I think was was when he went to Chicago was the first thing he said was the first time he'd ever seen an electric light. So he calls from. That to the point where where when he died we were it was the space age so that his life spanned a remarkable period of history with great changes in technology. Certainly. Can you talk a little bit about his his work when he was younger his work when he was older continuities between that but also ways in which
the older work was perhaps different or an advancement. It changed constantly He was always developing He was always his vision was changing. He was learning he was doing new things you really had three important periods of his life it was a six decade practice. And he influenced three centuries. He started 19th century he lived until 1959. And architects today is still discovering things in his work that include them in art. Many cases like the one that the caller last caller talked about cases where a where today someone is is building a right design building. Yes buildings are being constructed now from plans and drawings that he made many years ago by the Italian architectural group. The Fellowship became a practicing architectural office. They are limited by the fact that the creative imagination the mind is no longer there
right design on the spot made changes on the spot. They're rather dry that cut and dried because they rely just on whatever drawings existed so that there is a vast difference between what is right design and built himself and what is being done today. So just go back. An earlier comment I wanted to again ask the question you knowing what you know about right you would have if you had the opportunity you would be a client. I'd be a client. I'd be a terrible climb. I make up my mind among the many architects I admire. I'm a collector could buy cases I admire and they work that is thoughtful and beautiful and conscientious and I'm glad that I don't have to make that decision. Well there's certainly more to be learned about Wright and his life and you can find out more in the book that we've talked about so if you're interested in learning more about right you can look for this book it's titled Frank Lloyd Wright. It is part of the Penguin Lives series published by Viking is out now by our
guest. Ada Louise Huxtable. She is the architecture critic of The Wall Street Journal most Huxtable thank you very much for talking with us. Thank you I've enjoyed it so much and talking with everybody who called. Very cool.
Focus 580
Frank Lloyd Wright
Producing Organization
WILL Illinois Public Media
Contributing Organization
WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-16-9g5gb1xt9k).
With Ada Louise Huxtable (Pulitzer Prize Winning Architectural critic and currently architectural critic of The Wall Street Journal)
Broadcast Date
Talk Show
community; Biography; Architecture
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Huxtable, Ada Louise
Producer: Jack,
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-292a8586b72 (unknown)
Generation: Copy
Duration: 49:58
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-b13bf57f317 (unknown)
Generation: Master
Duration: 49:58
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Focus 580; Frank Lloyd Wright,” 2004-12-02, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Focus 580; Frank Lloyd Wright.” 2004-12-02. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Focus 580; Frank Lloyd Wright. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from