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The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright: Critical Writings on Architecture

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Overview

He was the most iconoclastic of architects, and at the height of his career his output of writings about architecture was as prolific and visionary as his architecture itself. Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered a bold new kind of architecture, one in which the spirit of modern man truly "lived in his buildings." The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright is a one-volume compendium of Wright's most critically important—and personally revealing—writings on every conceivable aspect of his craft.

Wright was perhaps the most influential and inspired architect of the twentieth century, and this is the only book that gathers all of his most significant essays, lectures, and articles on architecture. Bruce Pfeiffer includes each piece in its entirety to present the architect's writings as he originally intended them. Beginning early in Wright's career with "The Art and Craft of the Machine" in 1901, the book follows major themes through The Disappearing City, The Natural House, and many other writings, and ends with A Testament in 1957, published two years before his death. This volume is beautifully illustrated with original drawings and photographs, and is complemented by Pfeiffer's general introduction, which provides history and context. The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright is a must-have resource for architects and scholars and a delight for general readers.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer is a living link to Wright himself and has performed an important service by publishing books of letters, photographs, and drawings which bring us closer to the architect's world, creative process, personal life and literary sources. The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright . . . is a well-designed anthology.
— William J. R. Curtis
Antiques
[A] reproduction of the original publication of Modem Architecture, handsome to hold and read, and additionally valuable for its enlightening new introduction by Wright scholar Neil Levine of Harvard University. . . . The Essential Wright is essential reading.
— Barrymore Laurence Scherer
Leonardo Reviews
[T]he book is inspiring and presents a very good recompilation of the life work one of the most important architects of the twentieth century that was also very concerned with organic architecture and conservation of the natural environment. In addition, this hardbound book is made of high quality materials, it is well written, and it is a must-have resource for architects and scholars.
— Martha Patricia Niño
Rocky Mountain News
Perhaps some people think you can have too many books on Frank Lloyd Wright, but I believe there's always room for more. This year, it's a scholarly duo from Princeton University Press: The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright: Critical Writings on Architecture, edited by Wright scholar Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (453 pages, $49.95) and the essential Modern Architecture: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930, with a new introduction by Neil Levine (115 pages, $29.95).
— Mary Chandler
Times Literary Supplement - William J.R. Curtis
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer is a living link to Wright himself and has performed an important service by publishing books of letters, photographs, and drawings which bring us closer to the architect's world, creative process, personal life and literary sources. The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright . . . is a well-designed anthology.
Antiques - Barrymore Laurence Scherer
[A] reproduction of the original publication of Modem Architecture, handsome to hold and read, and additionally valuable for its enlightening new introduction by Wright scholar Neil Levine of Harvard University. . . . The Essential Wright is essential reading.
Leonardo Reviews - Martha Patricia Nino
[T]he book is inspiring and presents a very good recompilation of the life work one of the most important architects of the twentieth century that was also very concerned with organic architecture and conservation of the natural environment. In addition, this hardbound book is made of high quality materials, it is well written, and it is a must-have resource for architects and scholars.
Rocky Mountain News - Mary Chandler
Perhaps some people think you can have too many books on Frank Lloyd Wright, but I believe there's always room for more. This year, it's a scholarly duo from Princeton University Press: The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright: Critical Writings on Architecture, edited by Wright scholar Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (453 pages, $49.95) and the essential Modern Architecture: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930, with a new introduction by Neil Levine (115 pages, $29.95).
Times Literary Supplement - William J. R. Curtis
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer is a living link to Wright himself and has performed an important service by publishing books of letters, photographs, and drawings which bring us closer to the architect's world, creative process, personal life and literary sources. The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright . . . is a well-designed anthology.
Leonardo Reviews - Martha Patricia Niño
[T]he book is inspiring and presents a very good recompilation of the life work one of the most important architects of the twentieth century that was also very concerned with organic architecture and conservation of the natural environment. In addition, this hardbound book is made of high quality materials, it is well written, and it is a must-have resource for architects and scholars.
From the Publisher
"Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer is a living link to Wright himself and has performed an important service by publishing books of letters, photographs, and drawings which bring us closer to the architect's world, creative process, personal life and literary sources. The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright . . . is a well-designed anthology."—William J. R. Curtis, Times Literary Supplement

"[T]his valuable record of Wright's words forms a welcome addition to the three key accounts of his designs that appeared at the end of the 20th century. . . . Heartily recommended."—Peter Kaufman, Library Journal

"[A] reproduction of the original publication of Modem Architecture, handsome to hold and read, and additionally valuable for its enlightening new introduction by Wright scholar Neil Levine of Harvard University. . . . The Essential Wright is essential reading."—Barrymore Laurence Scherer, Antiques

"[T]he book is inspiring and presents a very good recompilation of the life work one of the most important architects of the twentieth century that was also very concerned with organic architecture and conservation of the natural environment. In addition, this hardbound book is made of high quality materials, it is well written, and it is a must-have resource for architects and scholars."—Martha Patricia Niño, Leonardo Reviews

"Perhaps some people think you can have too many books on Frank Lloyd Wright, but I believe there's always room for more. This year, it's a scholarly duo from Princeton University Press: The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright: Critical Writings on Architecture, edited by Wright scholar Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (453 pages, $49.95) and the essential Modern Architecture: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930, with a new introduction by Neil Levine (115 pages, $29.95)."—Mary Chandler, Rocky Mountain News

Library Journal

Wright was the greatest architect who ever lived, both in terms of the staggering quantity of designs he produced (more than 800) and in terms of their extraordinary quality. At least a dozen absolute masterpieces equal to the greatest buildings of any time anchor his achievement from 1900 to 1960. And, as it turns out, Wright also wrote a lot. This book records all of his significant writings-with the exception of his autobiography, which has been amply published elsewhe re-including his books The Disappearing City(1932), Architecture and Modern Life(1937), and A Testament(1957). Edited by Pfeiffer (director, Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, Frank Lloyd Wright Fdn.), this valuable record of Wright's words forms a welcome addition to the three key accounts of his designs that appeared at the end of the 20th century: Neil Levine's The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright(1997), Robert McCarter's Frank Lloyd Wright(1998), and William Allin Storrer's The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion(1996), which records every Wright building that was actually constructed. Heartily recommended.
—Peter Kaufman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691146324
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2010
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 558,963
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer is director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. He is the author or editor of many books on Wright, including "Frank Lloyd Wright and Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence"
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Read an Excerpt

The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright Critical Writings on Architecture
By Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2008
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13318-8


Introduction Down the long avenue of time, there have been few artists who have been able to express through the written word ideas about their art. Among them Frank Lloyd Wright stands at the pinnacle not only in his architectural work but also in his writings, the output of which was enormous. It is astonishing that in addition to all of the architectural work he found the time and energy to write so prodigiously.

From the very start of his career he was concerned with explaining his work and the principles underlying it. He wrote sixteen books and hundreds of articles and lectures over the seven decades of his career. The manuscript collection in the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives numbers over six hundred documents.

The most significant of all his writings deal, as one would expect, with architecture and all its aspects-from discussions of building materials themselves to the broader subject of urban and suburban planning. In 1894, one year after he opened his architectural practice, he lectured to various clubs and organizations in and around Chicago. He focused mainly on residential architecture in the early years of his practice, and noted his own refusal to accept the confusion of eclectic styles, many of European import that were rising throughout the Midwest where he lived andwork. He urged his audiences to likewise abandon these clichés of the past and subscribe to an architecture more suited to its time and place.

It was his habit to write all of his first drafts by hand. Of the creation of his architectural designs he once remarked, "I never put anything down on paper until I have it pretty clean in mind. That is the habit of a life time, a long time. To see it definitely and correctly, imagine the thing completely, is no small feat." From the study of his first drafts that remain today, the same creative process is evident. His thoughts, on whatever subject he chose to write about, were clear right from the start. As he continued to develop his architectural projects from conceptual sketches to final working drawings, he also worked on his texts from early draft through final manuscript ready for publication.

Of this enormous body of written work, the selection for this publication was made initially from the published material where he was trying to reach an audience beyond his clients. Wright's autobiography, first published in 1932 and then revised in 1943, is certainly among the most important writings. However, it has been reprinted recently and for that reason it has not been included in this book. With that exception, those that were chosen for inclusion are the most critical to understanding the philosophy that drove his architectural mission, which he defined as: "The mission of an architect-of architecture-is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life."

The writings in this publication begin in 1901 with The Art and Craft of the Machine and end with A Testament in 1957, two years before his death. The former was an important lecture he delivered at Chicago's Hull House and so captured his thoughts that he revised it several times over his lifetime and even included part of it in his Princeton Lectures of 1930. A Testament, as its title implies, was his final word on his life and his principles of organic architecture.

From the beginning Wright exuded confidence, choosing the direction he wanted to take and from which he did not detour. That path continued in an uninterrupted line throughout a career that spanned close to three-quarters of a century, as these writings clearly demonstrate.

Wright read "The Art and Craft of the Machine" at Chicago's Hull House in March 1901. It was a reactionary and significant address given as it was at a time when the English Arts and Crafts movement was beginning to sweep across the nation. There is no doubt that Wright admired the hand-crafted work of designers such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Greene & Greene. He believed, however, that the work of these artists was not for the average American family, but rather for a more well-to-do clientele. To Wright's way of thinking, the role of the machine needed to be re-examined. He believed in the potential of the machine as a valuable tool in the hand of the creative artist, freeing him from laborious and expensive handiwork no longer relevant to twentieth-century machine technology. Geometrically patterned concrete block, stamped metal facia, and stamped copper panels are all examples of the machine at work rendering beautiful designs in materials readily available to architects. "The machine, by its wonderful cutting, shaping, smoothing and repetitive capacity, has made it possible to so use it without waste that the poor as well as the rich may enjoy today beautiful surface treatments of clean, strong forms that the branch veneers of Sheraton and Chippendale only hinted at, with dire extravagance, and which the Middle Ages utterly ignored."

He also qualified what he meant by "simplicity" in an era-the Victorian-where simplicity was the last element to be found in art and architecture. He stressed that simplicity was not merely "a neutral of a negative quality." "Simplicity in art, rightly understood, is a synthetic, positive quality, in which we may see evidence of mind, breadth of scheme, wealth of detail, and withal a sense of completeness found in a tree or a flower. A work may have the delicacies of a rare orchid or the stanch fortitude of the oak, and still be simple. A thing to be simple needs only to be true to itself in organic sense."

"In the Cause of Architecture," an article published in The Architectural Record in March 1908 and lavishly illustrated with photographs of his buildings, showed the public for the first time the scope of Wright's work with a detailed explanation of what it was, why it was, and how it came into being. This was during the so-called Prairie years and the article included several prairie style houses along with the Larkin Building and Unity Temple, buildings that would significantly influence the direction of modern architecture. The article ends with the prophetic statement: "As for the future-the work shall grow more truly simple; more expressive with fewer lines, fewer forms; more articulate with less labor; more plastic; more fluent, although more coherent; more organic."

Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright was a massive publication, a two-volume monograph, containing one hundred plates of drawings made specifically for this work. Published in Berlin by Ernst Wasmuth in 1910, it exerted a strong impact on the young architects of Germany and Holland. Lloyd, Wright's son who accompanied his father to Italy to prepare the plates for the monograph, explained the significance of the publication in a letter: "Soon after the work was published in Germany, we found they were using the folio and drawings in schools and universities for textbooks. There men like Gropius and Mies van der Rohe were students of my age, i.e. 19 and 20, and were greatly impressed and I heard later that Gropius' mother gave him one of the collections, he claimed he made it his Bible."

In the introduction Wright opened with a glowing tribute to the Gothic and the early Renaissance artists and architects of Italy, no doubt a result of his living in Florence and neighboring Fiesole while preparing the Wasmuth plates.

Of this joy in living, there is greater proof in Italy than elsewhere. Buildings, pictures, and sculptures seem to be born, like the flowers by the roadside, to sing themselves into being. Approached in the spirit of their conception, they inspire us with the very music of life.

No really Italian building seems ill at ease in Italy. All are happily content with what ornament and color they carry, as naturally as the rocks and trees and garden slopes which are one with them.

The introduction explained the drawings in a manner similar to the presentation in "In the Cause of Architecture" two years earlier. Here, though, he emphasized the role of an architect: "An architect, then, in this revived sense, is a man disciplined from within by a conception of the organic nature of his task, knowing his tools and his opportunity, working out his problems with what sense of beauty the gods gave him."

The Japanese Print: An Interpretation, published in 1912, does not deal with architecture per se, however it is an important example of Wright's writings in light of the great debt he owed to the Japanese print-of which he was an avid collector. He wrote: "I have never confided to you the extent to which the Japanese print, as such, has inspired me. I never got over my first experience with it and I shall probably never recover. I hope I shan't. It was the great gospel of simplification that came over. The elimination of all that was insignificant ..."

His writing not only explained the beauty and quality of the Japanese print, but also of the very nature of the culture of Japan.

The first prerequisite for the successful study of this strange art is to fix the fact in mind at the beginning that it is the sentiment of Nature alone which concerns the Japanese artist; the sentiment of Nature as beheld by him in those vital meanings which he alone seems to see and alone therefore endeavors to portray.

The Japanese, by means of this process-to him by this habit of such study almost instinctive-casts a glamour over everything. He is a poet. Surely life in old Japan must have been a perpetual communion with the divine heart of Nature.

"Louis Henry Sullivan: His Work" is a tribute to the man Wright affectionately and reverently called "Lieber Meister" (Dear Master), written three months after Sullivan's death on April 14, 1924:

Louis Sullivan's great value as an Artist-Architect-alive or dead-lies in his firm grasp of principle. He knew the truths of Architecture as I believe no one before him knew them. And profoundly he realized them.

This illumination of his was the more remarkable a vision when all around him cultural mists hung low to obscure or blight every dawning hope of a finer beauty in the matter of this world....

The names, attributes, and passions of earth's creatures change, but-that creation changes never; his sane and passionate vision leaves testimony here on earth in fragments of his dreams-his work.

Wright then proceeded to describe certain of Sullivan's works, pointing out that he was challenged by the obsession with classical architecture, which was the result of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In particular, as Wright reviewed Sullivan's buildings, he wrote of the Wainwright Building:

When he brought in the board with the motive of the Wainwright Building outlined in profile and in scheme upon it and threw it down on my table, I was perfectly aware of what had happened. This was Louis Sullivan's greatest moment-his greatest effort. The "skyscraper" as a new thing beneath the sun, an entity with virtue, individuality and beauty all its own, was born....

The Wainwright Building cleared the way, and to this day remains the master key to the skyscraper as a matter of Architecture in the work of the world.

"In the Cause of Architecture: The Third Dimension" was first published in the Dutch magazine Wendingen in 1925. Wendingen devoted seven issues to Wright's work, and then bound them together in a book. Along with texts by Wright, the other contributors included Lewis Mumford, H. P. Berlage, J.J.P. Oud, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Erich Mendelsohn, and Louis H. Sullivan. Wright's texts included reprints of "In the Cause of Architecture: First Paper" (March 1908), "In the Cause of Architecture: Second Paper" (May 1914), and as printed here, "In the Cause of Architecture: The Third Dimension." The final essay, by Wright, as requested by the editor H. Th. Wijdeveld, was "To My European Co-Workers."

The 1925 paper opens with a recounting of the negative reaction in 1901 to the reading of his essay, "The Art and Craft of the Machine." As stated earlier, in 1901 the Arts and Crafts Movement was exerting a strong influence on American designers and their clients. However, in protest of this trend, he explained, "In all the crafts, the nature of materials is emancipated by the Machine and the artist is freed from bondage to the old post-and-lintel form.... A modern building may reasonably be a plastic whole-an integral matter of three dimensions: a child of the imagination more free than of yore, owing nothing to 'orders' or 'styles.'" He further clarified this term "plastic": "Plastic treatments are always out of the thing, never something put on it. The quality of the third dimension is found in this sense of depth that enters into the thing to develop into an expression of its nature.... In this architecture of the third dimension 'plastic' effects are usually produced from this sense of the within." As a result, he wrote:

... we may now, from the vision opened by the ideal of a plastic architecture, look down upon the limitations of the antique world with less respect and no regret. We have wings where they had only feet, usually in leaden shoes. We may soar in individual freedom of expression where they were wont to crawl-and we are the many where they were the few. A superior breadth and beauty in unity and variety is a universal possibility to us-if we master the Machine and are not, as now, mastered by it.

The 1927-28 "In the Cause of Architecture" articles were commissioned by editor M. A. Mikkelson for The Architectural Record. He had long admired what Frank Lloyd Wright had built as well as written, and in 1926 he proposed that Wright write a series of fourteen essays, all under the general heading of "In the Cause of Architecture." Seven of these dealt with "The Meaning of Materials." Nothing of much significance had been written on "the nature of materials," least of all by an architect. Here were the tools, the very substance and backbone of an architect's work, and yet the subject remained unexamined. Wright's approach to materials began with steel, and continued with stone, wood, brick, glass, concrete, and sheet metal. His comments on these materials, as well as descriptions of their potential characteristics for architectural construction, are often eloquently poetic. "Materials! What a resource! With his 'materials'-the architect can do whatever masters have done with pigments or with sound-in shadings as subtle, with combinations as expressive-perhaps outlasting man himself.... These materials are human-riches. They are Nature-gifts to the sensibilities that are, again, gifts of Nature.... Each material has its own message and, to the creative artist, its own song."

On steel:

Now, ductile, tensile, dense to any degree, uniform and calculable to any standard, steel in a known quantity to be dealt with mathematically to a certainty to the last pound; a miracle of strength to be counted upon!

Steel is most economical in tension; the steel strand is a marvel, let us say, as compared to anything the ancients knew, a miracle of strength for its weight and cost. We have found now how to combine it with a mass material, concrete, which has great strength in compression. The coefficient of expansion and contraction of both materials is the same in changes of temperature....

Here we have reinforced concrete, a new dispensation. A new medium for the new world of thought and feeling that seems ideal.

On stone:

The rock ledges of a stone quarry are a story and a longing to me. There is suggestion in the strata and character in the formations. I like to sit and feel it, as it is. Often I have thought, were great monumental buildings ever given me to build, I would go to the Grand Canyon in Arizona to ponder them.

The character of the wall surface will be determined also by the kind of stone, by the kind of mason, the kind of architect. Probably by the kind of building. But, most of all, by the nature of the stone itself, if the work is good stonework....

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer
Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Introduction by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer 1

Part I
1901 The Art and Craft of the Machine 23
1908 I n the Cause of Architecture 34
1910 A usgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright 52
1912 The Japanese Print: An Interpretation 66
1924 Louis Henry Sullivan: His Work 75
1925 I n the Cause of Architecture: The Third Dimension 80
1927 I n the Cause of Architecture I: The Architect and the Machine 92
In the Cause of Architecture II: Standardization, the Soul of the Machine 95
In the Cause of Architecture II: Steel 98
In the Cause of Architecture IV: Fabrication and Imagination 102
In the Cause of Architecture V: The New World 106
1928 In the Cause of Architecture I: The Logic of the Plan 109
In the Cause of Architecture II: What "Styles" Mean to the Architect 115
In the Cause of Architecture II: The Meaning of Materials—
Stone 120
n the Cause of Architecture IV: The Meaning of Materials—Wood 126
In the Cause of Architecture V: The Meaning of Materials—The Kiln 131
In the Cause of Architecture VI: The Meaning of Materials—Glass 137
In the Cause of Architecture VI: The Meaning of Materials—Concrete 141
In the Cause of Architecture VI: Sheet Metal and a Modern Instance 145
In the Cause of Architecture IX: The Terms 151

Part II
1931 Modern Architecture, Being the Kahn Lectures (Princeton) 159
Two Lectures on Architecture (Art Institute of Chicago) 217
1932 The Disappearing City 235
1937 A rchitecture and Modern Life: Some Aspects of the Past and Present of Architecture 276
1938 "The Architectural Forum" 292

Part III
1954 The Natural House 319
1957 A Testament 365
Index 441

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