can we talk about Frank Lloyd Wright?

So, I have a degree in architecture.* You may think that means I am a fan of the most famous of all architects, Frank Lloyd Wright.

But the fact is that I am not a fan. Not even a little bit. I realize this is not a majority opinion.

Sure, his buildings were (and are) interesting to look at. He broke a lot of design standards. He was innovative.

But his buildings had (and still do have) problems. Like water leaks. Like structural problems. Like a lack of planning for future maintenance/upkeep. Like his giant ego that stood in the way of, well, a lot of things. Here’s a longer list, if you’re interested.**

We stopped at an FLW-designed church in Phoenix and it had easy examples of the stuff I just don’t like.

I am not a tall person. Not at all. This photo was made from my eye level looking at a wide concrete roof structure. Seems sort of low, right? It was. I could touch it. And again, I am not a tall person. FLW was, famously, not a tall man. And it really fells like he designed his buildings to be uncomfortable for tall (or normal-height!) people. (See note above re. his ego.) I found this quote, which I enjoyed reading: “Wright’s architectural modus operandi was to build things to suit himself, and to hell with the rest of mankind. He told his students, “I took the human being, at five feet eight and one-half inches tall, like myself, as the human scale. If I had been taller, the scale might have been different.” (The very best part is that he was actually 5′-7″, which is not the 5′-8.5″ he said, which is also amusing.)

Now, look at the underside of the roof structure? See those splotchy things? That’s where the concrete is spalling away, which is a thing concrete does as a result of continual water leaks. This is in Phoenix. Phoenix gets eight inches of rain per year. Yet still…there’s visible water damage on the building. (Not pictured is a place where the concrete had completely broken off of a column, leaving rebar exposed to the elements. That’s not generally considered a desirable outcome for concrete structures.

First Christian Church
Phoenix, Arizona
photographed 12.27.2022

*I know. It doesn’t seem right to me, either. And I am sure that my university is similarly bewildered.

**The article did say that FLW’s genius “justified” his design mistakes. I call bullshit.

Posted on January 13, 2023, in Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Wow – I had no idea. But now it makes sense looking back at his buildings…all cool and no practical!

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  2. The things we never read about. 😏 Thanks for a more balanced perspective.

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  3. I have never really understood the appeal either. I also acknowledge the caveats you mention, but I just don’t see the ‘genius’. Of course, I always presumed it was because I don’t have a degree in architecture 😀

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