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I believe it to be true, but it is only a small part of the story. There was something innate in the structure of FLW's brain that gave him an advantage. See the story in "An Autobiography" of his childhood trip up a hill through the snow with his bible-thumping uncle cutting a straight line as little Frank wander back and forth gathering weeds sticking their heads out of the snow. He saw the world differently from the rest of us.
FLW not only was not bothered by his lack of formal education (no matter how he tried to fake it), he turned down an all-expenses-paid opportunity for an education at Ecole des Beaux Arts offered by Daniel Burnham, realizing that it would be of no value, but more likely would hinder his abilities.
I'll think I posted a link to the article in a previous thread about Larsen's Long House.
I interpret the priority of nonconformity for Wright having to do with his critique of 'go along to get along', mindless, status quo social inertia. There is a dimension of morale and the human spirit ... in the thought.
Here it is in a little context:
"I've worked for every great architect, Larsen recalls.
Frank Lloyd Wright, encountered while living at the Plaza in New York,
asked Larsen to choose fabrics for Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.
Wright's irreverence impressed the hot young weaver.
"It was to demonstrate alternatives to the norm," he tells me, "Taste is less important than nonconformity."
... it is second hand but I credit this attribution
Anyway, this raises the interesting question (for the second time, in two simultaneous threads) of originality. No one would deny that, say, Frank Gehry's work is novel. Whether that is the whole point, in his case, is
debatable. Bruce Goff is another architect who springs to mind when "novelty" is on the table. Whether we would even know who Goff is, were it not for the Wright connection, is also debatable---in my view. But Goff,
at least, very much like his hero and ours (Wright), pleases the user of his buildings by catering very specifically to the wants and needs of his client---give or take a self-indulgence or two ?
Wright ? Yes, he made marvelous bedroom-floor plans, fitting in all the perceived or customary requirements while attending to exterior appearances.
But rationality and romanticism seem more like the natural opposites---to me.
Artists have displayed recognizable styles since the days of cave paintings, I expect. It occurs naturally, doesn't it ? Wright was exceptional in finding
clients for what was at the time nearly outlandish building.
It's the public or institutional buildings where I lose Wright, or he loses me; the exceptions are some of the greatest works of the Twentieth Century, of
course---Larkin, Midway, Imperial, Johnson Wax, Guggenheim. So many others lag behind the houses, in cohesion and composition---again, for me.
Some of his best work was actually built . . .!
As a dyed-in-the-wool modernist I found, as did many of my generation I expect, far less joy in the early work than in the Usonian; it was only after
time had passed that I was able to get into the Prairie houses. But then, so did men like Hitchcock and Johnson, at first. Wright was old hat . . . until,
and for ever after, he wasn't ?
And I do think that most pre-20th century artists worked in one style or another, from Byzantine to Impressionism. In the 20th century, you had to have your own personal style. Wright's style seems so rational to me, especially in it's balance of prospect and refuge, that it is not really a style at all, but a totally logical way to build. (Granted, in some of his later work he veers back to some overly decorative fussy confections.)
unique way---the spaces are said to just "feel right," the cantilever---all by itself---is the antithesis of rational construction---for instance.
The box with posts at four corners and at regular intervals between, is logical---rational. Wright intentionally avoided that formula, for artistic
reasons which will be readily understood by some---romantics, for instance---and not at all by others---practical men, engineers among them. The
very appeal of Wright's work is that it dispenses with logic in favor of what the man called "poetry."
On the other hand, the grid---regular intervals personified---and a design drawn upon that grid, will be seen as rational, logical, and a contributor to
architecture's eternal quest for order. Wright subscribed to that aspect of "rational building." But it is Mies, and his followers, who practice rational,
logical architecture; Wright was after something else---wasn't he ?
Well, he was logical, when compared to Goff or Gehry---I'll give you that !
BTW, I'm finding the "Fire" book terrific. One of the more readable books I've had the pleasure of not being able to put down. My only quibble is the title, which makes it sound like a gothic novel.
As far as designing on a grid, FLW was doing that from early on. In the 1928 Architectural Record article, "The Logic of the Plan," grids are superimposed on Coonley, DD Martin, Unity Temple and the Ullman Project. At Hollyhock, the 4' square is omnipresent, divided in halves and thirds down to 4" units. The grids of the Usonians were explicitly drawn, but no more implicit than probably everything that preceded them back to Hickox.
Evaluating FLW's work without an examination of the way he enclosed space and defined movement throughout is incomplete. Even E. Fay Jones, who certainly captured the spacial concepts, didn't quite master that sense of movement, transitioning from one space to another.
"Exploring the complexity of the man" might be an effective literary device in fictional works, but I seriously doubt that such an endeavor can ever be properly applied to real people. Authors of these exercises often start with a premise and then build a case of "evidence" around their hypotheses. This leads to what is called "confirmation bias".How can one understand the architecture fully without exploring the complexity of the man who created it?
Additionally, the idea that personal biographic incidents underlie the genesis of creative works I strongly question as well. Does a traumatic childhood lead an artist to be great? Maybe, maybe not. Many great artists had bad childhoods, many great artists had good childhoods. Or maybe the child with an absent father developed an Oedipus complex? Well, is the Oedipus complex an objective fact? And if it is real, how can we prove it leads to heightened creativity? Etc, etc, etc. We know very little about how the imagination actually functions, but a good question might be, does the imagination have anything to do with the strictly personal dimensions? Such as, if a guy is a serial philanderer, does that affect the art he makes?
Regardless, if people find these things enjoyable to read and contemplate, more power to you. I just doubt that any real conclusions can be drawn from such subjective exercises.
I do, however, find that the historical context of creative ideas goes a long way towards finding a deeper understanding of any artist's work. My belief is that artists synthesize and improve ideas and concepts that are already in existence, far more often that arriving at purely original ideas themselves. Looking at Wright's interest in Japanese culture, for example, is enlightening. Or researching the Usonian-esque ideas that were around prior to Jacobs I, like Schindler's house of 1922 or Alden Dow's work in the early 1930's. Or how about the story of Fallingwater, of how Wright wanted to 'beat the Internationalist style at its own game'?
I'm currently reading a book from 1893 titled "Philosophy of the Beautiful Volume II". I have no idea if Wright read it, but it feels in some passages like a Wrightian manifesto, and its publication coincides with a period of Wright's life when we can assume he was drinking up ideas heartily.
From the book:
"That Beauty consists in symmetry, in order, in proportion, in harmony, in unity and variety, in the fitness of the whole to its parts, in the ideal within the real, in the correspondence of the idea with its sensuous embodiment, in the normal fulfillment of function, in the typical form of the object, in perfection, in expression, etc. All of these ways of stating the case really involve each other... Beauty is one, underneath all its phases..."
https://books.google.com/books?id=_aifA ... &q&f=false
Wright was a supremely disciplined designer; forms and details, once chosen for a project, were adhered to rigorously throughout. He chose to adorn this trait with the word Organic (one of the more concrete definitions of that notoriously squishy term), when it is in fact simply the habit of a good designer.