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New to Board

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:33 pm
by usonia
New here and hoping to learn more about FLW. I have 20+ years’ experience in building in the Los Angeles area. I was also a set designer in Hollywood, but never picked up a book on FLW. The name was known but there seemed to be a forcefield of negativity around his character and work. A study of Rudolph Schindler for a residential project led me to Wright. I read “The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright” and Wright’s “The Natural House.” It was a revelation.

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of two creative American geniuses that I'm familiar with. The other is Walt Disney. But whereas Disney was intuitive, Wright could articulate his genius. FLW was actually brought in to talk with Disney animators in 1939 wherein he critiqued the movie “Fantasia,” with astoundingly insightful advice.

That’s why I’m here.

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:05 am
by Tom
Usonia, welcome.
Never heard about Wright and Fantasia.
Is there a record or document of this somewhere?

Did find this:
https://www.mouseplanet.com/8788/Why_Fr ... d_Fantasia

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:25 am
by usonia

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:28 am
by Roderick Grant
Digging up these bits and pieces of ephemera about FLW is fascinating. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" has always seemed like thin soup to me, both the film and the music.

There was a periodical (cannot recall its name) published briefly in Minneapolis in the 20s and 30s, that focused on far, far left politics. FLW supposedly wrote an article for it long before his visit to Russia. I have never found a copy of that, even in "The Complete Writings."

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:27 pm
by DavidC
Welcome to the Forum, usonia.

Schindler and Wright ...... you've chosen wonderfully.

Here's a thread from nearly 10 years ago related to Wright and Fantasia.


David

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 1:51 pm
by usonia
Thanks, David. I am constantly amazed at Wright's breadth of knowledge on seemingly any subject, everything from designing evening gowns for clients to dispensing useful advice to a Hollywood Studio.

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:19 pm
by SDR
Usonia, welcome. I'd be interested to hear about your experiences and thoughts on Schindler---not a bad introduction to Wright, of course, but a hero in his own right to some of us here . . .

S

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:19 pm
by usonia
SDR, your name crops up on 90% of the posts I read here.

I live by the beach in LA, within walking distance to Frank Gehry’s first home as well as his newest (unpublicized) home, the Eames House, 3 or 4 Neutras, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Ray Kappe, Eric Owen Moss, Konig Eizenberg, and even a FLW. And if you hop in a car you can spend a month touring architectural landmarks in the city old and new. Why is that? I think it’s because there’s a sense of possibility that hangs in the air like the scent of jasmine. It’s part of the life-style. It’s a city that doesn’t look back if it doesn’t have to. It’s the reason that Wright, and Schindler, and Lautner have built houses here that few locals are even aware of.

My interest in in Schindler grew from my interest in residential hillside building. It’s a regional specialty that most architects avoid, hence the hundreds of cookie-cutter homes you see dotting the foothills. But I did discover one person who mastered the art of the hillside: Rudolph Schindler. I’ve looked at a few of his houses and studied a couple of Judith Sheine’s excellent books on him. In comparing Wright to Schindler, I see Schindler as an architectural genius, a natural, a prodigy. Wright was also a genius, but I wouldn’t limit his genius just to architecture.

Will we ever see another Schindler? No. He was definitely a man of his time.

Re: New to Board

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:42 pm
by SDR
I'm not sure where I first read of the novelty of the LA hillside house of the mid-century; it may have been McCoy, writing of the new crop of post-war architects who were able to save their young clients some money by virtue of designing for "unbuildable" lots: steep terrain unusable for the Cape Cod cottage or the Mission Revival hacienda popular there before the war.

Up here in the north we have a little piece of geography that might remind one of Silver Lake in LA: "Hurricane Gulch," a residential neighborhood clinging to the side of a steep half-bowl south of downtown Sausalito. It too is populated with houses on stilts, a few of them uphill from the winding street but most built downhill, so that a parking deck is the uppermost level. Some, on slightly less steep topography, extend from the road in more or less one level.

What distinguishes our favorite designers, as Wrightians, here, is their commitment to a certain degree of "style" along with an original and logical approach to building design. Think of those stilt houses; can you imagine Wright, or Schindler, or Lautner, being willing to leave a part of a house "unclothed" in that way ? Ennis house, How house, Lautner's own house: all built on steep sites, all with "nothing to hide"---front, back, or below . . .

Re: New to Board

Posted: Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:02 pm
by usonia
SDR, it’s interesting you bring up “style.” FLW had an interesting take on the subject. It appears one of the first steps he took when designing a building was establishing its “character.” He gives the example of the Unity Temple. He states (“In the Cause of Architecture II”), Dr. Johonnot, the Universalist pastor, called and said he had always admired the little white church with a steeple as seen in the “East” and wanted something like that. From this description FLW could see the character the temple needed to have, not the aesthetics, but how you'd feel emotionally as you entered and or worshiped there. He said that character was the secret style of a building. It’s why many of his buildings look so different from one another, their “character” determines what they look like, not some aesthetic predilection. The Ennis House doesn’t look like Taliesin West which doesn’t look like Falling Water, which doesn’t look like the S.C. Johnson Building, etc. FLW wrote that something had style if it was genuine. I think he saw style as a kind of life-force.

There’s obviously a lot more to the FLW "style" than just finding the character of a building. There is his use of grids in plan and elevation which forces his buildings to conform to a kind of “organic” logic, his amazing ability at pre-visualization, along with a limitless and ageless aesthetic vocabulary, as well as his unique personal history.

Re: New to Board

Posted: Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:27 pm
by SDR
Looking for a Wright quote about style---something to the effect that architecture should have "style---but not a style" (nothing in the Autobiography, evidently; the section called "Form" is about everything but), I find instead this screed against the International Style. A good start, in any event:

https://greg.org/archive/2016/05/05/bet ... ks-up.html

Building in the form of a box is not "scientific" ? Is not "economical" ? Complaints of publicity, and more publicity, and still more publicity (to promote the new/old false god, "communistic/collective" non-architecture)---from the master publicity-hound himself ?

But---we know what he means, and we sympathize---I guess !

S

Re: New to Board

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2020 11:31 am
by SDR
I was hoping we'd have more conversation with usonia (who writes so well). The matter of "character," in connection with a "limitless and ageless aesthetic vocabulary," deserves further definition and exploration, it seems. Not enough has been made, in writings on Wright, of the timeless quality found, at least, in the Prairie-period work.

As for later buildings, I have used the term "otherness." Are Usonian houses (for instance) "timeless" to the same degree or in the same way as earlier ones ?

S

Re: New to Board

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:02 pm
by Roderick Grant
Art is timeless. Giotto's frescoes are as valid today as they were in the 14th century. The extent to which a Prairie or Usonian house, as habitat, is still relevant to today's needs and desires is a different subject. The timelessness of their art is one of those questions that has no answer.

Re: New to Board

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:36 pm
by SDR
Ah. But, like the "eternality" of cypress, some art is "more timeless" than other art ? Are Warhol's Elvis or Nixon images as timeless as the the Mona Lisa or the winged Nike ?

To clear the mists, I am thinking of external appearance when I speak of the timelessness of a Wright building. To recloud that clarity, it must be said that we haven't defined "timeless" as it might apply to architecture: does it mean that the building would look at home in any century---or does it mean that the appearance of the building suggests a more-or-less definable period of architectural history ?

Rather than trying to shut down conversation that doesn't appeal to us, why don't we open the door to pleasant speculation ? What harm can come from that ? They're only words, after all, and we have plenty of time . . .

S

Re: New to Board

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:46 pm
by Roderick Grant
Your clarity, SDR, simply expands on exactly what I said.
Thank you.