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As I said before, FLW was really a Victorian at heart, and I suspect, flyswatters notwithstanding, he behaved in a formal manner around his clients, which might explain their formality when addressing him.
As to "Frank Lloyd Wright," presumably Wright himself set the example by the consistent use of his three-cylinder moniker. He was never simply Frank Wright. Perhaps this is why "Frank" seems a bit more than usually informal ?
I don't have a copy of the "Letters to Clients" but these might give examples of how Wright addressed his clients ?
As for the form of address, this is from my wrightinracine.com interview with John Geiger:
â€œWright died in 1959, but his former apprentices still invariably refer to him as Mr. Wright, never as Frank, and rarely as Wright. I asked Geiger about that. â€œWhen I am talking about Mr. Wright in a personal sense, it is Mr. Wright; in a generic sense (like a Wright building) it is Wright. Mr. Wright was essentially Victorian, his relationship with the apprentices was a formal one. It was not Frank this or that, or buddy-buddy.
â€œYou would never call a client by her first name until after a job is done. That is how he treated the apprentices, like a business relationship with a client. He kept a formal relationship with them as opposed to Mrs. Wright. I heard Mr. Wright tell Mrs. Wright to stay out of their personal lives [although Friedland and Zellman are emphatic that she did not].â€�
Below I have extracted the quoted statements of the panel participants,
second session, from your Journal Times piece, omitting some finance-
John Harwood / Oberlin College / Weltzheimer/Johnson House (1948):
â€œThe ability to expose the house as a residence, to be able to dwell there,
is a key to understanding (the house).â€�
Prof. Jack Quinan / expert on the Larkin Building and the Darwin D. Martin
-24% of Wright buildings are publicly accessible.
-The number of Wright house museums has doubled in 13 years.
-There has been a 15% decline in attendance at leading attractions
nationwide, including Fallingwater, Taliesin West, and the Home and Studio,
Prof. David Longstreth / George Washington University:
â€œIt costs less to operate out of Charnley than to rent comparable office
Lynda Waggoner / Fallingwater:
[We have] a high of 144,000 annual visitors, â€œwhich is almost too many.â€�
â€œIf 900 people tour Fallingwater, that is 14 every six minutes.â€� Surveys
are important marketing tours at Fallingwater. Twenty-seven percent of
their visitors come because of Frank Lloyd Wright. â€œThat is 40,000 a year,
a potential audience for all (Wright) sites.â€�
â€œHow can we get more?â€�
Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune architecture critic:
[answering Quinan] â€œAnother PBS special about Frank Lloyd Wright,
narrated by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.â€� â€œOne way to engage the public
is to improve the experience of going through the houses. How do you
make architecture accessible, without dumbing it down? (Wright houses)
are designed to be interacted with.â€�
Wrightâ€™s clients felt the breeze and saw the sun, he said, â€œThat is difficult
to do when buzzing through with 15 people. These new ways of
experiencing Wright...smaller groups, overnight stays...Until I stayed
in the Price Tower I always had a fantasy of experiencing a night with
He challenged Wright sites to humanize Wright, rather than idolize him.
â€œCreate docent standards that forbid the use of these two words: â€˜Mr.
Wright.â€™ I am sick of going to the Home and Studio and hearing of this
demigod. My God, he was a deadbeat, a womanizer, an SOB, but heâ€™s
talked about like a god. Maybe itâ€™s a strategy to get you to go to the gift
shop to buy these icons!
â€œ(There is) tension between myth and reality. House tours are often
conducted by docents who give you about one minute outside the house,
and then you go right in. For many of your visitors, they are not in your
club, they have not drank your Cherokee red Kool-Aid! Not only donâ€™t
they know anything about Wright, they may not know anything about new
He urged docents to also talk about â€œthe interaction of the house on the
site, whether on a street, on a ravine, on a mountain site. Itâ€™s about
architecture. We donâ€™t want to just look at these things as objects,
precious objects. All of this stuff will enrich the experience.â€�
[T Gunney ?] Harboe / restoration of Unity Temple:
â€œMany smaller (sites) depend on visitation for revenue, but will not
survive on (that).â€� â€œlook at not only increasing visitation, but also
increasing the visitor experience:
-Word of mouth will help increase visitation.
-You can suffer from success [if the tours are too crowded]
-Every site is different. What makes sense for that site?
-Interaction with your community: use that resource
â€œReverence for Wright is well intended,â€� â€œBut if only 27% of the visitors
at Fallingwater go because of Wright, why are the others going? Wright
may be the hook, but what is there that is meaningful get them to come
back or go elsewhere?â€�
â€œIs the docent-led tour a relic of the past?â€�
visitors have only six minutes per room, â€œwith 14 people right behind
you.â€� â€œI realize, Blair, what you say about canonizing Wright. If you
open up that can of worms you can go downhill. They [visitors] are
irretrievable. There are lots of places you can study Frank Lloyd Wright,
but you can only go to that house. Our goal is just to facilitate that
â€œThere is a huge audience, like it or not, people with a great deal of
wealth, who want experiences other people canâ€™t have. I am happy to let
them do that, to pay for 2,000 school children to visit.â€�
â€œThe skill I look for most in a guide is goofy enthusiasm.â€�
â€œWhen I hear â€˜Mr. Wright,â€™ Iâ€™m immediately suspect, but on the other
hand, every time I get back to Wright, I am bowled over by what he
accomplished; and also the clients. Most Wright clients, even if they
weren't rich and famous, are interesting. All of these places have great
stories, and they are particular stories."
â€œWright and the contrast between myth and reality...Iâ€™m not saying you
should do People magazine as you do the tour, but it is worth riding the
wave. Who better than Wright to hook people in" â€œStop thinking of
visitors, start thinking of members, not â€˜them,â€™ but â€˜us.â€™â€�
â€œIt would be great if you could sit in the furniture in some of these houses.â€�
Joan Mercuri / Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust:
suggested that docents ask visitors, â€œWhat do you want... and not just
repeat what they know.â€�
â€œThey come with their stories of Wright, they want to see the leaky roof.â€�
â€œIf you have a repertoire of ten different tours they can give, they have
to create a tour that fits them, even people who donâ€™t know why they are
there. A really good guide has to be able to adjust to the group, and
read the group.â€�
It seems to me the basic issue is how to generate enough income to preserve these various Wright properties over the long haul. To me the importance of this mission lies mainly in the lessons they can teach to future generations. These lessons are not only those of the standard historical sort. They should go beyond that into the realm of what these designs can teach about living in the future. Living with nature in a harmonious fashion and the benefits that sort of living affords the individual as well as the community at large.
If the mission is simply that of preservation as a "stuffed and mounted" object it is relatively simple. When you bring the initiation of the masses into it is where it gets sticky. The "true believers" don't have to be educated, converted or proselytized. We will cheerfully plunk down our $300 a night to experience the magic.
How to expand the market is the core question. How to do it without dumbing down the message is the conundrum. Tie ins with school curicula would seem to be one way. Something a little more creative than a standard field trip with 60 bored kids trooping through. Perhaps a special event held at a particular house is a reward for superior acheivement by individuals or a whole class. A short lesson as to why the architecture is significant, what it has to offer and a special visit to hammer the point home.
I'm sure there are many ideas out there, many that have already been tried successfully or not so. I'm interested in hearing about them.
This is exactly the issue to me. I hate to say it, but Kamin's cynical comment about Brad and Angelina is the reality of American culture.Ed Jarolin wrote:It seems to me the basic issue is how to generate enough income to preserve these various Wright properties over the long haul. To me the importance of this mission lies mainly in the lessons they can teach to future generations. These lessons are not only those of the standard historical sort.
We can't save starving children, let alone expect to get "enough" people to see all the Wright buildings succeed as profit centers. It is a real conundrum how to save these structures for their historical value. Relying on public interest, to me, is probably a losing battle-especially when just as many (and often more) resources are poured into primarily money making projects like the unbuilts.
Fallingwater can't be compared to any other Wright site; for a long, long time it has become to many visitors simply a "must see" like Vegas or Europe, and not necessarily the enriching experience we would like to think. The internet alone has brought together the Wright world as we see it today, and certainly made Wright more known as a result. Still, I can't imagine why anyone would expect to get everyone who visits Fallingwater to want to see the others as a business model. There is just not the interest, beyond Wrightnuts.
In a better world, these treasures would be worthy of national significance, and their care funded by "the government" (that amorphous group also known as "we the people"). Unfortunately, that is something abhorrent in our free market obsessed world view.
Oh, I'm sorry, is that political?
Maintaining those marble follies in D.C. while Wright buildings decay is a national disgrace.
There's plenty of pork being passed out in Washington. Why shouldn't we get our share?
There's too much pork being passed out in Washington. Our wants/needs are more important than another "bridge to nowhere". Let's lobby for our cut.
The private sector can handle it. Let's sell sponsorship rights. The Tracy house brought to you by Microsoft. The "Airplane House" (Gilmore) presented by Boeing Corp.
The present course, more or less. The efforts of a relatively small group of fans and various private foundations, etc.
In my opinion, if Washington and the other levels of government got back to what they're supposed to do, constitutionally, there'd be more than enough private sector money available to support worthwhile cultural causes. The low state of the popular culture makes an easy target, but if more "highbrow" culture goes underappreciated perhaps at least some of the problem can be laid at the doorstep of the virtual monopoly of the goverment (public) schools. They're not underfunded, only underacheiving. Now, if any of this exposes my Libertarian/Constitutionalist political leanings, I'm quite happy to stand by those principles.
One reason we haven't seen more of this is that the locals don't welcome a tourist attraction in the neighborhood. Steelcase had the good sense to stake a claim when the area was still fairly shabby; short-term renters don't care about this, and the gentrifiers couldn't plausibly object when May was public before they arrived (some Oak Parkers done just that in recent years, but not plausibly). Another is that the spectacular places are already in good hands, institutional or private. The imperiled buildings tend not to be the first-rank works that generate enough publicity and goodwill to keep the stockholders happy about the expenditure.
If one wants to create better tours, I suggest that a consortium of house museums band together and develop different scripts and try those out on focus groups with differing levels of FLW knowledge and expertise to generate knowldge that could be shared among the participants. Blair Kamin's comments about the content of the tours may or may not be appropriate, although I would tend to agree that insights into what makes a great building would be worth describing on a tour using the house museum as an example.
As to "Mr. Wright" I can see that both ways. However "Mr. Wright" is rooted in tradition unique to the history of Frank Lloyd Wright so it seems appropriate. I would never change it for the reasons that Blair Kamin outlined. If we went through history and evaluated great people or great architects based upon his criteria unfortunately many so called great ones would be eliminated. Frank Lloyd Wright is vulnerable to the superficial criticisms of Blair Kamin because he and his work was so well documented. One can look at him under a magnifying glass that is not possible with other great individuals of his time. In my opinion "Mr. Wright" is a minor detail when talking about improving the success of house museums.
I was amused to read that Ms Waggoner said, â€œThe skill I look for most in a guide is goofy enthusiasm.â€� So much for expertise and historical knowledge !
No expense would be spared to keep the works of DaVinci, Rembrandt or Van Gogh in perfect condition. The same should be true of any work of architecture in public hands, but when restoration costs are in the tens of millions, that becomes difficult and political. And politics can undo all the best intentions in the world. That's why I favor keeping as many FLW buildings in private hands as possible.