It is not anything definite or tangible that I want from an interview with you.
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It is only the inspiration of seeing before me a living miracle — because the man I am writing about is a miracle whom I want to make alive. LAR, p. Novelist approached architect repeatedly for an interview, and each time she got what must have been a hurtful and frustrating brush-off from her hero. In the end, she finished The Fountainhead without his help and, so far as any biographical data establish, without having seen one of his buildings in person. She did, however, make extensive notes on his published writings, especially his Autobiography and his Kahn lectures at Princeton.
The two finally met at length after The Fountainhead was published though before Wright had read it , and in time they became friends: Rand and her husband visited Wright at his home, Taliesin, in Among the probable souvenirs of that trip is one of her rare appreciations of natural beauty, Atlas Shrugged 's description of the southern Wisconsin autumn. Still, for various reasons, none of the proposed Rand-Wright ventures ever came off — not the purchase of the Storer house in Los Angeles, nor the building of a new house in Connecticut, nor the designs for the screen version of the novel.
Wright seems to have been interested in the movie commission. Years later, Mildred Rosenbaum , an Alabama client of Wright's, told this author that during a visit to Taliesin, Wright asked her husband Stanley owner-manager of a chain of movie theaters what the charge for such a job should be.
Rosenbaum declined to give advice, saying he knew only the exhibiting and not the producing end of the business. In the event, Wright did not take the job, and the mostly insipid, sometimes ludicrous, modernism that got to the screen is among the movie's disappointments. In a article for the design magazine Interiors , architectural critic George Nelson gleefully but astutely trashed the designs, prompting Wright to telegram the magazine:.
However, Nelson based his derision on drawings; mercifully, the designs go by too quickly on the screen for most of his points to be apparent — and this was Rand's own directorial suggestion, according to Michael Paxton's documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life. Pointing out similarities between fiction and fact was not, as readers of the Letters know, the way to Ayn Rand's heart.
She insisted that looking for such contingencies, apart from the significance she gave them as an artist, was the wrong way to understand a story LAR, p. Still, such particulars make an interesting footnote to our record of two of the most interesting personalities and several of the greatest works of art we could hope to find.
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Buildings and their sites. A foremost principle of Wright's aesthetic is fittedness to the site: a building ought to follow the shape of the earth and convince the viewer that neither this building nor this piece of ground could have come about without the other. We read of Taliesin:. I knew well by now that no house should ever be on any hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it, so hill and house could live together each the happier for the other The lines of the hills were the lines of the roofs.
The slopes of the hills their slopes, the plastered surfaces of the light wood-walls, set back into shade beneath broad eaves, were like the flat stretches of sand in the river below and the same in color, for that is where the material that covered them came from. An Autobiography [henceforth A], in vol. It was as if the buildings had sprung from the earth and from some living force, complete, unalterably right Not a line seemed superfluous, not a needed plane was missing He had designed [them] as an exercise he had given himself, apart from his schoolwork; he did that often when he found some particular site and stopped before it to think of what building it should bear.
Yet some power had known how to build on these ledges in such a way that the houses became inevitable, and one could no longer imagine the hills as beautiful without them. F, pp. Another parallel: Roark explains to the Dean what is wrong with doing classical styles in the twentieth century: the outcome is a concrete-and-steel imitation of a marble imitation of a wooden original, a point Wright had made in both his Princeton lectures and his Autobiography , characteristically taking paragraphs to say what Roark says in a few sentences.
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On leaving school, Roark goes to work in New York. His first employer, Henry Cameron, had once been the preeminent American architect, but alcohol and changing fashions a result of the Columbian Exposition have virtually ended his career. This is just the story of Wright's "Lieber Meister," Henry Louis Sullivan , except that Wright was at Sullivan's office during the glory days, around , rather than during his mentor's long decline.
A scene readers of The Fountainhead do not forget is the one in which Roark, with his practice at stake, turns down a lucrative bank commission rather than change the design he has offered. For most of the scene's length it closely parallels one in Sullivan's life when he was in similar straits: The directors of a Midwestern bank asked him to change his proposal in ways he could not condone and, like Roark, he refused, but the outcome was happier. Seeing his determination, the board relented.
Three of Wright's buildings found their way with fair exactness into The Fountainhead. The earliest was Unity Temple , a Unitarian church and "temple to man" A, p. Like Roark at the Stoddard Temple F, , Wright fit the building to human scale and to the lines of the earth, and used no traditional religious imagery anywhere. Steven Mallory's statue is an invention, but Wright collaborated with the sculptor Richard Bock on several buildings, most notably the Dana house in Springfield, Illinois.
Nowadays, the building is called "Dana-Thomas," after a subsequent owner. In came the St. Mark's Tower, an apartment-hotel for New York.
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Rand's description of the Enright House F, , an aggregation of distinct forms growing like a crystal, would have suited this building well. Although the project fell victim to the Depression and was never built, Rand would have seen a drawing of it in Wright's autobiography, and the reader first comes across Roark's building as a drawing in a newspaper. In , the architect revived the design for the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Wright's best-loved building is Fallingwater , a country house outside of Pittsburgh.
Like the Wynand house F, , it is a composition of interlocking terraces at water's edge a waterfall in fact, a lake in fiction , culminating in a rough stone chimney. Wynand has no counterpart in Wright's life, although Wynand's decision, late in the story, to champion Roark's architecture resembles what Henry Luce was doing for Wright in Time, Life, and Architectural Record in the s. Miscellaneous incidents. Several small incidents in The Fountainhead also have real-life parallels.
The trashing of the Stoddard Temple is somewhat reminiscent of Wright's sad account of Midway's decline — "a distinguished beautiful woman dragged to the level of the prostitute" — as a result of indifferent ownership and, finally, Prohibition, which drove nightlife underground.
His unsympathetic clients balk at the change, and he ends up paying for it himself. Wright tells a similar story of how he came to articulate the corner stair towers from the rest of the building at the Larkin offices in Buffalo, but he had a more reasonable client and the story a happier ending. Wright did the same in Arizona designing the San Marcos-in-the-Desert hotel. But while Roark and his crew roughed it, with time and energy only for work, the bon-vivant Wright put up a wood-and-canvas colony that, to judge from photos and from his own memories, must have been one of his most exuberant buildings.
On the other hand, Monadnock saw the light of day, while San Marcos remains perhaps the most regretted of the "office tragedies," as he called his unrealized projects.
Important to Rand's plot is the architectural ghosting whereby Roark more than once saves Peter Keating by designing anonymously for him. Wright sometimes insinuated that he had played such a role at the Arizona Biltmore. For the record, the builders hired him as a consultant in the use of reinforced concrete block in the end not using his method , and scholars still disagree as to what more he might have contributed.
Merwin and Henry K. Webster, whose Calumet K she named as her favorite novel. Comrade John is at once a suspense story and a satire of Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters, turn-of-the-century flower children who produced some notable examples of the American Arts-and-Crafts style in their upstate-New York workshops. Not only is Chance to deliver designs that Stein will pass off as his own, but he and his crew are to go undercover, posing as Beechcrofters in order to foster the cultists' illusion that their own none-too-strenuous pursuit of "beauty through toil" actually put the buildings up.
Through much of The Fountainhead Roark struggles mightily to establish his career and build as he sees right, even to make a living. This is one part of a more complicated story Wright tells about himself, but even in its milder form it is biographically questionable. Once she got to know him, Rand made regretful note of Wright's preoccupation with making an impression on people.
Without the advantage of the decades of scholarship at hand today, she could not have known that his writings show this same penchant for hype. In a story she notes in her journals, Nathan Moore came to Wright in and asked for a more conventional house than others the architect had built, so that Moore would not become an outcast who had to take the back way to the train each morning. Having a family to support, Wright gave in and, to his everlasting regret, served up Victorian Tudor. This is flattering to the architect, implying that in his twenties, a year into independent practice, he was already the accomplished revolutionary, with finished buildings to prove it, and needed only clients who were up to his vision in order to turn out more of them.
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In fact, the young Wright, like the young Beethoven, produced excellent work in a variety of inherited styles, straining at their bounds and finally breaking out a few years after thirty; his Eroica is the Willits house in Highland Park, Illinois. The Moore residence is simply one of many youthful experiments. An interesting sequel, not in his memoirs, is that when fire damaged the house thirty years later and the Moores asked him to rebuild, the mature Wright gave them an amazing blend of his early Tudor and the heavy, exotic style he was using at the time in Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Certain contractors and fabricators, Wright recalls and Rand notes, would have nothing to do with a design once they recognized it as his. The scholarly record shows that contractors always had reservations about bidding on a Wright building, even in his lionized old age, because he experimented constantly with new materials, techniques, and details — nearly always to his clients' greater expense and not always to the buildings' benefit.
Rand's own letters attest to this. In , she wrote to Gerald Loeb that she and her husband were considering buying the Storer house in Los Angeles, but it was "in terrible condition. This constructivist approach engages students to do more complex work and spend more time on the task than they normally would. It also terrifies some teachers for how to quality control the vast variety of products that students could develop. I'd say that's a problem worth having, but here's a practical two-step approach:.
Establish what academic skills and concepts must be represented in the product. Be careful to avoid assessment fog. When students understand the targets, they can effectively design their own products -- with coaching support for some more than others. Start conservatively by providing two structured options. Then invite students to create their own option, based on the learning criteria.
The teacher listens to the proposals and suggests tweaks as needed, or sends students back to the drawing board when a proposal is not viable. Set a deadline when proposals are approved.
Students who don't meet the deadline must choose from the original two options. We're all motivated by tasks that interest us. Like our students, when we care, we willingly spend hours carried away with researching, crafting, and revising our work.
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