The Dreams of Frank Lloyd Wright

Michael Kimmelman in the New York Review of Books:

Aa_wright_subj_eThe news in early June came on what would have been Frank Lloyd Wright’s 138th birthday. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, had been issued a warning by the Higher Learning Commission—its accreditation endangered, its student body now down to ten pupils, its finances in shambles. But this was less surprising than the fact that the school still exists at all.

Wright founded what he called the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, when his own financial prospects were dismal, as they had been throughout much of the 1920s. Having seen the great Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, his former boss, die in poverty not many years earlier, Wright was forestalling his own prospective oblivion. Considered a virtual has-been (“as an architect he has little to contribute,” concluded John Cushman Fistere in Vanity Fair in 1931, and Fistere was not the first to say so), Wright created the fellowship—tuition $675, raised to $1,100 in 1933, more than at Yale or Harvard—to indoctrinate aspiring architects in his gospel of organic architecture, for which they would do hours of daily chores, plant crops, wash Wright’s laundry, and entertain him and his guests as well as one another in the evenings with musicals and amateur theatricals. “Music is architecture at Taliesin,” Wright wrote in the school brochure for 1934, “just as architecture is a kind of music.”

More here.