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ARCHITECT FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT continues to puzzle and delight. He designed a building to celebrate flat objects with nary a flat wall, yet it functions splendidly. He defined an office setting that not so subtly differentiated administrators from their staffs, but it’s considered a masterpiece of business architecture. He devised brilliant constructions that appeal to the eye, yet frustrate other human senses.
Here are a few tidbits I gleaned from several sources that celebrate these puzzles and delights of Frank Lloyd Wright.
In designing the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, FLW completely reassessed the concept of displaying art. His idea was to avoid the traditional interconnected series of rooms that required visitors to retrace steps past objects already seen.
Rather, FLW designed a gradual descending spiral surrounding a central atrium. Visitors take an elevator to the top, then leisurely return to ground level while admiring the art and ambience of the structure.
FLW’s design puzzled more than few. Wouldn’t the building overwhelm the artworks? Wasn’t it awkward to hang paintings, flat objects, after all, on concave walls that slanted outward in low-ceilinged chambers?
In fact, prior to the Guggenheim’s opening in 1959, 21 artists signed a letter protesting display of their works in such a setting.
Today, the Guggenheim is considered a landmark of 20th century architecture. Only the largest paintings are confined by its nine-foot eight-inch high ceilings. And other museums, for example, the BMW Museum in Munich and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart have emulated its spiral walkway.
Like others of his projects, the world headquarters for Johnson Wax in Racine, Wisconsin, was envisioned as a totality: architecture, internal layouts, even furniture and accessories. As an example of this unity of design, FLW’s beloved Cherokee Red color is evident in exterior brickwork and interior decor.
The headquarters’ Great Workroom is an open office layout originally intended for secretaries; administrators resided in a surrounding mezzanine. Further to differentiate their roles, the executive office chairs are four-legged; secretary chairs have only three.
The Imperial’s Meiji-Mura recreation includes its lobby and mezzanine tea room. Artful though they are, its Peacock/Imperial Hotel chairs were not all that comfy.
Whereas I dearly admire FLW’s Imperial Hotel Tokyo, I positively lust after his Taliesin 2 Floor Lamp. Conceived in 1914, and returned to over the years, this design has its bulbs contained in cherrywood boxes reflecting light off panels mounted to its vertical pedestal.
The Taliesin 2 is tall, 80 1/8-inches, and delivers what the Frank Lloyd Wright Gallery calls “broken geometric patterns like moonlight through the leaves of a tree…” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016