I hope you aren't feeling hungover from all of the #FLW150 celebrations/postathons over the last month because I have one more Wright-influenced post to close out your week.
Brash, confident, and maybe a bit cantankerous, Frank Lloyd Wright ruled the architecture world for seven decades with a looming omniscient presence. But like the workshop of Raphael or Andy Warhol's The Factory, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish where the master's own influence begins and ends. Wright, whose studio included some of the best and brightest designers of the age, famously took credit for EVERYTHING, but today, it is clear that much of Wright’s work owes more than a debt of gratitude to his dedicated circle of believers.
Let's just say that Wright had a little help from his friends. So here are five Wright collaborators who shaped the master's architecture, design philosophy, and legendary career. They all went on to become great architects themselves, designing groundbreaking works of modern architecture that continued the lineage of Wright’s unparalleled genius.
*I did not include Wright's (often underestimated) sons John and Frank Jr. (Lloyd), but they could have easily been part of this list.
Sure, Wright is probably best known for his Prairie Style designs that in many ways put American architecture on the international radar (see the Wasmuth Portfolio). But the images that have shaped the way we see and understand the Prairie Style and Wright's early work are not a product of Wright’s own hand but of the stylistic elegance of Marion Mahony (Griffin). One of the first women to receive a degree in architecture, Mahony graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before becoming Wright’s first employee. You know those beautiful watercolor renderings of Wright-designed residences you see everywhere? Well, surprise surprise- those are actually Mahony’s work, and while she didn’t receive credit for her contributions from Wright (or historians for that matter), she is now recognized as one of the most significant renderers of the twentieth century and a founding member of the Prairie School. Mahony would go on to marry another Wright acolyte, Walter Burley Griffin, and the two maintained a successful partnership (both personally and professionally) that culminated in the commission to design Australia's new capital of Canberra.
Now seen as an icon of California Modernism, Rudolph Schindler first encountered Wright when he saw the architect's Wasmuth Portfolio in 1911. After Wright won the commission for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, he hired the young Austrian émigré, leaving Schindler to manage his American operations. In 1920, Wright sent Schindler to L.A. to oversee construction of the Hollyhock House for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. Let’s just say the arrangement between the two larger than life personalities didn’t end well. Schindler felt exploited and underpaid by his mentor, while Wright refused to publically admit that the younger architect had been running his office for more than two years. The two didn’t reconcile until a year before Schindler’s death in 1953.
William Wesley "Wes" Peters
First, let’s get the gossip out of the way. Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, Wes Peters studied at Evansville College and MIT before becoming Wright’s apprentice in 1932. Peters eventually married Wright’s adopted daughter, Svetlana (daughter of Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna). After Svetlana's tragic death, Peters married Joseph Stalin's youngest daughter (also named Svetlana), a relationship arranged by his former mother-in-law. (Phew.) Obviously Peters and Wright maintained a close relationship both personally and professionally, and Peters remained connected to his former father-in-law and the Wright Foundation throughout his life. As Wright's right-hand man and main structural engineer, Peters worked on some of the architect's most recognizable projects including Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Administration Building, and the Guggenheim Museum. Greatly influenced by Wright’s concepts of organic architecture, Peters designed 120 of his own projects, but his legacy remains deeply entwined with Wright, and historians are still attempting to untangle their collaborations. Interestingly enough, a tiny Usonian-style house in Evansville, Indiana, designed by Peters TWO YEARS PRIOR to Wright’s first Usonian house may hold the key to the younger architect's influence.
Another early apprentice of Wright, Lautner spent six years at Taliesan working with the architect on Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Administration Building, and a house for his mother-in-law, the Deertrack House. In 1937, Lautner moved to California to oversee construction of Wright’s Sturges and Oboler Houses before starting work for the military. Lautner would go on to design a number of buildings associated with “Googie” architecture and most famously the Chemosphere House. Ridiculed by the architectural establishment during his career, Lautner is now enjoying renewed popularity and his residences have become some of the most sought-after real estate in the country.
E. Fay Jones
Of all of Wright’s disciples, E. Fay Jones may have garnered the most acclaim and continues to be one of the most celebrated architects of his generation. Jones, who had idolized Wright from an early age, met the architect when he was just a student (a description of this “meet-cute” is here). An Arkansas native, Jones was part of the Taliesan family as both a friend of Wright and an apprentice. But Jones preferred rural Arkansas and began to adapt Wright’s organic architecture to the traditional forms of the Ozarks. Developing his own unique organic language based in vernacular materials, Jones created a number of innovative and individual structures that use Wright’s principles as building blocks for an original architecture defined by verticality, light, and the seamless integration of structure and site. His best-known work, Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs remains one of the most important works of American architecture in the twentieth century.
We'll move on from Wright on Monday, I promise. Have a good weekend!
Image at top of page: Wright with group of apprentices at Taliesin. Architectural Record, January 1938.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.