Frank Lloyd Wright bleg: I'm going to Wisconsin
AND: Orwell debate in London with Robert Cottrell
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my favourite late bloomers. He did more than half his life’s work after the age of sixty-five. That wasn’t just revival stuff: Lloyd Wright was as innovative in his eighties as he had been half a century earlier. Perhaps more so. In the early 1930s, he was thought to be finished. Before he died, he invented the Usonian house, designed the Johnson Wax Company, and created the Guggenheim. That’s not to mention his most famous home, Fallingwater, or the apprenticeship he started at Taliesin. These projects all relied on the use of new materials—Lloyd Wright was utterly up-to-date, right to the end.
In 1909, Wright had a mid-life crisis that encouraged him into more original thinking. He was radicalised, adamantly opposed to the routines of the past. This period was a turning point in many ways—he got divorced, he went to Japan and Italy, rejected classicism. Out of the turbulence came Taliesin, a feat of invention unequalled until Fallingwater, twenty years later.
All the seeds of his later years can be found in his early life, but he is always highly unpredictable. The Guggenheim looks like a spaceship that landed in Manhattan. But it is not something out of the future: Wright was seventy-six when the commission arrived. I have come to think that, like Katharine Graham, he is an unavoidable part of any thinking about late bloomers.
And so I am going to Wisconsin, to see Taliesin, the Johnson Wax Company, Monoma Terrace, and several other buildings, including, very excitingly, the Elizabeth Murphy house. I’ll be there between 4th-7th April. Let me know if you have any Wisconsin advice, if you’ll be there, or if you have any Frank Lloyd Wright recommendations. I’ll also be going to the Guggenheim on 3rd April.
My recent essay about Orwell’s execrable writing rules was a response to a newsletter by Robert Cottrell of The Browser. Robert and I met in London recently and had a very productive and enjoyable discussion about whether Orwell was wrong about writing. Robert thinks the rules are really quite good, you see.
So we are hoping to have a public debate, in London, on the subject “Orwell was wrong about writing”, with me proposing and Robert opposing. Let me know if you would be interested in attending such an event, or, indeed, if you would be interested in hosting it… All comments welcome either below or by hitting reply.
Thanks for reading. If you’re enjoying The Common Reader, let your interesting friends know what you think. Or leave a comment.
If you don’t subscribe to The Common Reader, but you enjoy reading whatever’s interesting, whenever it was written, sign up now.