Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright's theory of materials, which combined and intensified those of Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc, together with ideas from Japan, was set out in two different contexts and consists of two distinct groups of ideas. The earlier ideas, most strikingly realized in the original construction of Taliesin (1911), were first set out in his series of articles titled "In the Cause of Architecture," in Architectural Record in 1908, and colorfully enhanced in accounts of specific buildings in the Autobiography, of 1932. The later ideas appeared in two series of articles in Architectural Record, one continuing "In the Cause of Architecture," in 1927, and the other titled "The Meaning of Materials," in 1928.

Taliesin represents probably the most radical commitment to the natural expression of materials in Western architecture. Wright constructed it of stone and slate from quarries near the site (fig. 11-3). The stone was neatly cut into rectangular slabs of varying size and thickness, but it was left rough on the outward-facing surface and set in nonuniform courses in which random stones also project beyond the standard surface plane. The effect is of a masonry that belongs to the earth and suggests the natural layering of the stone in its quarry. The house itself is irregularly composed and famously hugs the brow of the hill rather than sitting atop it as if on a pedestal. The roof is covered with thick, roughly cut slates and has no gutters, so that rain can be seen dripping off it and icicles can hang from it all around. The rusticity of the setting has been carefully maintained; the big trees and the lawn and flower beds are kept as informal as possible.

On the interior the materials are left undisguised in their natural state, for the most part repeating the exterior treatments (fig. 11-4). Where there is wood, it is merely

Figure 11-3

Natural materials, exterior: Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin, by Wright (FH).

Figure 11-3

Natural materials, exterior: Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin, by Wright (FH).

stained or finished with nothing more than sealant and a coat of wax. Where there is plaster, it is left untreated or given a stain wash. Where there is stone, it remains bare (the same was done elsewhere with brick walls). It is hard to imagine a more starkly honest expression of the character of the materials throughout the building, or a more straightforward application of them to the structural format. The project as a whole combines a natural exploitation of the site, a natural articulation of the plan and structure, and a natural handling of the materials. Beyond ice igloos and grass huts, it is as organic as architecture can reasonably be.

Wright's later essays take up rather different matters, discussing the use of steel, concrete, stone, wood, glass, and kiln-fired materials such as brick and terra-cotta tile. For the most part they are poetic musings about the materials and the ways, satisfactory or otherwise, in which the traditional ones have been used in the past. But their importance lies in having raised the visionary issue of how materials, through the use of machines to produce or refine them, can be wrought in a fun-

Figure 11-4

Natural materials, interior: Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin, by Wright (photo of Taliesin by Jim Wildeman, courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, Scottsdale, AZ).

Figure 11-4

Natural materials, interior: Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin, by Wright (photo of Taliesin by Jim Wildeman, courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, Scottsdale, AZ).

damentally new artistic expression. Wright's concern was to work materials with optimum honesty so as to devise inherently artistic structure. He was confident that forms unanticipated by any architecture of the past could be produced. He did not have a specific vision of them in mind, but he counted on young architects to intuit what those forms might be. The final essay, of 1928, was about the creation of poetic form, achieving beauty in architecture by working with principles. (Is it unfair to point out that Le Corbusier had called for a poetry of form in Vers une architecture, the English translation of which had appeared in 1927?)

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