Wright

In none of his writings did Frank Lloyd Wright explicitly discuss what might be learned from studying the architecture of the past. Regarding European architecture, especially that of the Renaissance on, he was almost entirely negative. Having seen little of it other than in Berlin and Florence, he was mostly parroting the views of Viollet-le-Duc, whose works he had read and heeded. He did, however, express great admiration for traditional Japanese architecture, meaning medieval Buddhist complexes, which he had first seen in replica in Chicago at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 (fig. 3-11) and, later, on trips to Japan. No specific building in Japan was cited, but he made clear

Figure 3-11

Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural inspiration: Japanese Buddhist architecture, represented by the teahouse at Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto (FH).

Figure 3-11

Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural inspiration: Japanese Buddhist architecture, represented by the teahouse at Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto (FH).

in his Autobiography that the Buddhist tradition inspired several key principles of his architecture. This Japanese element served two purposes at once, the first being his perverse urge to reject what others embraced and to espouse what no one else in the West had thought to seek out. The second was to reinforce his dedication to the concept of organic planning, which he had adopted from Viollet-le-Duc.

The principles he discovered in Japanese architecture began with the intimate interrelationship of interior and exterior, amounting to what he called the abolition of the box (fig. 3-11). By corollary they extended to the design of the natural environment around a structure, even to the borders of its site. The siting of the building should, if possible, make it seem to be a natural and inevitable feature of the landscape, placed in it rather than on it. The building should be constructed of materials that bespeak the earth—unpainted wood, rough-cut stone, brick, slate, and the like—and they should be incorporated into the structure in such a way as to enhance, and certainly not deny, their natural qualities. Moreover, they should be used in the same way on the interior as they have been on the exterior, avoiding all artificial finishes. They should be assembled in such a way as to integrate the parts, making the structure appear continuous, without a blatant beginning or end. Indeed, where feasible, the interior spaces should merge one into the other in an analogous manner. Finally, the harmony of the architecture should bespeak the harmony of its occupants' existence in nature. By implication, if the clients did not already possess that grace, the architecture would help them to acquire it. Although this program was never spelled out in one systematic explanation, its components suffuse all Wright's writings.

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