Tuesday, 8 April 2008

'House on the Mesa' - Frank Lloyd Wright

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Frank Lloyd Wright's 'House on the Mesa', designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for phony Philip Johnson's International Style exhibition of 1932, and shown here in the form of a student's model of the project.

Johnson had bought the exhibition by his parents to introduce "modern architecture" to a New York audience.  When asked by a colleague why Frank Lloyd Wright had not been invited to contribute a piece to the exhibition, co-curated with Henry Russell Hitchcock, Johnson replied, "I thought he was dead." "That was interpreted as the insult it was meant to be," admitted Johnson later, after Wright had contributed this design, which frankly blew away every one of the other, derivative, designs in the display.  As Wright said of the style so breathlessly promoted by Johnson and his coterie, "The 'International Style' is nothing but the architecture of the box with its face lifted."

Wright had not only inspired the generation of architects that the Hitchcock-Johnson exhibition helped to make famous, but pale knock-offs of this house and many others of this era - rendered mostly with very little understanding of what's been borrowed -- still litter the pages of architecture magazines over seventy-five years later.

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1 comment:

  1. This would have been a far more interesting essay if you had discussed the many design innovations of this house and the design having been inspired by Wright's visit to Colorado and his lecture to the Denver Art Museum in 1930. History records the MoMA exhibit on modern architecture of 1932 in slightly different terms than you describe, but no matter, as Wright did agree to display this wonderful house with other European and American architects of the day and the exhibition showed the world that modern design had finally arrived. All the participants shared in some modest exposure, and I personally would frame the exhibit and the diversity that still exists in modernism as being positive in educating the public. This Wright design had many special features worth discussing, one of which includes the glass wall that stair-steps upward and outward, with the flat, horizontal glass panes being the operable ones and the vertical glass being fixed. Wonderful!

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