Looking Back at Frank Lloyd Wright

A new exhibition of the sketches, designs and architectural models of Frank Lloyd Wright opens at one of his most famous creations, the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
May 24, 2009, 1pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"Wright's career spanned more than seven decades; he was born two years after the Civil War and died at the dawn of the space age. The exhibition is therefore a journey from architecture that, on the swirling ramp of the Guggenheim, can seem almost old-fashioned to work that closely resembles the museum. The strong horizontals, open interior spaces, and overhanging roofs of Wright's early Prairie House style combine nineteenth-century sumptuousness with potent modern thrust. In his great house Fallingwater, of 1936, powerful cantilevers lent some of the crispness of European modernism. And then there are the hexagons, hemicycles, triangles, and spirals that pervade his late work. It's appropriate that the exhibition's section about the Guggenheim itself, unquestionably the culmination of Wright's achievement, comes at the top of the spiral. Then again the Guggenheim spiral, ascending toward the sky, can be an overbearing metaphor for a chronological exhibition. (Wright would probably have loved it.) Not every oeuvre fits such a narrative, and in Wright's case the curators decided that some work was better treated thematically than chronologically. Residential designs and major urban projects are in separate galleries-mini-exhibitions that remind you of the limitations of Wright's ramp."

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Published on Friday, May 22, 2009 in The New Yorker
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