Library of Congress // Public Domain
Library of Congress // Public Domain

5 Pieces of Advice From Frank Lloyd Wright

Library of Congress // Public Domain
Library of Congress // Public Domain

Happy birthday, Frank Lloyd Wright! America’s best-known architect was born 148 years ago today—though if he were still alive, he would have said he was turning 146. (He told people that he was born in 1869, although birth records indicate otherwise.) As befits the sagacity of his old age, here are five pearls of wisdom from the quintessential American designer.

1. “You must read the book of nature.”

In an article Wright wrote in The New York Times in 1953, he advised an intense study of the environment: 

It is necessary to have recourse to Nature with a capital N in order to get an education. Necessary to learn from trees, flowers, shells—objects which contain truths of form following function. If we stopped there, then it would be merely imitation. But if we dig deep enough to read the principles on which these are activated, we arrive at secrets of form related to purpose that would make of the tree a building and of the building a tree. 

2. Get rid of your air conditioner. 

Wright was all about building homes that blended in with their natural surroundings. In his book The Natural House (excerpted by The New York Times in 1954), Wright argued that “air conditioning is a dangerous circumstance ... I think it far better to go with the natural climate than to try to fix a special artificial climate of your own," he wrote (emphasis his). “Climate means something to man. It means something in relation to one’s life in it. Nature makes the body flexible and so the life of the individual invariably becomes adapted to environment and circumstance.”

3. Have a drink.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. Image Credit:Carol M. Highsmith via Wikipedia // Public Domain

Interviewed by The New York Times in the 1950s at the age of 89, Wright explained his habit of drinking a pre-dinner Irish whiskey thusly: “A man is a fool if he drinks before he reaches the age of 50, and a fool if he doesn’t afterward.” In the same interview, he declared that “Coffee is food for the body; tea, food for the mind.” 

4. Appreciate poetry. 

Wright thought all geniuses were poets at heart (including architects). At the end of one of his monographs, he railed against a lack of poets in American society: 

How America needs poets! God knows—she has enough profit takers, enough garage mechanics, enough journalists, enough teachers of only what has been taught, enough wage slaves. Without the poet—man of vision wherever he stands—the Soul of this people is a dead Soul. One must be insensible not to feel the chill creeping over ours…

5. Don’t rely too much on other people's advice.

Though Frank Lloyd Wright was a teacher who regularly advised young architects, he didn’t think too highly of other people’s advice. “Advice never bought a character worth the name, though advice is good,” he said in his first published lecture on architecture in 1900. 

Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

After Four Months, a Frank Lloyd Wright House in Glencoe, Illinois Goes Back on the Market

Most architecture nerds would be thrilled to live in an original Frank Lloyd Wright house, and occasionally, they get their chance—as long as they’re willing to pay a few million dollars. As of late 2017, there were Frank Lloyd Wright homes for sale in New York, Minnesota, Ohio, Connecticut, and elsewhere for $1 million dollars or more (in some cases, way more). Sometimes, you can find a deal, though, like the $445,000 Usonian home that went on the market in Michigan in 2016.

Sadly, as Curbed reports, a newly for-sale Wright house in Glencoe, Illinois is not such a deal anymore. Only three months after its $752,000 sale, the 1914 Kier House in suburban Chicago has been renovated and is back on the market for $837,500.

Many Wright homes need a little love after decades of use. For one thing, the architect is somewhat notorious for building leaky roofs. Their small kitchens and shag carpeting are no longer quite so desirable, either.

But for many buyers and architects, restoring a Wright home is a labor of love, one that often takes several years and aims to respect the original designer’s genius while bringing the house up to modern standards. (For some of the historic homes, permanent easements also prohibit most exterior alterations, further limiting what a remodel can involve.)

The Prairie School-style house, though it has Honorary Landmark status, isn’t entirely original to Wright. It has a more modern kitchen, a new family room, and updated bathrooms (with a steam shower!). Previous owner Susan Cowen, who owned the house for a number of years and spent an undisclosed amount on refurbishing it, sold the residence in January to a pair of documentary filmmakers, according to Patch. The sale, which included a significant price drop, only took a few months. They, in turn, made a number of improvements. The owners fixed up the chimneys, boiler, and furnace, added a limestone bar separating the kitchen and dining room, and raised part of the ceiling above the stairs.

Now, four months later, it’s on sale again, and, thanks to the upgrades, a little pricier. The latest sellers may find, though, that not every Wright sale goes as quickly as their purchase. The architect’s homes are highly prized, but also known to be very difficult to sell, sometimes languishing on the market for years before finding a buyer.

[h/t Curbed]


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