Frank Lloyd Wright: Myth & Murder

DATELINE: Einstein of Architecture

With 400 buildings to his fifty year career, the self-styled genius of American architecture makes for a compelling hour streaming biography, entitled Wright: Murder, Myth, and Modernism.

His own foibles, constant and steady bad choices when it came to women companions, Wright’s life nearly was derailed by his scandal and the penance. He liked the wives of clients as lovers.

A servant murdered his common law wife, other servants, children, and burned down his Taliesin in Wisconsin.  Instead of being destroyed, he girded his powers and re-built. 

The prairie houses of Oak Park must have looked like spaceships landing in the suburbs. His organic houses were stunning, warm, and you better like living in the designer’s mind. Wright designed furniture and also the grounds.

After the murders, he found his professional life drying up. He became more inward and reclusive. It’s not a good style for a man who depends on social connections to have projects.

By 1930 he was broke and without clients. So, he created a mythology in an autobiography that became a best-seller. Yet, the Depression did not ease up—and he dropped another bipolar wife and found a woman 30 years younger. She urged him to use self-promotion.

His idiosyncratic dress and demeanor helped build his own architecture school—and students were slave labor, and slavish devotees.

It was not until he built a house over a waterfall that he returned to public acclaim. Falling Water was recreation in a nutshell.

The rest of his life, until his 90s, turned him into a celebrity like Einstein.  No matter that his houses seemed to have flaws because technology for construction did not match his visions.

Wright was unique and irritating and brilliant. His life-story here in a nutshell is organic and modernistic.

The Business of an American Home

 DATELINE:  Wright House, Wrong Address

American home

Let’s face it: the city of Kankakee, Illinois, needs all the help its Chamber of Commerce can provide.

Enter director/writer Thomas Desch.  He has put together a fascinating centerpiece for reviving the city: its greatest single tourist and artistic point is the house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed at the turn of the 20th century.

An American Home has an unwieldy and ridiculous subtitle Frank Lloyd Wright’s B. Harley Bradley House, but don’t be daunted. You have here architectural history and how it is personally tied to the fates of real people who try to live and work within a building’s architecture.

Wright was a genius and his first example of the Prairie Home was in Illinois where the well-to-do young Bradley’s commissioned a house, stable, and accompanying residence for their family. Perhaps some places are benighted and cursed.

As amazing and beautiful as the house was—and now is again—it had a hard journey over 100 years. And, so did the cursed owners.

With its stunning stained glass, lead-lined windows, largely sold at auction, and its furniture and tables bought for exorbitant prices by celebs like Barbra Streisand over the years, the Wright house has been decimated.

The owners have variously committed suicide and been kidnapped and murdered (one during renovation of the structure).

Yet,generous patrons have thrown millions of bucks into refurbishing the Yesteryear Restaurant of 50 years (bankrupt in the 1980s) and fallen into disrepair, to save it from demolishing.

Its stable was an afterthought that was saved only by large protests. You may be shocked to learn 20% of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs have been destroyed.

So, we have no issue with the Kankakee people who are proud of the most impressive building and home of their city. Interesting history and biography.