Frank Lloyd Wright

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Architecture is the triumph of Human Imagination over materials, methods, and men, to put man into possession of his own Earth.

Frank Lloyd Wright (8 June 18679 April 1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator, who designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Wright believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, with a philosophy he called organic architecture.

Quotes[edit]

It is where life is fundamental and free that men develop the vision needed to reveal the human soul in the blossoms it puts forth.
  • If you would see how interwoven it is in the warp and woof of civilization ... go at night-fall to the top of one of the down-town steel giants and you may see how in the image of material man, at once his glory and his menace, is this thing we call a city. There beneath you is the monster, stretching acre upon acre into the far distance. High over head hangs the stagnant pall of its fetid breath, reddened with light from myriad eyes endlessly, everywhere blinking. Thousands of acres of cellular tissue, the city's flesh outspreads layer upon layer, enmeshed by an intricate network of veins and arteries radiating into the gloom, and in them, with muffled, persistent roar, circulating as the blood circulates in your veins, is the almost ceaseless beat of the activity to whose necessities it all conforms. The poisonous waste is drawn from the system of this gigantic creature by infinitely ramifying, thread-like ducts, gathering at their sensitive terminals matter destructive of its life, hurrying it to millions of small intestines to be collected in turn by larger, flowing to the great sewers, on to the drainage canal, and finally to the ocean.
    • Lecture to the Chicago chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (1904); later published as "The Art and Craft of the Machine" in On Architecture: Selected Writings (1894-1940) (1941)
  • Pictures deface walls oftener than they decorate them.
    • "In the Cause of Architecture", in The Architectural Record (March 1908)
  • It is where life is fundamental and free that men develop the vision needed to reveal the human soul in the blossoms it puts forth. ... In a great workshop like Chicago this creative power germinates, even though the brutality and selfish preoccupation of the place drive it elsewhere for bread. Men of this type have loved Chicago, have worked for her, and believed in her. The hardest thing they have to bear is her shame. These men could live and work here when to live and work in New York would stifle their genius and fill their purse.... New York still believes that art should be imported; brought over in ships; and is a quite contented market place. So while New York has reproduced much and produced nothing, Chicago's achievements in architecture have gained world-wide recognition as a distinctively American architecture.
    • Lecture to the Chicago Women's Aid (1918); later published as "Chicago Culture" in On Architecture: Selected Writings (1894-1940) (1941)
No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it...
  • No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.
    • Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography (1932) page 168
  • So here I stand before you preaching organic architecture: declaring organic architecture to be the modern ideal.
    • An Organic Architecture (1939)
  • I'm no teacher. Never wanted to teach and don't believe in teaching an art. Science yes, business of course..but an art cannot be taught. You can only inculcate it, you can be an exemplar, you can create an atmosphere in which it can grow. Well I suppose I, being an exemplar, could be called a teacher, in spite of myself. So go ahead, call me a teacher.
    • Quote from an interview on the NBC television program, Wisdom- A Conversation with Frank Lloyd Wright (1953)
  • A free America, democratic in the sense that our forefathers intended it to be, means just this: individual freedom for all, rich or poor, or else this system of government we call 'democracy' is only an expedient to enslave man to the machine and make him like it.
    • The Future of Architecture (1953), p. 174
  • Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.
    • The Future of Architecture (1953)
  • The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
    • New York Times Magazine (4 October 1953) Sometimes paraphrased: "A doctor can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
  • I doubt if there is anything in the world uglier than a Midwestern city.
    • Address at Evanston Illinois (8 August 1954)
  • Clear out 800,000 people and preserve it as a museum piece.
    • On Boston, The New York Times (27 November 1955)
  • New York: Prison towers and modern posters for soap and whiskey. Pittsburgh: Abandon it.
    • On New York and Pittsburgh, The New York Times (27 November 1955)
Architecture is life, or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived.
  • If you're going to have centralization, why not have it!
    • On his designs for "The Illinois" a 528-story Chicago office building (10 September 1956)
  • The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet. But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist.
    • As quoted in The Star (1959) and Morrow's International Dictionary of Contemporary Quotations (1982) by Jonathon Green.
  • I believe in God, only I spell it "Nature".
    • As quoted in Quote magazine (14 August 1966)
  • Nature is all the body of God we mortals will ever see.
    • As quoted in The Duality of Vision : Genius and Versatility in the Arts (1970) by Walter Sorrell, p. 28
  • Architecture is life, or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived.
    • As quoted in An Organic Architecture (1970)
  • Here I am, Philip, am I indoors or am I out? Do I take my hat off or keep it on?
    • On Philip Johnson's glass house, as quoted in Architectural Digest (November 1985)
  • Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
    • As quoted in The Wright Style (1992) by Carla Lind, p. 3
  • Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change.
    • As quoted in The World's Best Thoughts on Life & Living (1981) compiled by Eugene Raudsepp; also quoted in The Michigan Daily (10 November 1998)
If we wish to know the truth concerning anything, we'll find it in the nature of that thing.
  • God is the great mysterious motivator of what we call nature and it has been said often by philosophers, that nature is the will of God. And, I prefer to say that nature is the only body of God that we shall ever see. If we wish to know the truth concerning anything, we'll find it in the nature of that thing.
    • As quoted in Truth Against the World : Frank Lloyd Wright speaks for an organic architecture (1987) edited by Patrick J. Meehan
  • The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.
  • Human beings can be beautiful. If they are not beautiful it is entirely their own fault. It is what they do to themselves that makes them ugly. The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.
    • Quoted in A Living Architecture : Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin Architects (2000) by John Rattenbury

A Testament (1957)[edit]

Part One
  • Philosophy is to the mind of the architect as eyesight is to his steps. The term "genius" when applied to him simply means a man who understands what others only know about.
  • Everyone engaged in creative work is subject to persecution by the odious comparison. Odious comparisons dog the footsteps of all creation wherever the poetic principle is involved because the inferior mind learns only by comparisons; comparisons, usually equivocal, made by selfish interests each for the other. The the superior mind learns by analyses: the study of Nature.
  • So the poet in the engineer and the engineer in the poet and both in the architect may be seen here working together, lifelong.
  • To survive, our American art was cheating itself of life.
  • Everywhere these inventions of science by ignorant misuse of a new technique were wiping out the artist.
  • But soon this saving virtue appeared to me in our disgraceful dilemma: Realization that any true cultural significance our American free society could know lay in the proper use of the machine as a tool and used only as a tool.
  • Different were the prophets of the human soul.
  • Success was misunderstood as essential to progress. Really success was worse than failure.
  • If the abstraction is truly made well above the animal nature in man—his gregarious nature—it will keep the ancient rituals of his higher nature as long as possible. Human abstractions if true usually become ritual.
  • What means more to the life of the individual in our own place in Time than this study of the nature of human nature, the search to discover pertinent traces of hidden impulses of life, to form continually new abstractions uplifting the life he lives?
  • Might not the spirit of creative art, desperately needed by man, lie in the proper use of the radical new technologies of our times, and so arise?
  • This drift toward quantity instead of quality is largely distortion. Conformity is always too convenient? Quality means individuality, is therefore difficult. But unless we go deeper now, quantity at expense to quality will be our national tragedy—the rise of mediocrity into high places.
  • Servility increases—already a seemingly unguarded danger to democracy not only in art and architecture and religion but in all phases of life.
  • Between the radical and the conformist lies all the difference between a lithe tendon and a length of gas-pipe.
  • See the last chapter in Genesis where Cain, the murderer of his brother, went forth with his sons to found the city. The City is still murdering his brother.
  • I then believed critics were by nature no less confused than confusing.
  • Thus the plausible expedient has become gospel and continues to be generally foisted upon those who seek better things; the conformities proclaimed by authority, however specious, temporarily mistaken for Godhead.
  • In every new expression of a fundamental Idea there will always be the substitutes, the imitations, dangling from it, as the soiled fringe from a good garment.
  • Almost all our so-called "modern" is not yet new. It is merely novel by imitation or indirection; or pretense by imported picture.
  • Is false abstraction always the consequence of spiritual degeneration?
  • Creation is not only rare but always hazardous. Always was.
  • As a people we remain comparative strangers to our own life in our own time in our own home: native culture waiting in vain on our door step.
  • For this, if for no other reason, degeneration of creative ability in America has had ample support, and what nobility our society might still have is in danger of being submerged in overwhelming tides of rising conformity.
  • As for religion true to the teaching of the great redeemer who said "The Kingdom of God is within you—that religion is yet to come: the concept true not only for the new reality of building but for the faith we call democracy. Nevertheless and notwithstanding, I have wanted to build this faith—life-long.
  • Reform only means more conformity. It is form first that is needed.
  • The soul of any civilization on earth has ever been and still is Art and Religion, but neither has ever been found in commerce, in government of the police.
  • Votes are counted. Yes—but vision can neither be counted nor discounted.
  • Both Art and Religion are on the way. Both must go hand in hand as ever before. Both together illuminating our sciences will constitute the soul of this civilization.
  • Even though a disgrace, machine-made, ornament stayed and still thrives.
  • No jealousy is comparable to professional jealousy.
Part Two
  • Exuberance to me early meant ecstacy of love, the poetic principle of life.
  • Nature's own inexhaustible fertility is manifest exuberance, and never less than the elemental poetry of all her structure.
  • There is nothing so timid as a million dollars.
  • By being so far educated beyond his capacity is he unable to learn within himself from nature? Divorced as he is from her, who and what can now be his? Does the so-called free man of democracy merely exploit his sovereignity?
  • Architecture is intrinsic to Time, Place and Man.
  • Science is inventive but creative never.
  • Spirit is man's new power if he is to be truly mighty in his civilization.
  • Only Art and Religion can bring this new vision as reality to a nation.
  • The spiritual dignity of this new humane life for mankind is the Spirit of Man himself sacrosanct.
  • Man either learns to usefor humanity his new facilities or he perishes by them.
  • The petty bias of personal taste can no longer hide either excrescence or spiritual poverty in the name of style.
  • Poetic is prophetic insight.
  • Intellectual is not necessarily intelligent either.
Part Three
  • As melody is in music ornament is in architecture revelation of the poetic-principle, with character and significance.
  • No! is always easier to say than Yes.
  • ... the huge business of education is not on speaking terms with culture and such culture as we now have is not on speaking terms with reality.
Part Four
  • Genuine expressions as essence of the great art itself cannot be taught or imitated. Nor can they in any way be forced.
  • Great art has always, at first, been controversial. Now that our means of communication have multiplied, how much more so today?
  • Resemblances are mistaken for influences.
  • Again: I found repeatedly confirmed that the inferior mind not only learns by comparison, but loosely confers its superlatives, while the superior mind which learns by analysis refrains from superlatives.
  • I never had much respect for the collector's mind.

The Living City (1958)[edit]

Part 1.

  • The screech and mechanical uproar of the big city turns the citified head, fills citified ears — as the song of birds, wind in the trees, animal cries, or as the voices and songs of his loved ones once filled his heart. He is sidewalk-happy.
    • “Earth”
  • New York is the biggest mouth in the world. It appears to be prime example of the herd instinct, leading the universal urban conspiracy to beguile man from his birthright (the good ground), to hang him by his eyebrows from skyhooks above hard pavement, to crucify him, sell him, or be sold by him.
  • “The-Shadow-of-the-Wall–Primitive Instincts Still Alive”

Part 2

  • To look at the cross-section of any plan of a big city is to look at something like the section of a fibrous tumor.
    • “Social and Economic Disease”

Part 3

  • All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.
    • “Recapitulation”

Part 5

  • I find it hard to believe that the machine would go into the creative artist's hand even were that magic hand in true place. It has been too far exploited by industrialism and science at expense to art and true religion.
    • “Night Is but a Shadow Cast by the Sun”
  • The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope.
    • Closing words, “Night is but a Shadow Cast by the Sun”

Attributed[edit]

  • Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.
    • According to the New Yale Book of Quotations (2021 rev. ed.), this quote was attributed to Wright in Art Spiegelman and Bob Schneider, Whole Grains: Book of Quotations (1973), but a similar quote was credited to Will Rogers in The Washington Post on May 17, 1964: "Tilt this country on end and everything loose will slide into Los Angeles."


Misattributed[edit]

  • There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.
    • Anonymous saying, dating back at least to its citation in Natural Theology (1836) by Thomas Chalmers, Bk. II, Ch. III : On the Strength of the Evidences for a God in the Phenomena of Visible and External Nature, § 15, where the author states: "It has been said that there is nothing more uncommon than common sense."; it has since become misattributed to particular people, including Frank Lloyd Wright.

Quotes about Wright[edit]

Wright thought not that he was God but that he brought or allowed God into the world through what he did, creating and designing. … Wright actually thought himself a prophet, which of course is a different to being God, or an angel.… bringing God into the world in an act of something like mid-wifery from the womb of nature, is not at all Moses-like. It is not a bringing down of Law from on high after personal coaching from God, but a bringing forth of a God already there in potential.
  • Among the great modern architects, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn were arguably deists. ... Wright's use of the wordnature” did not mean only what-we-find-outdoors. It was something deeper. Wright knew that when people speak of the “nature of things” they mean their very essence, the that-which-makes-them-what- they-are, which is always and only one step away from that-who-makes- them-what-they-are. ... Wright thought not that he was God but that he brought or allowed God into the world through what he did, creating and designing. ... Wright actually thought himself a prophet, which of course is a different to being God, or an angel. ... bringing God into the world in an act of something like mid-wifery from the womb of nature, is not at all Moses-like. It is not a bringing down of Law from on high after personal coaching from God, but a bringing forth of a God already there in potential. There is no presumption of having seen or met God of the Bible. One makes the God one believes in happen.
    • Michael Benedikt, University of Texas at Austin, Director of the Center for American Architecture and Design, in God, Creativity, and Evolution : The Argument from Designers (2005)
  • His place in history is secure. His continuing influence is assured. This country's architectural achievements would be unthinkable without him. He has been a teacher to us all.
    • Tribute following his death in the The Journal of the American Institute of Architects (April 1959)
  • The social outcome of the arts and crafts movement was not commensurate with the needs of the new situation; as Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright pointed out in his memorable speech at Hull House in 1908, the machine itself was as much an instrument of art, in the hands of an artist, as were the simple tools and utensils.
    • Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. 7 "Assimilation of the Machine"
  • So long, Frank Lloyd Wright.
    I can't believe your song is gone so soon.
    I barely learned the tune

External links[edit]

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