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So Wrong He's Wright

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 6, 2007 4:51PM

Wright02_06_07.jpgFrank Lloyd Wright may have been one of the greatest architects of our time. Let us rephrase, Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the greatest architects of our time. Intrestingly enough however, Frank Lloyd Wright was kind of ... well … how do we say it, kind of an asshole.

In 1957 when Wright was 90 years old and putting the finishing touches on his Guggenheim Museum in New York, Mike Wallace invited him to be interviewed. The tapes have been re-released and they’ll be shown at the Chicago Architecture Foundation tomorrow.

Here are some questions from the interview:

On Calling Himself The World’s Greatest Architect

FLW: I’ve been accused of saying I was was the greatest architect in the world and if I had said so, I don’t think it would be very arrogant, because I don’t believe there are many [great architects]—if any. For 500 years what we call architecture has been phony.

On The Common Man
MW: I understand that last week, in all seriousness, you said: “If I had another 15 years to work, I could rebuild this entire country. I could change the nation.”
FLW: I did say it and it’s true. Having had now the experience building (going on) 769 buildings, it’s quite easy for me to shake them out of my sleeve. It’s amazing what I could do for this country.

And here’s something we found the other day, the Art Institute has oral histories on a bunch of Chicago architects. The interviews are fascinating — we recommend checking them out if you’re an architecture buff — but here is Bruce Graham, partner at Skidmore, telling a story about Frank Lloyd Wright.

Graham: … but my point was that Frank Lloyd Wright used to brag about what a great engineer he was. He wasn't, he was a lousy engineer.

Blum: Did you know or ever meet him?

Graham: Yes, in Chicago. He was a mean old man.

Blum: I assume your exchange was not a very pleasant one.

Graham: Well, one time he came to an AIA meeting in which he was invited to give a talk. He came in with his cape and his hat and he ran up the aisle and went up and said—we were celebrating Sullivan—he said, "Oh, you killed Sullivan!" and he got up and walked out. What an animal! "Oh, you killed Sullivan!" He was meaner to Sullivan than anybody else.

We love this image of FLW storming in with his cape, yelling and screaming about Sullivan, oh how we wish we could have been there. We're looking forward to checking out these interviews though, that's about as close as we can get at this point.

You can see the Mike Wallace interview with Frank Lloyd Wright on Wednesday, February 7 at 12:15 p.m. at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan, it’s free and you can bring your lunch.