so long, frank lloyd wright
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So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright
April, 2009, Page 212
Copyright Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Frank Lloyd Wright in the Taliesin West drafting room, 1946
“We were constantly learning all the time,” says Brierly, whose daughter also lives and works at Taliesin West. “We were one big family.”
There were formal black-tie dinners on Saturday nights, live music and movies. A cabaret theater complete with a lighted pathway and slanted seating was built in 1949, and a music pavilion for 100 people was constructed in 1957.
Apprentices were students, designers, construction workers, musicians and performers. It ran the gamut in this community.
Brierly maintains that Wright was a leader in the field – and would continue to be were he alive today.
“He would be way ahead of everyone,” she says. “He was always testing beyond the possibilities of his time. He would visualize something that had to be worked out technically later.
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer spent a decade with Wright, arriving from Boston on a cold February day in 1949 fresh from high school. The 19-year-old had been captivated by Wright’s work after seeing it in a magazine.
Pfeiffer recalled his first meeting with the diminutive Wright in his office. “He came up to me and shook my hand,” he says. “He said, ‘Young man, you have a pale complexion. Our way of life is going to do you a world of good.’”
Pfeiffer says it didn’t hurt that he shared the same religion as Wright and played the piano, an important skill in a place where music was part of life and all were expected to participate.
Pfeiffer, who is now 78 and lives in a Wright-designed house at Taliesin West, talks fondly of his relationship with Wright and Wright’s wife Olgivanna, of the heady days of traveling to Arizona and abroad with the famous architect, and of the measure of the man.
“He wasn’t egotistical,” says Pfeiffer, countering a widely held belief that Wright was arrogant. “What he had was great conviction. He knew he was going in the right direction. He once said that arrogance is a pretense for something you don’t have.
“If you ask me, that’s being humble.”
Photo by John Engstead, Courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Archives
Frank Lloyd Wright at the original Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, circa 1955
Pfeiffer recounts with flair stories of getting a room in Paris at the booked-up Ritz-Carlton, his days at the Plaza Hotel in New York and his meeting in 1957 with King Faisal II of Iraq, who had hired Wright to design an opera house for Baghdad.
“He walked in and you hear, ‘His majesty, the King of Iraq,’” he recalls of that day. “So, Mr. Wright says, ‘Mr. Wright, his majesty, the American citizen.”
The archivist says that Wright was quick to quip, and that today, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his sense of humor.
“All these remarks that Mr. Wright used to make get lost in the printed page,” he says. “What people don’t see is that twinkle in his eye.”
Professionally, there is uniform agreement about Wright’s importance, carved out from a 70-year career of designing homes and a variety of public and religious buildings. He was most prolific in the last two decades of his life. Among his most notable projects were the Johnson Wax Administration Building in Wisconsin, Price Tower in Oklahoma, Beth Shalom Synagogue in Pennsylvania and the Guggenheim, which opened five months after Wright’s death.
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