Frank Lloyd Wright 150th anniversary

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th anniversary celebrated in two publications from Lund Humphries


Frank Lloyd Wright on steps outside draughting studio, Taliesin West, 1942. Photo by Robert Carroll May. Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art/Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

In May 1939, the celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright visited London and gave four lectures at the Royal Institute of British Architects. Each evening the newly completed Jarvis Lecture Hall was full and the meetings were hailed at the time as the most remarkable events of recent architectural affairs in England.

Wright opened the first evening with ‘an informal Declaration of Independence’, which involved a ‘spritual’ call for ‘organic’ architecture that was independent from neoclassical precedent and ‘International Style’ aesthetic. His assertion that modern European architecture was a mere style was a staggering insult to the modernists within the audience! Referring to examples including old Japanese buildings, Egyptian temples and Gothic cathedrals, Wright identified an alternative democratic approach that expressed a feeling for human form and the quality of life that was to be gained by inhabiting them  and came as close as he ever did to defining his idea of ‘organic architecture’.

He acknowledged his British ancestry and his fate in having been raised in the ‘tall grass’ of a romantic American idyll. During the subsequent talks, Wright discussed several of his recent projects, including his Usonian houses, his homes and studios at Taliesin, Wisconsin and Arizona, Fallingwater and the Johnson administration building. His charismatic, flamboyant character and hugely creative intelligence leap from the pages as he looks to the ‘Future’, both in terms of the then-imminent Second World War and his vision for cities.

These lectures were published as ‘An Organic Architecture: The Architecture of Democracy’ in September 1939 by Lund Humphries, which was noted in Wright’s autobiography as a ‘well-illustrated and tastefully printed book issued while the bombs were dropping on London’.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth, original publisher Lund Humphries are reissuing an attractive new edition ofOrganic Architecture, including a new introduction by architectural historian Professor Andrew Saint, which sets the lectures within their context and explains their continued appeal.

Complementing this is a new book, Travels With Frank Lloyd Wright, the First Global Architect by Gwyn Lloyd Jones, which looks at the architect in a global context. The author retraces the architect’s journeys to Japan, Germany, Russia, the UK, Italy and the Middle East, revealing his global architectural legacy. Beautifully illustrated with Lloyd Wright’s own sketches and photographs the book offers a contemporary view of the architect’s international ambitions.

As well as tying in with major anniversary events such as the Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive exhibition at MOMA which runs from 12 June-1 October, the two publications mark the re-launch of the Lund Humphries Architecture and Design catalogue in 2017, with a range of illustrated books aimed at specialists, professionals and enthusiasts.

Written by Val Rose, Lund Humphries Commissioning Editor, Architecture and Design