a r c h i t e c t u r e  


Frank Lloyd Wright was arguably one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. He even said so himself! I call him Frankie….my way of addressing a very tall American poppy of Welsh descent! Now with 3 wives, at least 2 mistresses, multiple children from them, affairs including running off to Europe with his client's wife, his house burned down twice, an axe murderer getting rid of some of the aforesaid, and almost permanently broke, his life makes 50 Shades of Grey look like a Mills and Boon. OK so that's the salacious bits out of the way....if it's got you hooked go here http://www.oprf.com/flw/bio/ for a quick bio.....there is a ton of material on the internet and a movie as well.

There is an amazing story how Edgar Kaufman, a wealthy client had multiple run-ins with Frankie.over the building of Falling Waters (a retreat of revolutionary concept and design in upstate New York).  It is an object lesson in how not to treat a client, but they both had huge egos. Here is a letter from Frankie to Kaufman:

Dear Mr. Kaufmann:

   I don’t know what kind of architect you are familiar with but it apparently isn’t the kind I think I am.  You seem not to know how to treat a decent one.  I have put so much more into this house than you or any other client has a right to expect that if I haven’t your confidence—to hell with the whole thing.

   —Frank Lloyd Wright

and the reply:

   Dear Mr. Wright:

   I don’t know what kind of clients you are familiar with but apparently they are not the kind I think I am.  You seem not to know how to treat a decent man.  I have put so much confidence and enthusiasm behind this whole project in my limited way, to help the fulfillment of your effort that if I do not have your confidence in the matter—to hell with the whole thing.

   —Edgar J. Kauffman

   P.S. Now don’t you think we should stop writing letters and that you owe it to the situation to come to Pittsburgh and clear it up by getting the facts?…

And thats just for starters....search the internet for their correspondence as Kaufman crawls on hands and knees to stroke Frankie’s mega-ego.  When you see the photo you'll probably remember you have seen this iconic building before.

Now lets put the personalities aside for now. I have been through Falling Waters some years ago, and even though it was neglected (it has since been restored) it has a magic quality about it that only great architecture can give. Have a look at it....corner glass, cantilevered decks, flat roof. Doesn't that sound familar of more recent times. Unfortuneately it did leak a bit and has a bit of a lean as engineering and geotech were thin on the ground.

That building was the inspiration for the one I designed for a site in the Kawerau Gorge. No it is not a clone of Falling Waters, but it does have a lot of common elements such as the use of glass, cantilever over water, decks, an approach via a covered bridge (Frankie just had a path), self sufficient for services, use of natural materials, and shafting natural light and sun to lower levels. It was a real design challenge, and one of which I am quite proud! A number of people have seen the concept and commented that they see the qualities of Falling Water in it.

Yes this building has a genuine client it was designed for, but placed on hold for now. The client absolutely loves it, and unlike Edgar and Frankie he and I get along pretty well!