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200 × 130 × 11 mm
224 pages
36 illustrations
01 Feb 2006
Critical Lives
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Frank Lloyd Wright Robert McCarter

The life and architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) have been much-studied, yet there is a consistent division between analyses of his architecture, which exclude any discussion of his daily life, and books that tell the often sensational tale of his life, with barely a passing reference to the buildings themselves. The result is that, despite the large number of volumes on Wright, the most essential part of his life – his life as an architect, working, as he said, ‘in the cause of architecture’ – remains virtually unexplored.

Frank Lloyd Wright offers an account of Wright’s life as an architect, the ideas, beliefs and relationships that shaped his life and work, and the manner in which these affected, and are reflected in, his architecture. During a tumultuous life and extensive career which includes such hugely defining buildings as the Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, Taliesin, Unity Temple, and the prolific Prairie Houses, Wright endeavoured to shape the emerging and evolving American democracy, its mode of dwelling, and its relation to the traditional conception of the city. Fusing ancient construction geometries with contemporary ideals of Transcendental philosophy, Wright sought to develop an appropriate architecture for the new world of the twentieth century. In doing so, he served as the primary inspiration for the emergence of Modern architecture around the world.

Robert McCarter examines how Wright's architecture crystallized key conceptions of both private dwelling and public citizenship for American society, and relates how, through his work and writings, Wright developed relationships with key leaders of the arts, industry and society. He analyses how and why Wright maintained that architecture was the ‘background or framework’ for daily life, never the literal ‘object’ of our attention, as well as Wright's belief that architects have the most significant ethical responsibilities to improve the larger society and culture to which they belong. In exploring Wright's life, times and culture, Robert McCarter shows how Wright was an architect of astonishing ability, whose works continue to shape the world around us, fifty years after his death.

‘Writing in succinct prose devoid of academic jargon, McCarter explains what made Wright's architecture so revolutionary . . . While acknowledging Wright's greatness, McCarter has not written a hagiography . . . McCarter's book could have been half as long again it's that much of a pleasure to read.’ — ARTnews

‘Robert McCarter . . . has produced a superb single-volume work that fills in the gaps of Wright's vast influence . . . well-written and superbly illustrated. The work contains a thorough index of references as well as a comprehensive bibliography. It is an excellent contribution to the Critical Lives series’ — Journal of Illinois History

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Robert McCarter is a practising architect and Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. His books include Frank Lloyd Wright (Reaktion, 2006), Louis I. Kahn (2005) and Understanding Architecture (2012).

Introduction:  Wright at the Defining Moment
1.  Unity and Nature's Geometry
2.  Chicago and the Tradition of Practice
3.  White City and New World Monumentality
4.  Prairie House and the Progressive Movement
5.  Europe and the Shining Brow
6.  Eastern Garden and Western Desert
7.  Fellowship and the Disappearing City
8.  Natural House and the Fountainhead
9.  Usonia Lost and Found
Epilogue:  Wright in the Rearview Mirror
Photographic Acknowledgements