'Total work of art': Taschen's single volume Frank Lloyd Wright monograph
FLW used to be a mainstay of the architectural publishing industry. In the pre-digital era, before the monograph became the calling card of the emerging practice and not a studious look back at a lengthy career, the most popular architect in the ‘design’ section was the irascible, foppish, arrogant but eternally creative Frank Lloyd Wright, a man whose career spanned seven decades and over 500 buildings.
Wright’s enduring popularity is down to many factors, his quality of work notwithstanding. He was a skilled self-publicist, the author of many books. He cultured a guru-like following amongst his staff and students, especially at the Taliesin schools he established. His ‘total work of art’ approach extended down to the smallest detail, creating houses of such visual richness, craftsmanship and invention that they stand apart from the art movements that may or may not have influenced them. And his presentation was second to none. In addition to 500 completed works, there were as many unbuilt, all surviving in the characteristically beautiful drawings and watercolours that he used to seduce clients and historians alike.
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer is our era’s pre-eminent Wright specialist, having begun his career as Wright’s apprentice. Now archives director at Taliesin West, he has access to hundreds of thousands of documents, allowing this monograph to be a masterful summation of FLW’s long career. Compiled from Taschen’s vast three-volume oeuvre complète, this single volume is a greatest hits and more, covering everything from the elegant houses built around Chicago’s Oak Park, with their long, low ‘Prairie Style’ proportions and elaborate detailing, through to the pioneering Larkin Administration Building – oft cited as the world’s first modern office block – and the more expressive, space age futurism of his later work. There is more than enough here to make this the ultimate compact work on a definitive character in architectural history.