by Don Singer

I first began my obsession with Frank Lloyd Wright while I was still in architectural school at the University of Florida. Quite honestly, I did not know who Wright was nor was I familiar with his work when I went to the school library in 1957 to do research on a project for a design class. Searching for the building type required in the assignment led me to one of Wright’s buildings and an entire world—a world of creativity, commitment and exploration—opened for me, much, shall we say, like a book.

There were multiple worlds of wonder in the more than sixty years of Wright’s professional life and the more work of his I found in print, the more I wanted to see. Books became a natural vehicle for that exploration and, because Wright’s prolific work extended past his building designs into printed material, there was always a wealth of books by him available to examine and study.

Books are a necessity for most students and I was no exception. I was a youngster enamored of Wright and his buildings when I acquired many of the titles selected for this exhibition; and they have aged well. The books I find most compelling are the ones that come directly from Wright’s own passion and energy, always telling a story that grew with the man himself but also always focused on the goal of his connection with man and nature—his “Organic” Architecture.

Not only are the books by Wright written in his unusual and distinctive prose style, in many cases he was also responsible for their graphic design, often down to the last detail. For example: the 1925 Wendingen monograph published in Holland by H. Th. Wijdeveld in which the individual pages designed by Wright are fully conceived works of art; the series of autobiographies (the first one was published in 1932) has dust covers and section dividers of his exquisite ornamental designs; and the 1938 issue of Architectural Forum magazine for which he literally designed the entire issue.

The incredible 1910 German oversized monograph by Ernst Wasmuth, the first publication to present Wright’s work to the world at large, is a beautifully designed portfolio of 100 of Wright’s drawings. Each page is a treasure in itself. Most of the original printing was destroyed in the first Taliesin fire of 1912, but the 1963 reproduction of the monograph by Horizon Press that you see here is amazingly faithful to Wright’s original conception.
Photographing Taliesin West, Wright’s summer camp in the Arizona desert, when I was 19, began to bring to life the aura that I felt for the work. Four years later my wife Elaine and I traveled across the country and were able to visit many of Wright’s works first hand, and my admiration for the genius, the totality, and the determination of the man was only solidified.

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959, while I was still in school. I regret terribly that I never sat in a room with him and that I never had the opportunity to speak with him. I have been lucky enough to sit for a day with his son Lloyd and later, at Lloyd’s direction, Wright’s granddaughter Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, both fine architects in their own right. I suspect that I would have liked him.

I will continue to look for insight from others, such as University of Florida Professor Robert McCarter whose comprehensive and insightful work Frank Lloyd Wright, published in 1997 by Phaedon Press, looks at the body of work in scholarly detail and from an architect’s point of view. But the books authored by Mr. Wright himself hold the true key and connection to the man, his era, and his legacy—architecture as the true and most lasting art of man.

Copyright © 2003 by Broward County Libraries Division
Bienes Center for the Literary Arts
(A service of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners)