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American women who scored firsts - старонка 14


Wright sold some of the remaining Japanese prints, but that was

only a temporary expedient. Turning to writing he did a series of

articles for Architectural Record on the nature of materials, dealing

in turn with concrete, wood, and sheet metal. For a time he stayed

with his married sister Maginel in New York.

When, at Taliesin once more, Frank failed to meet payments

94 REBEL IN CONCRETE

due, he received a legal notice that he was to leave the premises.

He was now without a home and without a job. Auspiciously a

telegram came from Albert McArthur, who had been an appren-

tice in the Oak Park studio, asking him if he could come out to

Phoenix to help with the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, which he had

been commissioned to build.

Wright accepted the offer. The work afforded a livelihood, but

was not very interesting, because most of his suggestions, which

were unusual, were disregarded. But he enjoyed the hospitality

accorded him.

While helping with the Biltmore Frank met Dr. Alexander

Chandler, who had built his own town of Chandler on a mesa

about twenty-two miles from Phoenix. Wright admired Chandler's

discriminating judgment and independence. To him Chandler

confided his dream of building. a winter resort for millionaires to

be called San Marcos in the Desert.

After seeing the site, Frank was wildly enthusiastic. The creative

urge snowed under by successive disasters was vibrantly alive

once more. Chandler described what he visualized and then said

he believed Wright might be able to give him what he wanted.

Still exiled from Taliesin, although friends had been trying to

get a settlement with the bank, Frank went to La Jolla to work

on plans for San Marcos. The following September he had a tele-

gram, "Taliesin open for your return."

Frank knew that back of the message lay untiring effort, loyalty,

and sacrifice on the part of friends who had no security except

their belief in his talent, and he was deeply touched.

On the way home to Taliesin he stopped to show Dr. Chandler

his design. Dr. Chandler seemed pleased but made no definite

commitment. At Taliesin the house and workshop had been

plundered and fields had grown up in weeds. But it was com-

forting to be there. Wright devoted most of his time to drawing

additional plans for San Marcos and supervising apprentices who

had gathered around him.

In the midst of a howling Wisconsin blizzard news came that

Dr. Chandler wanted him to begin work on the San Marcos

BUILDINGS PLANNED BUT NEVER BUILT 95

resort. Despite hazardous driving conditions Wright and several

apprentices set off at once by automobile for Arizona.

In Chandler, they found that suitable quarters would cost more

than they could afford to pay. Wright, who had always wanted to

camp out in the region, hit upon the idea of setting up a camp for

his helpers. He and the apprentices could build it if only they had

a site.

The scheme appealed to Dr. Chandler, who made available a

mound of splintered black rock near the land reserved for the

hotel. In a cold, vacant office in Chandler Wright sat drawing a

plan for the camp while shivering apprentices stood around watch-

ing and handing him necessary tools. Despite the fact that the

buildings would be temporary he designed them with care, wanting

them to convey the impression of having grown up out of the

desert. There'd be no jerry-built construction, either. That after-

noon he arranged for lumber to be delivered to the location.

Next morning after a canipfire breakfast prepared at the site,

Wright and the apprentices began building cabins boarded up

waist high and topped by canvas. Canvas windows and doors were

installed that could be opened to let in the gentle breezes or be

closed against the cold. By the end of the third day quarters had

been completed and cots installed for the apprentices.

Wright's own quarters, built during the next few days, fitted

into the general scheme for the camp, which was named Ocatilk

in honor of the scarlet blooms of that plant.

With the camp organized, Wright, established in his new

drafting room where the canvas roof gave a pleasant, diffused

illumination, turned to plans for Dr. Chandler's resort. There

were architectural lessons to be learned from desert vegetation, he

told apprentices working beside him. Look, he admonished them,

at the welded, tubular construction of the cholla and the sahuaro

with interior vertical rods was a true skyscraper.

*- Plans for the three-hundred-room hotel shaped up into a build-

ing of concrete bricks similar to the ones used at La Miniatura,

to be surrounded by terraces and pools. Because Dr. Chandler

wanted to have echo organ concerts, Wright designed an organ

96 REBEL IN CONCRETE

tower of copper and block shell rising like a giant sahuaro cactus

at the hotel entrance. Echo organs would be placed in adjoining

hills. The dining room would be a toplit copper and glass arbor

crowning the central mass.^

During the hours they were not at work in the drafting room,

Wright and his assistants added improvements to their camp. To

connect the cabins they built a low, staggered boxboard wall with

horizontal zigzags painted a dry rose color. Each cabin had a

stove; and when Wright became frustrated trying to work on

plans at night by gasoline light, he installed a Kohler plant.

Camp life was strenuous, but everyone enjoyed the informality

of picnic-style meals and sun bathing. In the spring waxy flowers

made the desert a fairyland, but as summer approached hardships

increased. Rattlesnakes slithered into camp; a tarantula showed

up in a clothes closet; high temperatures upped the consumption

of bottled spring water that was hauled in once a week. Wright

decided it would be best to break camp for the summer and return

the following winter.

From Ocatilla he drove to New York to confer with Norman

Guthrie, Rector at St. Mark's, concerning a nineteen-story apart-

ment building the church intended to use as a source of revenue.

For the St. Mark's Tower Wright had planned a treelike mast

structure of steel web, concrete, and glass. His drawings portrayed

a building that would have strength, lightness and balance. Earth-

quake-proof, soundproof, it would be a novel combination of

apartments and offices. The plans met with approval, but details

of construction had yet to be arranged.

While Frank was in New York he had opportunity to observe

current styles of architecture as insignificant as elsewhere in the

country, he concluded. The Gothic peak of the Woolworth Tower,

as well as some more recent skyscrapers that looked like colonial-

trimmed filing cases, struck him as monstrosities that symbolized a

passion for business. Full of ornamentation, loaded with cupolas,

cornices and buttresses, they were sugary and false. In the hands

of architects who understood their functions they might have been

proud, soaring things, but as they were they seemed only to ac-

BUILDINGS PLANNED BUT NEVER BUILT 97

centuate the congestion and tumult while engulfing whole areas

in darkness.

Awaiting final arrangements for St. Mark's Tower, Wright

went west. On August 25, 1928, he married Olgivanna Lazovich,

who, when adversity had beset him, had given proof of her loyalty

and love.

Wright had met Olgivanna while attending a matinee of Russian

ballet in Chicago. He had been immediately attracted to the

handsome dark-haired woman with light gray eyes and aristocratic

bearing. A native of Montenegro, where her family had been a

distinguished one, Olgivanna spoke with an accent, but she seemed

at ease whether the discussion centered on art, music, ballet or

philosophy. She was an unusually intelligent woman.

Since work was to be resumed on the San Marcos plans, Wright

took Olgivanna and her seven-year-old daughter, Svetlana, to

Ocatilla instead of Taliesin.

^JThat winter Architectural Record again published a series of his

articles. In the December, 1928 issue Wright quoted Carl Sand-

burg, who had asked him, "Why do you use the words poetry,

beauty, truth, or ideal any more? Why don't you just get down to

tacks and talk about boards and nails and barn doors?"

In rebuttal Wright pointed out that poetry and truth are ele-

mental human symbols that poetry, rightly used, was the song,

the heart of a thing and in the nature of it. Applied to architecture

it was freedom of form. "Conceive, then, in love," he admonished,

"and work with principle, and what men call Beauty will be the

evidence of your joy in your work." Principle he defined as "the

working scheme, the law that controls the being of anything.'^

Finally Wright and his apprentices completed their estimates for

San Marcos. All that was lacking was Dr. Chandler's signature on

the contract for construction But before that was secured the

stock market had collapsed and depression gripped the country.

Instead of the forty-thousand-dollar commission he had antici-

pated, Frank was nineteen thousand dollars in debt on the Ocatilla

Camp.

Added to this heartbreaking last-minute cancellation was a

98 REBEL IN CONCRETE

message informing him that the depression would prevent erection

of St. Mark's Tower.

Building operations across the country were virtually paralyzed.

Wright wasn't sure how he'd make a living, but his heritage of

independence and self-reliance left him with more defiance than

despair. With Olga's understanding companionship and en-

couragement, Frank felt sure that, depression or no depression,

he could scale new peaks of architectural achievement.

14

CHAMPION OF YOUNG ARCHITECTS

FOR YEARS ARCHITECTS OVERSEAS HAD BEEN CALLING WRIGHT AN

architectural genius. Now his homeland was noticing him. Cornell

University summoned him to speak, and in 1930 he gave a series of

lectures at Princeton. One with the intriguing title, "The Card-

board House," stressed simplicity. Houses need not look like

cardboard glued together in boxlike forms, said Wright, but in the

past they had been too fussy and complicated. Fine architecture

could not, however, be achieved merely by elimination. To know

what to put in and what to leave out was to be educated in

simplicity.

In a lecture entitled "Passing of the Cornice," he continued a

campaign against cornices he'd been waging ever since he'd seen

the collapse of the capitol in Madison. Only when the form of a

thing is adapted to the function can there be superior beauty, he

told his listeners. Buildings should express what they are for in the

same way that the wings of an airplane express its power and

purpose.

Speaking on "Style in Industry," he urged establishment of art

schools where students could learn to use machines creatively and

imaginatively. These schools might be connected with universities,

but endowed by industries and staffed by artists in fields like

textiles, woodworking, glassmaking. Machines are brainless

craftsmen, Wright asserted, but they can be multipliers of man-

power and when subordinated to creative intelligence can make

contributions to architecture.

100 REBEL IN CONCRETE

Each successive lecture brought out larger audiences. A drama-

tist by nature, Wright had a pleasing platform manner. His voice

was mellow, his smile disarming, haunting. The twinkle in his light

gray eyes when he was relating a humorous incident could be re-

placed the next moment by flashing scorn as with denunciatory

zeal he flayed shoddy construction.

In his lecture "Machinery, Materials, and Men" he stressed the

idea that the inappropriate cannot be beautiful. The beauty of

wood lies in its quality as wood. Staining wood, for example, may

retain its character, or even heighten the beauty of its wavelike

contours, but painting destroys delicate nuances of color and

markings. Imitations torture and degrade.

On the subject "Tyranny of the Skyscraper" Wright contended

that skyscrapers had been built not for the benefit of humanity but

for the profit of their proprietors.

Following the Princeton lectures Wright appeared in Seattle,

Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee. Everywhere he found

young people eager, enthusiastic, and ready with questions.

About this time Wright got an invitation from the Pan Ameri-

can Union to go to Rio de Janeiro as a member of a jury repre-

senting North America to judge drawings submitted in a world-

wide competition for a memorial to Columbus. Since the invita-

tion included his wife Olga, Frank was delighted to have her at

his side.

In October of 1930 they boarded a vessel that was half freighter.

One of the interesting persons aboard was Finnish architect Eero

Saarinen. By the time the boat nosed into the harbor at Rio the

two men had become good friends.

When the boat landed, boys swarmed over it clamoring for

Wright. They introduced themselves as students at the Brazilian

Belles Artes and explained that they were out on strike because

their professors had banned the reading of Wright's books. Would

he plead their cause ?

"Look out," Saarinen warned. "This is a revolutionary country

first thing you know, sskk." He drew a finger across his throat.

Wright, now sixty-one but vigorous physically and mentally,

promised to help. Seeking out Herbert Moses, editor of El Globo,

CHAMPION OF YOUNG ARCHITECTS 101
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