Merchant prince and master builder: Edgar J. Kaufmann and Frank Lloyd Wright

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Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, 1999 - Architecture - 199 pages
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Merchant Prince and Master Builder examines the extraordinary relationship between one of the nation's leading retailers and its best-known architect. Over a span of 25 years, from 1934 to 1959, Edgar J. Kaufmann, his wife, Liliane, and their son, Edgar Kaufmann jr., commissioned a dozen projects from Frank Lloyd Wright, including the famous country house Fallingwater and unrealized schemes for a civic center in Pittsburgh.The Kaufmanns shared Wright's belief in the power of good design to enrich the quality of modern life, Through Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh and Kaufmann jr.'s association with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, they promoted the work of Wright and other progressive designers. Their story broadens the context for understanding Wright's career during the final decades of his life.

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Merchant prince and master builder: Edgar J. Kaufmann and Frank Lloyd Wright

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There is no shortage of books about Wright, popularly recognized as America's greatest architect. But this catalog, produced for an exhibition at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art, manages to ... Read full review


Foreword 6
Merchant Prince and Master Builder 17
Catalogue 74

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About the author (1999)

Richard L. Cleary is associate professor in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin, and lives in Austin.

Wright is widely considered the greatest American architect and certainly one of the most influential. Throughout a career of nearly 70 years, he produced masterpiece after masterpiece, each different and boldly new and yet each with the unmistakable touch of Wright's genius in the treatment of material, the detailing, and the overall concept. Born in Wisconsin of Welsh ancestry, Wright studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin and began his career in Chicago as chief assistant to Louis Henry Sullivan, who influenced his early thinking on the American architect as harbinger of democracy and on the organic nature of the true architecture. Out of these ideas, Wright developed the so-called prairie house, of which the Robie House in Chicago and the Avery Coonley House in Riverdale, Illinois, are outstanding examples. In the "prairie-style," Wright used terraces and porches to allow the inside to flow easily outside. Movement within such houses is also open and free-floating from room to room and from layer to layer. Public buildings followed: the Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo (destroyed) and the Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois, the former probably the most original and seminal office building up to that time (1905). The Midway Gardens in Chicago and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (both gone) came next, winning Wright still greater acclaim. Personal tragedy, misunderstanding, and neglect dogged Wright's middle years, but he prevailed, and in his later life gathered enormous success and fame. The masterworks of his mature years are the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin, and Fallingwater, Bear Run, Pennsylvania---with its bold cantilevered balconies over a running stream, probably the most admired and pictured private house in American architecture; then, toward the end of his life, the spiral design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Wright's own houses, to which he joined architectural studios, are also noteworthy: Taliesin West was a true Shangri-la in the Arizona desert, to which he turned in order to escape the severe winters in Wisconsin, where he had built his extraordinary Taliesin East. Wright was a prolific and highly outspoken writer, ever polemical, ever ready to propagate his ideas and himself. All of his books reflect a passionate dedication to his beliefs---in organic architecture, democracy, and creativity.

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