Great Speeches in Architectural History: The Floo Floo Bird

President Obama's inaugural address yesterday sent me running for William Safire's splendid compendium of great speeches (he used to write speeches for President Nixon), Lend Me Your Ears. I set out to consult Jefferson's first inaugural address--notable for those wonderful lines: "But every difference of opinion is not a different of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."--but found myself wandering around inside the book until I hit upon this doozie from Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright NYWTS 3

Given to the Association of Federal Architects in Washington DC in 1938, Wright's speech castigates the direction of American architecture by comparing it to a floo floo bird, "that peculiar and especial bird who always flew backward. To keep the wind out of its eyes? No. Just because it didn't give a darn where it was going, but just had to see where it had been." Wright's whimsical damnation of conservative architecture can be read either in Safire's book--well worth owning--or using a combination of Google Books and Amazon Reader. Here is page one of the speech and here is page two; neither source offers both.

Wright goes on to argue in favor of a stripped down, honest style, "a true architecture of glass, steel and the forms that gratify our new sense of space. We are going to have it. No Colonial Eden is able, long, to say us nay."

If you want even more Safire on the provenance of "floo floo bird" and its subsequent uses, you can again make use of Google Reader by checking out Safire's Political Dictionary--another book well worth its price for anyone interested in politics or how we talk about them--which has an entry on the term.

Obama may be one hell of an orator, but Wright had him beat in at least one category: orneriness. He closes the speech with two thunderous lines that every libertarian should have stuck to his fridge: "I know of nothing more silly than to expect 'government' to solve our advance problems for us. If we have no ideas, how can government have any?"

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