Earlier this week I visited a new exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the recently-opened Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward. At first the prospect of another FLW exhibit, like another FLW monograph, was wearying. Is he really the only American architect we care to celebrate? Granted having the show in a building he designed may help, though the most playful and unusual use the spiraling, white museum has gotten of late was as a monument defaced by assassins' bullet holes in the rather poor Clive Owen film “The International.”
Imagine my surprise when Curatorial Assistant for Architecture and Design Maria Nicanor walked with me through an imaginative and thorough recapitulation of the career of architecture’s most out-sized canonical figure. Nicanor said that “the idea behind the show is to really demonstrate how Wright thought about the interior space first, and then worked outward. We want people to think about how important the spaces they’re in are, and then think about how to be more critical of them, and how to demand better spaces.
“He broke out of the Victorian box and sought to redefine space,” she continued. “He wanted to cater to people’s needs and address them, even if he happened to have to do a little re-educating along the way.”
A handful of animations from the Harvard Graduate School of Design are also on view, a few of them based on little more than just one of Wright’s drawings. One of the best parts of the show for me was seeing the works that were never produced. From a planetarium in Maryland to Steel Cathedral to a city plan for Baghdad, Wright’s unproduced work shed as much light on the genius—and megalomania—of an architect from whom we have most assuredly not heard the last.
Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward runs through August 23rd before it heads off to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. See it if you get the chance.