TO those of us who have heard of Frank Lloyd Wright as the foremost American architect, have read bitter and sarcastic commentaries on his not being included on the committee of architects for the impending Chicago exposition, and have to our disappointment found that photographs and details of his work are not readily available, the publication of his recent lectures at Princeton comes as a most welcome event.
The book represents a vitriolic commentary on the art of modern building, and constitutes the brilliant manifesto of an avowed heretic. The keynote of the work is to be found in the dictum, "All great architecture is true to its Architects' immediate present."
Having in his first two lectures developed the most important general aspect of his theory, Wright devotes the remaining four to more specific matters. An interesting chapter on the death of the cornice, which long since outlived its usefulness, is followed by a lecture setting forth Wright's revolutionary notions relative to his favorite pursuit--domestic architecture. Subsequently we encounter unorthodox views upon the skyscraper--Wright regards it as "the mechanical conflict of machine resources"--and a somewhat idyllic picture of the of the ruralized city of the future as made possible by the advance of teletransmission in its various forms.
The fundamental ideas embodied in this book are those concerning the relation of art and the machine, the derivation of form from function, and the importance of sincerity as an architectural virtue. Wright believes that the machine, properly utilized, is not destructive of the fine individualistic qualities essential to art. Significant architecture must constitute the solution of a problem--and that problem arises primarily from the purpose or function which a structure is called upon to fulfill. Style cannot be affected, nor can the organic simplicity which Wright regards as requisite to characteristic modernism. "Simplicity and style both are consequences, never causes," he advises us. That it may be true to its expression of the modern spirit our architecture must abandon its faking of old modes, recognize the new methods, and confidently assert its own materials and potentialities.
Wright's book, couched in fluent and vigorous prose, constitutes a provocative challenge and guide to contemporary amateurs and practitioners of architecture.