Frank Lloyd Wright: The Man Who Built America (2017) Movie Script

Frank Lloyd Wright is the greatest
ever American architect.
Buildings like the
Guggenheim Museum,
the Johnson Wax building,
and Fallingwater are masterpieces
that redefined what was possible
and became famous the world over.
But I think the true nature of
Frank Lloyd Wright's genius
has become lost, buried under tales
of his tempestuous life,
or made into the stuff of
coffee table books.
I'm Jonathan Adams,
an architect from Wales,
and my 30-year career has taken me
all over the world.
Throughout it all,
Frank Lloyd Wright has been
a constant touchstone.
Now, I'm going to travel
across America
to get to know Frank Lloyd Wright's
greatest buildings for myself.
I want to understand how they were
conceived, how they work,
and how they make us feel.
Most of all, I want to explore
the underlying philosophy
that all these buildings share.
Frank Lloyd Wright called it
organic architecture.
And today, 150 years after
his birth,
I think it puts him back
at the heart
of modern architectural thinking.
In a career that spanned
seven decades,
Frank Lloyd Wright built
over 500 buildings.
And the one he's best known
for is his final one -
the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The Guggenheim isn't just something
that's beautiful to look at.
All his life, Frank Lloyd Wright
strove to create buildings
that expressed an idea
of how we should live
and understand the world.
I'd like to have
a free architecture.
I'd like to have architecture that
belonged where you see it standing,
and was a grace to the landscape
instead of a disgrace.
And the letters we received
from our clients
tell us how those buildings
we built for them
have changed the character
of their whole land,
and their whole existence
is different now than it was before.
Wright's own life was turbulent,
involving financial ruin,
adultery, and tragedy.
Through it all, he stuck to a
personal creed based on hard work,
a love of nature, and a fierce
independence of thought.
They sound like thoroughly
American ideals.
But I think to understand
what really shaped Wright's ideas
and the man himself,
you have to begin the story
far away from America,
and closer to where I come from.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Welsh roots
are no secret.
He was proud of them
and spoke of them all his life.
His mother, Anna Lloyd Jones,
was born in 1838
near Llandissilio in West Wales.
Their family was large and devout,
and at their chapel, they practised
a radical brand of Christianity
known as Unitarianism.
All his life, Frank Lloyd Wright
would draw inspiration
from this freethinking
spiritual inheritance.
Unitarianists see God
in anything and in all things.
We often talk of the wonder, the
awesomeness, the magnificence of...
of nature, and of the world that
we're all a part of.
We've always placed a huge emphasis
on the individual's freedom
to choose and to pick and to decide
for themselves
where their understanding of God
and of human nature lie.
Unitarianism fit in
with the people here,
the people who were everyday,
hard-working, low-paid people
looking for that freedom
and for that spirit of liberalism.
It might have been the search
for religious freedom
that took Anna's family
away from Wales.
In 1844, the Lloyd Jones clan -
parents, children, aunts,
and uncles -
left home, bound for a new,
freer life...
in the new world.
The family sailed to New York
and then, with pioneer spirit,
set off westward to find a new home.
What they were looking for
was something familiar,
something like the land they knew
and understood.
Finally, they came upon
their new Wales.
Wooded, gently sloping land
near Spring Green, Wisconsin.
To Frank Lloyd Wright,
this place would become
a lifelong spiritual touchstone,
known simply as The Valley.
The valley that they chose
to live in
became so identified with them
and their purpose
and their way of living
that some people called it the
Valley of the God Almighty Joneses.
They didn't really want
to become Americans, you know?
They wanted to be Welsh...
..on American soil.
It was into this world that
in 1867 Frank Lloyd Wright was born.
It was here, too,
that his values were shaped.
Throughout his childhood,
Frank would spend his summers
here in the valley,
labouring on the farm,
living a rural life,
and hearing the Welsh language
of his aunts and uncles.
For the rest of his days,
he would look back on those summers
as a kind of paradise.
Frank's mother encouraged
his early ambitions to build.
After studying engineering
at a local college,
he left home to seek
an architectural apprenticeship.
As luck would have it,
the nearest city was one of
the most exciting places
in the entire world
for an aspiring young architect.
New styles of building
were being created here...
including the skyscraper.
Before long, Wright's youthful
energy and talent landed him a job
with the city's leading architect.
And it was in Chicago, too,
that he found his first love.
Catherine Tobin, known as Kitty,
was just 16 when they met.
Within two years, they were married,
and had a child of their own
on the way.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a young man
in a hurry.
Borrowing money from his boss,
he bought a plot of land here in
the respectable suburb of Oak Park.
The place where, it was said,
the saloons ended
and the steeples began.
And it was here that he first built
a home for himself.
It might be difficult for anyone
looking at this today
to see it as anything
other than a slightly quirky
gable-fronted suburban house.
It's only when you put it alongside
all of the other houses
of the same period, here or
anywhere else in the Western world,
that you realise
just how strange it is.
Take this massive symmetry.
It's highly classical, but stylised.
You can see the faint outlines
of the triangle pediment
of a Greek temple, with the two bays
at the bottom
instead of columns
supporting the weight.
It's classical discipline
applied to a small cottage.
The upper part of the house conveys
a huge sense of weight and sanctity.
So you might expect the inside
to be pokey and dark.
But what you actually find
is the opposite.
The rooms all flow,
one into another.
It must have been a huge surprise
to people back in the 1880s.
This is open-plan before the idea
of open-plan really existed.
Perhaps this is where it began.
The free flow of Wright's design
reflects an idea of family life,
learned in the Unitarian value
of his childhood -
honest, equal, and communal.
He even inscribed these values above
the hearth, clear for all to see.
In its open spaces
and its open spirit,
Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park home
was his first step
towards a new kind of architecture.
Over the next few years,
Wright's career took off.
His house attracted the attention
of curious neighbours,
and commissions flowed in.
He would eventually design
over 50 houses for local clients.
Many, like his own, subtle
experiments with traditional forms.
By now, Frank and Kitty
had six children.
Wright was in his late 30s, and
more than ready for his big break.
But when that came,
it was a bolt from the blue.
Every Sunday, Frank Lloyd Wright
and his young family
would walk a half-mile to worship
at the local Unitarian church.
It wasn't the kind of building
that he really approved of.
It was vaguely Gothic
with a pretentious spire.
And then, one night in 1905,
it was struck by lightning
and it burned to the ground.
Never slow to see his chance,
Wright proposed a new building
for the site.
It was unlike anything
seen before in America.
Wright's plans for the new building
cast aside all traditional styles,
as he seized the chance
to express his own spiritual
and architectural beliefs.
Gone would be ornament,
arches and the showy spire.
What emerged instead
was Unity Temple,
the world's first
truly modern building.
Few people even today
would guess that this is a church.
The building doesn't even have
an obvious way in.
The very material the Unity Temple
is constructed from
seems unsuitable
for a place of worship.
These walls and every detail
of the exterior
are made from solid, unadorned,
reinforced concrete.
Wright's justification was that
it was cheap -
a utilitarian material used for
low-grade engineering structures.
The impoverished church committee
was persuaded to go along.
But Wright's real reason
for using concrete
was that it was a new and exciting
technology with unlimited potential.
It put Frank Lloyd Wright
just where he wanted to be -
on his own at the frontier
of architecture.
If the exterior of Unity Temple
expressed an idea of the divine,
it was in austere geometric forms.
But the space that those forms
created on the inside
was among Frank Lloyd Wright's
most beautiful
and spiritually uplifting rooms.
The sanctuary of Unity Temple
is a perfect square.
Golden light streams in
through coloured glass
in the coffered ceiling...
while ornament and structure
combine to unite the whole.
This building is unique.
It is hard to figure out
how to even get into the sanctuary.
And when you find it, it just
opens up and it's a gem of a space.
I love the intimacy,
this capacity to worship
while in community with one another,
being able to see one another.
It's the most important part
of the building for the most of us.
Wright based the distinctive
interior layout of Unity Temple
closely on the Lloyd Jones family
chapel back in Wales.
But his new building's
overall radicalism
was still too much for some
in its congregation.
It's said that they prayed for ivy,
and were happy when ivy came.
All the while that Unity Temple
was taking shape,
Frank Lloyd Wright was busy
designing houses.
By now, he had his own
architectural practice,
and his designs had become
far more daring.
Pointed roofs had started
to flatten out, as windows widened.
Cellars and attics vanished,
and houses spread out,
low to the ground.
Wright was inspired
by the vast open spaces
that stretched away beyond Chicago.
The buildings even became known
as prairie houses.
He brought this early vision
to perfection with the Robie House,
a gorgeous steamship of a building
with windows like prows.
It sailed through
an open green landscape,
a vessel of the Midwest prairie.
The Robie House looked as modern
and powerful
as the Great Lakes steamers
that docked in Chicago.
It was an impressive feat
of engineering.
The huge projecting roof was
Wright's most daring to date.
Inside, too, Wright
used this building to experiment,
creating a sense of drama
around the simple act of entering.
You come into the Robie House
through the front door,
which is actually at the back,
and you find yourself
in this low, dark lobby,
which pushes you towards
this flight of stairs.
And as you climb the stairs, you get
glimpses of light at the top,
which lead you upwards
and build a sense of anticipation.
But then, you're forced to turn.
And you turn again, and then
there's another few steps
which lead you up,
and one final turn...
and then you're released
into this fantastic wide room,
surrounded by windows
and bathed with natural light.
Wright liked to call
conventional houses boxes,
and their rooms boxes within boxes.
In the unlimited free flow
of the Robie House,
to use his own phrase,
he destroys the box.
One final thing about the
Robie House that's true
of almost all of Wright's houses -
if you commissioned one,
you didn't just get the building,
you got the furniture too,
which Wright designed,
along with a list of dos and don'ts.
Curtains and blinds were out,
as were paintings on the wall
and ornaments.
Wright had astonishing self-belief,
almost to the point
of being overbearing.
He called interior decorators
inferior desecrators.
It wasn't unusual for former
clients to arrive home
to find that Wright had made
an unannounced visit
and rearranged all their furniture.
In the case of the Robie House,
he even designed a dress
for Mrs Robie to wear here.
Frank Lloyd Wright,
now in his early 40s,
was riding high
and creating a real stir.
But increasingly he was chafing
against conventional family life
in a polite suburb.
He himself started to see
that the world was a lot bigger
than Oak Park,
and at a certain point
he realised he was interested
in looking much further forward.
How did he become
someone to be reckoned with?
Well, one way to do that
is to dress differently
and to go out more and...
to have girlfriends, I suppose.
I think that was the start
of what one might call
almost anti-social behaviour.
Wright's unconventional conduct
crossed a line
when he began an affair
with the wife of a client.
Mamah Cheney
was a feminist, a freethinker.
The ideal partner for a radical man,
albeit a mother of two.
When their relationship
was discovered,
Wright took decisive action.
Closing down his studio,
he abandoned his family, and
together with Mamah fled to Europe.
When the couple
returned a year later,
it was to set up home together.
Wright knew they wouldn't
be welcome in Oak Park,
so he began building a new house
on land owned by his mother.
It was in the one place that for him
represented safety,
community and integrity.
The valley of his childhood.
He even gave his new house
a centuries-old Welsh name...
Taliesin sits on the brow of a hill.
As Wright liked to point out,
its Welsh name actually means
"shining brow."
It's been compared to
an Italian villa
or even to a mediaeval
Welsh farmstead.
A fortified state built at a time
when he needed to feel secure.
But Taliesin is very
much more besides.
More than any other building,
it embodies Wright's ideal
of how architecture
and nature should coexist.
I said that Taliesin sits on a hill.
Frank Lloyd Wright would have
taken pleasure in correcting me.
He preferred to say that it was of
the hill, that it graces the hill,
that the hill and the house
are improved by each other
so that they become a unity.
Taliesin I learned a lot from.
The way that he marries
his buildings with the landscape
and the way...their juxtaposition
with each other
and the way that spaces flow
through them.
It sort of
comes out of the landscape.
It's constant and it's green hills
and trees and grass and such.
I remember being
unbelievably impressed.
Wright summed up the philosophy
that lay behind Taliesin
in a simple phrase -
organic architecture.
It's a memorable expression,
but just what is it
that makes a building organic?
Well, here he used local materials.
Stone, sand and timber
sourced from nearby.
What's more, the same materials
are used inside and outside,
so that interior and exterior
flow together.
Windows are low and linear,
so that when you are seated inside,
you have a continuous view
through tree tops,
as if you're elevated,
floating among them.
But it's important to say that
for Wright, organic architecture
didn't just mean
using local materials
and blending a building
into a landscape.
What he meant was that
the philosophy of the building,
what it says about
how we should live, would,
when blended with the character
of the site,
give rise naturally and organically
to its unique form.
In this case, a building
that belongs to its hill
and could never be built
anywhere else.
Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney
lived happily at Taliesin,
for all that local newspapers
dubbed their house a love bungalow.
Wright was defiant.
Around a building
he carved the Welsh symbol
that represented
his Unitarian family motto,
truth against the world.
But the dream of this new world
wasn't to last.
Taliesin, like almost
all large houses of its time,
was built to be run by servants.
But Wright's liberal principles
meant that here they lived
on the main floor with everybody
else, not in some pokey garret.
Treat your servants as your friends,
Wright had written.
In 1914, a new servant
was taken on at Taliesin...
Julian Carlton,
a butler and all-round help.
One day in September,
when Frank Lloyd Wright was away,
the unimaginable
happened at Taliesin.
While Mamah and her children
were sitting down to lunch,
Julian Carlton ran amok.
Using petrol,
he set fire to the house.
As its terrified residents fled,
he attacked them with a hatchet.
Seven people died here,
including Mamah Cheney
and her two young children.
Taliesin was all but destroyed.
The seemingly senseless slaughter
made national headlines.
Julian Carlton refused to speak
about what he'd done.
He starved himself to death
in jail two months later.
Mamah Cheney
was buried in the valley,
in sight of the ruins of Taliesin.
The years after the calamity
were turbulent ones
for Frank Lloyd Wright.
He had gone from the happiest time
in his life
to the time of deepest despair.
He threw himself into
the rebuilding of Taliesin,
but much of the decade
he spent working abroad.
When he returned to America,
it would not be to the Midwest,
scene of his previous triumphs
and his greatest tragedy.
Instead, he turned to a new horizon
and an extraordinary new phase
in his work.
Wright received five commissions
to build houses in Los Angeles.
The biggest and boldest of them was
designed for a wealthy LA couple,
the Ennises.
If Taliesin is of the hill, the
Ennis house really is on the hill.
This is a fortress.
It's a mysterious interior place
that sits proud in its landscape.
Is it organic?
It's a building
that perfectly suits its city -
the ambition and boldness of LA,
and the bright sun
that shines here all year round.
For Frank Lloyd Wright,
now 57 years old,
the Ennis House
was a creative rebirth.
The design was inspired by the
ancient forms of Mayan temples.
But to build it, Wright devised
a brand-new construction method.
The entire house was made out of
patterned concrete blocks.
27,000 of them,
all manufactured on-site.
As the building rose,
steel rods were threaded
between them for support.
Wright liked to say that he was
weaving here rather than building.
I think you can see what he meant.
You have the steel rods
running along these joints,
interleaving the warp and weft,
and then the concrete blocks
that form the finish.
He also said he wanted to elevate
an unloved building material,
the humble concrete block,
into something much more beautiful,
and he certainly succeeded.
Entering the Ennis house feels like
stepping into an adventure.
The forbidding exterior really gives
you no idea what to expect.
Inside, the house is made from
exactly the same concrete blocks
as outside.
But whereas the exterior
is solid and massive,
these columns create a series
of intriguing interlinked spaces.
This really is...
It's an incredible space.
Being inside
this rock-like structure
makes you feel as if
you're in a complex of caves.
It's a really powerful sense
of mystery.
No idea how far it extends
or where you're being taken.
I think that's what
must have made it
such an exhilarating place to live.
There's a timelessness and drama
to the Ennis house,
and it's no surprise that
it's proved a favourite
with Hollywood film-makers.
It's been featured in horror films
and thrillers,
and most famously... the seminal 1980s
science-fiction film Blade Runner.
I wanted to see you.
The sheer originality
of Wright's creation
means it can fit easily into
any world of the imagination.
It's remarkable, given how instantly
recognisable this building is.
The Ennis house was a triumph
for Frank Lloyd Wright.
But as the 1920s drew to a close,
storm clouds were once again
Wright had found a new love.
Olgivanna Milanoff was Montenegrin,
a professional dancer
and some 30 years his junior.
Their relationship
became mired in scandal.
Business suffered
and worse was to follow.
The Wall Street crash of 1929
decimated American architecture,
and for three years
Frank Lloyd Wright
had not a single commission.
Always a spendthrift,
he was finally flat broke.
Now in his mid-60s,
Wright was coming to be seen
as yesterday's man,
a talent who had faded away.
Some simply assumed
that he was dead.
Then, at Taliesin,
something remarkable happened.
A plan was hatched that would
define Wright's later life.
It was ingenious but simple.
The legendary Frank Lloyd Wright
would offer apprenticeships.
The Taliesin Fellowship was born.
The fellowship did a lot of things
for Wright.
It provided him with young men
and women
who wanted to learn and who were
very happy to work in the garden,
in the farm.
They were building,
they were cooking, cleaning,
and most of them had the money
to support Wright
in a way that he couldn't
possibly otherwise have managed.
Mr Wright said, "This is not
a school and I am not a teacher.
"You are here to help me
with my work,
"and if you get something
out of that, that's good."
You were really here to help him,
but, you know,
when you're helping a master,
unless you're just totally immune
to it, your life gets changed.
It's as though there was like
a real magician, not a fake,
and that magician made things happen
just by being there.
But in the huge drafting room
at Taliesin,
real architectural work
was in short supply.
All Wright and his apprentices
could do was to draw and dream.
Then at last a commission came in.
The result would relaunch
Frank Lloyd Wright's career
and take it to new heights.
In 1933, a wealthy
Pittsburgh businessman,
Edgar Kaufmann, decided to rebuild
his holiday cottage
deep in the Pennsylvania woodland.
As chance would have it, his son
was an apprentice at Taliesin.
Wright and Kaufmann met
and the deal was done.
The story of the origins
of Kaufmann's new house
has the quality of a legend.
Frank Lloyd Wright visited and
surveyed this very challenging site
and he'd had detailed maps
of it drawn up.
But afterwards, months passed
with no sign of progress.
Then, at Taliesin one day,
the phone rang.
Mr Kaufmann was in the area.
Could he call by and look at
Frank's plans for the new building?
Wright sat down in his drafting
room, and in just two hours,
set down an astonishing vision.
What he had designed has been called
the greatest house
of the 20th century.
80 years on from its construction,
it still takes your breath away,
looking fantastically modern
and yet timeless.
This really is a phenomenal sight.
I've been looking at buildings
for a very long time now
and I've not seen anything
quite as thrilling as this.
Fallingwater. That's the one
quintessential building, to me.
It's the way it's situated
in its landscape,
the way it occupies a space which is
much bigger than its physical size.
In our minds it's a vast city
of horizontals and verticals.
In that one building,
he created modern architecture.
Now the fundamental call that Wright
made was also the most daring.
Edgar Kaufmann had expected that
his new house would be sited
somewhere around here
looking back at the waterfall.
Nobody anticipated that Wright
would site the building
directly on top of the fall itself.
And yet that one inspired decision
led directly to this extraordinary,
almost dreamlike building
that we see today.
The huge slab of rock from which
the water drops was echoed by Wright
in Fallingwater's extraordinary
projecting terraces.
The effect is to harmonise
the building with its setting.
Something conspicuously man-made,
yet in sympathy with nature.
Inside too,
every detail of Fallingwater
responds to the natural world
in which it is set.
The floor is polished stone
and evokes the rippled surface
of the river below
just before it goes over the falls.
The long lines of windows
lift you into the tree tops,
while the vibrant chairs and rugs
are like birds or flowers,
bright splashes of colour
in the deep canopy.
There's a wonderful
feeling of security here,
of being in a shelter in the wild.
There's even room at Fallingwater
for a staircase that leads nowhere.
Just down to the water
where you can stand and contemplate.
After barren years, Fallingwater
was Frank Lloyd Wright's
most spectacular success,
and a vindication of his lifelong
architectural philosophy.
No other building of Wright's
more clearly expresses
his personal idea of organic design.
The waterfall on its own
was undoubtedly beautiful,
but it's enhanced by this vision
of a building
that seems to have grown out
of the rocks and trees
while still pushing technology
to its limits.
Very few buildings anywhere
from any time in history
express an uplifting idea
of humanity's place in the world
like this one does.
While Fallingwater was being built,
work was progressing rapidly
on a second breakthrough project.
The site could hardly
have been more different.
A flat industrial lot on the
outskirts of a dull Wisconsin town.
The commission didn't sound
inspiring, either.
An office building
for a cleaning products company.
But, once again,
Wright worked his magic.
When you look at it today,
the Johnson Wax building is straight
out of vintage science fiction.
Even on a grey day like this,
it still fills me with a sense
of joyous possibilities.
It's when you step inside, though,
that the genius of the building
fully reveals itself.
Wow, what an awe-inspiring room.
The great workroom of the
SC Johnson building
has been called the greatest room
in all American architecture.
And you can see why.
Wright's answer to the dreary
surroundings was simple enough.
No windows.
Instead, he created
an artificial interior world
that is itself as inspiring
and uplifting as a wild landscape.
Delicate light enters through
patterns of Pyrex tubes,
while huge otherworldly columns
leap up to the skies.
The beauty of Wright's design
was clear for all to see.
But back in the 1930s,
the technical challenge
of turning vision into reality
was making some people
distinctly nervous.
These extraordinary columns
were like nothing
the local building
control officers had ever seen,
and so, before construction
could begin,
they insisted on testing one
under a full load.
Wright, as confident a showman
as he was an engineer,
was happy to oblige,
and to invite the press along.
Six tonnes of sandbags
were loaded onto the column.
The officials were satisfied.
But Frank Lloyd Wright
had a point to prove.
Ten tonnes went on, then 20.
And finally, 60 tonnes.
Wright strode up to the column,
kicked it, hit it with his cane.
It was only when the wooden props
holding the column upright
were removed
that it finally crashed down.
There was so much weight on it
that a sewer 20 feet underground
The strength and ingenuity of
Wright's columns
allowed him to create
a vast cathedral-like room.
It embodied his lifelong Unitarian
belief in the sanctity of nature
and the sanctity of work.
It's called the great workroom
for a good reason,
it's a great place to work.
When you're working here, it's like
working in a glade of trees.
With the sun streaming down through
the glass tubing in the ceiling,
and creating these wonderful vistas
of a sense of outdoorness.
It's an incredible place to work.
The twin triumphs of the Johnson Wax
building and Fallingwater
ushered in a new period of
creativity and success for Wright.
It's been said that American lives
have no second act.
Well, here was one,
perhaps bigger and bolder
than the first.
By now, Frank Lloyd Wright
was 70 years old and life was good.
His home was still Taliesin,
now standing proud once more in the
Wisconsin Valley of his childhood.
He was happily married to Olgivanna,
but there was one thing about life
at Taliesin
that she could no longer bear.
The long frozen winters when
temperatures plummeted to minus 20
and snow settled for months on end.
And so, in 1937, a convoy set off
from Taliesin
in the depths of December.
The cars were packed with
provisions, the tools of the trade,
and the entire Taliesin Fellowship.
From now on, winter would be spent
at a new home in the sun.
The parched Arizona desert
was the most extreme environment
that Frank Lloyd Wright
had ever built in.
It would test his philosophy of
organic architecture to the limit
and result in a kind of building
never seen before.
Taliesin West is such a unique
and beautiful place.
It was designed and constructed
over seven years,
and it was loosely based
on a diagram
that connects the various angles
of the building
to geological features and to
prominent hilltops on the horizon.
It's like a piece of free-form
architectural jazz.
Taliesin West
was constructed entirely
by members of the Fellowship.
Building supplies were hard
to come by in the desert,
so Wright improvised, turning to
the boulders that littered the site.
I love this material.
Wright called it desert masonry.
And I bet that anyone who studied
here during those years
could take me straight
to their section of the wall,
and that they would recognise
their own boulders,
almost as if they were
personal friends.
The massive walls of Taliesin West
seemed to grow out of the
desert floor itself.
But on top of them,
Wright placed canvas.
It was so delicate,
it had to be replaced each year,
as if pioneers were making camp.
Inside and outside
were never more happily merged.
It was a kind of natural
air conditioning,
a building that worked with its
environment and not against it.
It was actually green architecture
before that phrase even existed.
The open, airy world of
Taliesin West
created a relaxed,
communal way of living and working.
Today, it's home
to the Frank Lloyd Wright
School of Architecture,
a place where students
still work and live together.
The allure of Frank Lloyd Wright
lives on.
When you see the level of freedom
and experimentation they had,
that it was not concerned
with a particular style
or keeping things as they are,
but actually into challenging and
questioning what architecture means.
And I think that's what we really
can take away
from the experience
of being in his legacy.
The years passed
and Frank Lloyd Wright
approached the age of 90.
He was now the grand old man
of American architecture,
lauded by his peers
at home and abroad,
interviewed on television,
a household name.
I understand that last week,
in all seriousness, you said,
"If I had another 15 years to work,
I can rebuild this entire country,
"I could change the nation."
I did say that...
and it's true.
He continued to work tirelessly,
designing a Unitarian church...
..a skyscraper...
..a synagogue...
..and, as ever, houses.
But in the self-proclaimed capital
of American architecture,
he had failed to make any mark.
With his final masterpiece,
Frank Lloyd Wright
would change all that.
There is a wonderful picture of him
six months before he died
on top of the Guggenheim Museum,
and he's looking
on top of the world.
I think that's a very apt
metaphor for him.
I think Frank was having
a lot of fun saying,
"Here it is, take it or leave it,"
you know?
"I'm the boss here,
this is what I'm giving you."
The evolution of the Guggenheim
is fascinating,
and it's a great illustration
of how Wright worked.
So much in his late career was there
in embryo in his early days,
but his philosophy and his
imagination never changed course.
Here he turned to an old,
unbuilt design
that featured a ramp
for cars to drive up.
First, he turned it upside down,
so that the building
was wider at the top.
Then, he turned it inside out,
putting the ramp on the interior.
The result became one of the most
famous buildings in the world.
The Guggenheim Art Museum
was Frank Lloyd Wright's
poke in the eye for New York City,
and the people he called
the "Glass Box Boys",
the modernist architects and critics
who had no time for his work.
Into their landscape
of soaring vertical lines,
glass, and right angles, he smuggled
a low, curvaceous newcomer...
..and it stole the show.
Inside, the Guggenheim
was the logical culmination
of Wright's lifelong desire
to open up interiors
and create a free flow of space.
It's a building with just one room
and one path to follow.
Some people prefer to start
at the top.
Others, like me,
would rather begin at the bottom.
But once you're on your way,
Frank Lloyd Wright is leading you
every step you take.
In traditional museums,
you're sometimes not sure
where you're going,
whether you missed a room,
or if there might be better art
hiding just around the corner.
Here, everything is open.
You can see where you're going,
how far you have to go,
and the artworks that await you.
You're drawn naturally up the path.
And after looking closely
at the painting in front of you,
you can turn away and relax to an
open vista, the movement of people,
and glimpses of artworks
on the walls.
You're not just looking at art,
you're getting a lesson
in the act of looking at art.
Back in the 1950s, however,
many people thought that Wright's
design for a circular art museum
was little short of madness.
The sloping walls, they said,
would mean
that paintings leaned backwards.
The windows would allow in
too much or too little light.
And as for Wright's choice
of colour,
that was better not mentioned.
In the end, that un-Wright-ian
thing, a compromise, was reached.
The colour was off-white,
the paintings were fixed on brackets
off the wall,
and daylight was mixed
with fluorescent light.
I'd say I like the building more
because I don't really try
and fight it any longer.
What we like to say
to one another is,
"We're a circle
in a world of squares."
It was a bloody expensive building,
but you see the unbelievable joy
and astonishment,
particularly first-time visitors,
and that doesn't come through
so often in today's world.
Frank Lloyd Wright
died in April 1959,
six months before
the Guggenheim Museum opened.
His life had encompassed
a huge swathe of history.
Born in the wake of
the American Civil War,
the son of a pioneer,
he died a television personality
in the Space Age.
He had changed architecture,
not just in America,
but around the world.
Frank Lloyd Wright was laid to rest
in the one place
that meant most to him -
the valley of his childhood,
among his ancestors.