Why Wright now? What can a man born 150 years ago tell to a young generation responsible for the invention of the future – the future of Israel and the Middle East included?
At the time of Frank Lloyd Wright’s death, the world’s population was three billion. Today it is 7.2 billion, likely to become 10 billion by mid-century, and it won’t stop there. We must confront sustainability, higher mix-use urban density, working space closer to dwellings, less dependence on the car, food production closer to home, flexible prefabrication and self-help.
“The Wright Way – An Overture” personal documentary (17:21’) presented here is intended to emphasize the link between many of Wright ideas and vision, and the needs of tomorrow.
When Wright was 90-years-old and fully active (including the design of the One-Mile High Skyscraper,) he was asked how he saw the future of architecture. His answer: “The future of architecture is the future of the human race. The two are one. If civilization has a future, so will architecture.”
Jews consider the Western Wall, the Kotel, their sacred place. Other cultures, likewise, are profoundly linked to architectural monuments as expressions of their spirituality. That includes secular thinking, strongly attached to the art museum as an architectural expression of a secular value system. Having said that, there is no much link between Israel’s built reality and Organic Architecture. Most of the decision-making that guided the development of Israel since its inception was political, not organic. While Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius had a powerful impact on Israeli architecture, the influence of Wright of has been practically zero. Why? That could be an interesting subject for a Ph.D. dissertation.
There is no alternative to reading Wright’s prolific writing. There is no alternative to walking through Wright’s spaces, to absorb their totality – fluidity, scale, light, views, details. Yet, to take Wright’s words literally would be as misleading as all dogmas are. Wright’s principles of Organic Architecture must be reinterpreted. Here is my interpretation:
- Space is the basic component of architecture. In a deep sense, it is mostly “interior space,” where streets and plazas are the interior spaces of a three-dimensional city.
2. Continuity, physical and spatial, is as basic in architecture as the relationship between skin, muscles, bones, organs, blood and nerves. In this sense, “organic” means the chemical interaction between cells, not an endless multiplication of cells – or dwellings – like cancer.
3. Nature implies not just the nature of a site, or the nature of materials, or the nature of production; it means also the nature of humans, both in their ergonometric and psychological dimensions.
4. Human scale is the only scale of architecture and it should not be confused with “size.” Human scale is defined in relation to needs. Bernini’s Saint Peter’s square is at human scale, in spite of its size. Fascist architecture, whether governmental or corporate, is not.
5. Context is not only the relationship between a building and its surroundings; it is also a relationship between a building and the culture within which it surges.
Flashback: we were recently graduated architects, 26-years-old, influenced by our master teachers and mentors, Prof. Bruno Zevi and architect Luigi Pellegrin. We decided to experience Wright by ourselves. We left Ram Karmi’s office in Tel Aviv and, together with our friend Viviana Campajola, we embarked on a three-month long “Wright pilgrimage” that took us through ninety-six of his works across the United States. A selection from the thousand of photographs we made can be seen in http://archidocu.com/the-wright-way-2/
Back to 2017. Nobody can predict the future, but we can develop visions that can grow way beyond our lifetime (something to learn from Israel’s Founding Fathers.) We can plan for a different lifestyle (and maybe a different type of human being, if you read Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus.”)
Studying Wright can still be useful to invent a future that is pragmatic and idealistic at the same time.