Frank Lloyd Wright and His New American Architecture, by Bob Kann is part of the Badger Biographies Series for young readers published by the Wisconsin Historical Society. As a former teacher, and having dealt with all three types of students, I’d say that it is aimed at fifth-grade homeschoolers, seventh-grade private-schoolers, and ninth-grade public school students.
Concentrating on native sons and daughters of Wisconsin, the series makes a good choice in Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), one of the most important American architects—if not THE most important—of the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century.
Kann does a good job of taking us through Wright’s career. He does not, however, pull any punches concerning some of the failings of Wright’s designs or his personality—he was a very selfish type of guy. I lost track myself of how many wives he had and with whom he was living while married to someone else. One design flaw I know of that Kann does not mention is the small space behind a partition in one of the private homes Wright designed: the space was too small for humans to get into, but cats could get back there and make a good ol’ mess. How does one clean it, then?
But, Wright’s designs are important, interesting, and influential. Kann identifies him with the entirely American “Prairie School” of architecture, where the “open plan” of the interior is emphasized. Of course, “Fallingwater” outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, features prominently—it is built on top of a waterfall—as does the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, which was built, successfully, to withstand the tremors of an earthquake. And it did very shortly after being built.
I would imagine that no student of architecture since, say, 1920, could operate without studying and being influenced in some way by Wright.
Somewhat to my pleasant surprise, this little book for little readers features decent sentence structure, and it is punctuated correctly, without the annoying, monotonous and trendy uses of “while” or “as” we see so much of today. Gee, I wish they could do that at the big Manhattan publishing houses. (May I ask again what editors do these days?)
Almost every page features bolded vocabulary terms defined at the bottom of the page and listed again in a glossary at the end. Each of the thirteen chapters is of good length (short). And the appendix features a timeline of Wright’s affairs—er, I mean his accomplishments. Nothing here to object to for young readers except one occurrence of the word “damn.” There are also plenty of pictures, only one set of which doesn’t seem to make sense with its caption.
The original Taliesin in Wisconsin—Wright’s home for 40-plus years and his architectural workshop for students—is mentioned, but I would have liked a description of Taliesin West in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, because it is the only one of his creations I myself have seen—and because it is brilliant.
F. Scott wishes he any talent whatsoever for architecture.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Wisconsin Historical Society. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.