Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Taoism, Frank Lloyd Wright and Space Within

Frank Lloyd Wright photomontage (2016) •
Laozi [formerly Lao-Tze or Lao-Tse], Tao Te Ching (c. 4th century BC)—

Thirty spokes meet in the hub, but the empty space between them is the essence of the wheel. Pots are formed from clay, but the empty space within it is the essence of the pot. Walls with windows and doors form the house, but the empty space within it is the essence of the home.


Jonathan Hale, The Old Way of Seeing (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), pp. 176-177—

[Frank Lloyd] Wright played with such [surface] decoration, but he abandoned it around 1900. Wright's continuity meant that each element and aspect—shape, color, texture—participates, not as one thing on another but as one thing with another. This is why Wright came to understand that materials required expression for what they were. The purpose was not to be morally honest, but to let each element be seen and experienced individually. In the unity of a Wright building, every component is active.

The essence of each material stands out. Wood is not painted, because paint would conceal its "woodness"—its color, grain, odor. Paint would muddy the experience of continity, which accords value to everything. So the wood is unpainted. The blocky rectangularity of brick is revealed so that each brick reads as a clear element. Wright would never paint brick…because the idea is to emphasize "brickness." The Wright building does not use brick, it is brick. But geometry comes ahead of material in a Wright building…But even the pattern is not dominant. Wright uses pattern to bring out space. Space, the nothing, is dominant.

• Montage by Roy R. Behrens (© 2016). Public domain image sources: Carol M. Highsmith photograph of V.C. Morris building, and Al Ravenna, photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright (New York World-Telegram and the Sun Collection), both from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.

See also: Roy R. Behrens, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016).