Tag Archives: Frank Lloyd Wright

He Thought His Buildings Were Alive

Waiting for our Frank Lloyd Wright tour to start with our friends Barb and John

I didn’t feel much like a father to my children, but I did feel like a father to my buildings.”  We took a tour of some of the eighteen buildings on the Florida Southern College Campus in Lakeland that were designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Apparently Frank thrived on being at the college campus and loved to hang out with the students and get to know them. 

Statue of Frank Lloyd Wright

Unfortunately his love for, and interest in, the young people at the university did not extend to his own children.  Frank  was so busy with his career he had little time or understanding for his eight children, the result of three marriages. I first learned about Frank Lloyd Wright from reading Nancy Horan’s book Loving Frank which details an affair he had with a married woman who left her own children for him, and I must admit it left me with little respect for how he conducted his personal life.  Dave and I had also toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesan West campus in Arizona and his Oak Park Home in Chicago so we were interested to learn more about the famous architect and the work he did at a Florida college. 

windows frank lloyd wright house

Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes like this one called The Usonian without curtains to let the ‘outside in.’  The way the sun reflected shadows onto the floors in  patterns was also important to him. 

Wright believed buildings were alive which is why he used the color Cherokee Red in so many of his buildings- it reminded him of blood.  Check out the red floor in the Usonian house above. 

Our friends Barb and John sit in chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright while our guide shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the designer and architect.

We learned many fascinating things about Frank Lloyd Wright from Paul our knowledgeable guide who told us he’d ‘drunk the Kool-Aid’ when it came to the unorthodox and often controversial American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.Frank not only designed buildings he designed their furniture as well.  Here I sit at a diningroom table he designed.  The place mats are based on window patterns in Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

Frank drew the blueprints for houses like The Usonian for faculty and staff of the university to live in. Wright also designed this Water Dome fountain at the centre of the campus which shoots water up to 45 feet into the air. It uses a great deal of water however so the full force of the fountain is saved for displays on special days on the campus like graduation. The various buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on the college campus are connected with over a mile of esplanade. The supports were to be reminiscent of the orange trees that once grew all around the campus. Each of these beds of green shrubs are exactly 10 feet apart which is how far orange trees are generally planted apart in an orchard. Frank Lloyd Wright also designed the campus library. Frank was always trying to imitate nature in his buildings.  He designed the ceiling of the library to look like the sun. This overhang on one of his buildings features a butterfly design. Check out the Cherokee red steps on the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel which Wright designed. Inside the church- the facade which partitions off the choir and pipe organ from the sanctuary is decorated with origami shapes and re-creations of the First Nations symbol The Thunderbird.  Unfortunately the church like many other buildings on campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t turn out to be as practical as they are beautiful. They have lots of construction problems and are constantly in need of repair. It is hard for the university to keep up financially with all the  work that needs to be done.

Standing on Frank Lloyd Wright Way on the Florida Southern College campus.

We learned from our guide that Frank Lloyd Wright was not one to take advice from ANYONE not even his clients.  You did things his way. Maybe that’s why one of the streets on the campus is named Frank Lloyd Wright Way. 

What Will You Be Building When You Have To Go?

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What Will You Be Building When You Have To Go?

“What will you be building when you have to go?”  I heard Newfoundland native Amelia Curran crooning those lyrics on CBC radio last Sunday morning.  I couldn’t get the words out of my head all day. Amelia’s question certainly echoes my wish. I hope that right up til’ the moment I die I will still be building things whether it’s  relationships, or stories, or a fit body, or a new skill, or memories.  

Amelia’s thought provoking question reminded me of our visit to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona house called Taliesin West. We saw a photo of him at his desk in the last weeks of his life. frank lloyd wright photoFrank Lloyd Wright died when he was 91.  There were 166 projects in progress sitting on his desk when he died. The last decade of his life was his most productive. He did a third of his life’s work in that period. Frank Lloyd Wright was definitely still building when he had to go.  I hope I am too. 

Other posts…….

Visiting Aunt Vi

The Swimmers of Tolo Harbor

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

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Filed under Music, Reflections, Retirement

The Oak Park Connection

What do Carol Shields, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? They all lived in Oak Park Illinois. 

In February I visited the home of writer Ernest Hemingway in Key West Florida. I wrote about it in a blog post called Six Toed Cats, A Spanish Birthing Chair and His Last Penny. I was surprised to learn on my tour that the Nobel Prize winning writer had been born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park

Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park

I had visited Oak Park in December of 2011 and toured the studio of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I wrote a post about that visit during which we saw many of the beautiful homes Frank Lloyd Wright had designed in the Oak Park neighborhood.  

I had written a newspaper column about Carol Shields shortly after her death.  I discovered that she was revered, not only in Canada, but also in Hong Kong where I made my home at the time. I later posted a version of that column on my blog and realized that like Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway, Carol Shields too had lived in Oak Park, Illinois. It is where she was born.

That seemed too much of a coincidence to me so I decided to find out if any other famous people had called Oak Park Illinois home. Was I ever surprised to learn that……

Comedian Bob Newhart was born and raised in Oak Park. 

and so was Ray Kroc the founder of the McDonalds franchise. 

comedic actress Betty White was born in Oak Park too

and Edgar Rice Borroughs who wrote the Tarzan series of books was raised there. 

And that wasn’t all. Wikipedia listed more than a hundred people who made a name for themselves in politics, sports, entertainment, literature and science and spent part of their life living in Oak Park. 

I’m not sure what made Oak Park such a breeding ground for successful people. Perhaps most cities produce their share of the rich and famous. Taking a look at the Wikipedia list for famous people from Winnipeg, I discovered it’s even longer than Oak Park’s!

Other posts about famous people…..

Getting Up Close and Personal with Thomas Edison

Dikembe Mutombo Has My Book

Meeting a Famous Children’s Author

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Chicago/Hong Kong Holiday- Day 4

frank lloyd wright house

“So long Frank Lloyd Wright”. Dave was singing that Simon and Garfunkel song as we drove out of downtown Chicago towards the suburb of Oak Park where you can see 25 buildings designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. IMG_7532We parked the car when we arrived in Oak Park and walked down the street to the architect’s home and studio for a tour. There were houses designed by Frank all along the way.  

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I did a little searching on the internet and there are about twenty houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for sale right now across the United States, most priced at  just over a million dollars. IMG_7529Dave and I got interested in Frank when our book club in Hong Kong read a historical fiction work called Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which details the extra-martial affair Frank Lloyd Wright had with Mamah Cheney. He built a house for her and her husband. IMG_7540“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Fritz when I told him we had read the Nancy Horan book about Frank Lloyd Wright. Fritz was our guide as we did a tour through Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and the adjoining house he built in Oak Park for his wife Catherine and their six children. Fritz thinks too much of the Horan book is fiction and he suggested several other more authentic Wright biographies we could read. 

Frank Lloyd Wright designed much of the furniture for his house.The livingroom had this little nook for the fireplace with built-in seats on either side. Over the fireplace were engraved the words Truth Is Life. Around this fireplace spread no evil word of any creature. 

The house also had a room where Frank and the architects who worked for him, drew plans for houses. There were two ladies from Japan on our tour with us. Frank Lloyd Wright made many trips to Asia and it definitely inspired his designs. He also designed houses for people in Japan. Other design influences were nature –there is a willow tree growing right in the centre of his home in Oak Park– and geometric shapes, which he grew to love from a set of wooden shaped toys designed by a German early childhood expert named Froebel. Wright’s mother bought the toys for him when he was a child.

frank lloyd wright studio oak park

Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park

Fritz our guide was a real Wright expert and I made pages of notes about all the interesting things he taught us about Frank Lloyd Wright as we toured the studio and house. 

I learned more about Frank Lloyd Wright when I visited Arizona. Check out these posts…………………..

Taliesin West- Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona

Church of the Holy Cross- Frank Lloyd Wright Connection in Sedona

dave and micah at wheaton Next we were off to Wheaton College where quite a number of our former ICS students go to school. Micah Chiang,  who played on basketball teams Dave coached, was in Dave’s history class, and was a student in my English class, met us and gave us a tour of the lovely Wheaton Campus. All the buildings were so well taken care of and the campus seemed very warm and friendly.  Micah says aside from a few first year classes which are large, most of his classes have only 15-20 students, so they get to know each other and their professors well. 

micah and dave wheaton

Micah, who is a junior at Wheaton is a residence assistant for one floor of his dorm and he’s responsible for the young men on his floor. Here he and Dave are on the steps of his dorm. I couldn’t go up to Micah’s room because Wheaton has strict rules about separate girls and guy’s quarters, but Dave went up to see it.  Micah is getting a degree in health studies but is interested in becoming a professional photographer. 

wheaton tour with micah

Dave wanted to see the athletic centre. Here he and Micah check out some of the sports honors won by Wheaton students and teams in the past. 

Micah took us to tour the Billy Graham Museum which tells the story of Billy Graham’s life and ministry. It is quite large and there are many displays. Graham is a Wheaton graduate.

IMG_3082We went out for supper with three other ICS graduates who are also studying at Wheaton. Joy Pettigrew who was in my advisory last year is studying sociology and is hoping to do an inner city learning and service course this summer in either Los Angeles, Chicago or Denver. She is singing with a worship group at Wheaton. She told me about a very interesting research paper she wrote about how post traumatic stress syndrome affects so many American war veterans and the implications that has for American society. 

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Angelica Leung is a freshman who has started a science degree. She wants to become a nurse midwife someday. She is spending Christmas in New York with relatives and is also meeting up with a bunch of last years’ ICS grads who are getting together in New York for Christmas. 

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Kerri Lee Van Schooten is a Wheaton junior who is getting a degree in international studies. Right now she is working on a project about the conflict between Tibet and China.  Kerri Lee’s parents who are missionaries in Hong Kong are home on furlough this year so she will spend Christmas in Nebraska with them. 

What next? Our Chicago holiday is over and we are heading back to Winnipeg. Dave wants to be home for his curling match on Saturday and we need to start getting ready for Christmas.

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