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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Child’s Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright

Book Review

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Frank Lloyd Wright was Wisconsin’s great contributor to world architecture. In the latest installment of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Badger Biographies Series, author Bob Kann approaches the towering figure with a child’s eyes. Frank Lloyd Wright and His New American Architecture tells the story at the level of young reader, ages 7-12.

Hopefully, the intended audience will be reached. For the rest of us, Kann’s slender book is a good reminder of the essentials of Wright’s architecture, which involved an attention to all details of the interior including furnishing, an open floor plan between rooms, the importance of the building’s site and the use of local materials. In keeping with the spirit of the Midwest, many of his homes tended to be as horizontal as the prairie; in cheapened form they inspired a rash of “ranch-style” houses after World War II.

The book is no hagiography. Kann addresses Wright’s broken marriages and calls him “selfish,” proving the maxim that geniuses don’t always make good choices in life. The author also points out the Achilles’ heal in Wright’s designs: leaking roofs.