The Wright Way

Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, photographed by Al Ravenna in 1954.
Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1954. 1

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959), the famous American architect, was known for controlling every aspect of a project—from the plan of the building to the design, choice and schematic of furniture, right down to every bit of material used. So why should it surprise us that Wright would have no shame in demanding Steinway & Sons to alter its walnut Model B piano to fit in the low-ceiling home commissioned by Lowell E. Walter, the famous Cedar Rock House in Iowa.

Here is an excerpt of that letter:

…the standard piano height – 38 inches – will be too high for this house and we wish to have you shorten the piano and pedal legs two inches – the bench as well. 2
Lowell Walter House in Quasqueton, Iowa was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Lowell Walter House, Iowa. 3

In a coincidence—by design or by a stroke of irony—at one time, early in his career (c. 1896), Wright’s offices were located in the newly erected Steinway Hall in Chicago designed by Dwight H. Perkins. It was here that he became a part of a group of young architects influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement; they were later to be known as the Prairie School.

But Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t come from a neophyte position in his demand for aesthetic changes. He had grown up in a musical family. His father, William Russell Cary Wright, taught pianoforte and the organ, passing on his love for Bach and Beethoven to the young Frank Lloyd Wright. The elder Wright taught his son the piano (which was a Steinway Square), cello, and violin while extolling the importance of acoustics.

Lloyd attributed his sense of harmony in his architecture to this early influence: "...by his father who, he recalled many times, taught him to make structural comparisons between music and buildings." [ 4 ]

In his autobiography, Wright talking about Beethoven stated that: "when I build I often hear his music and, yes when Beethoven made music I am sure he sometimes saw buildings like mine in character, whatever form they may have taken then." [ 5 ]

Passing on the legacy of his father, Frank Lloyd Wright aggressively encouraged his own children to play musical instruments: Lloyd the cello, John the Violin, Frances the piano, David the flute, Llewelyn the guitar and mandolin, and Catherine voice.

End of Article

Page Sources

Ravenna, Al.  Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright.  1954.  Library of Congress, Washington D.C.  Part of the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Digital IDLOC.Gov.  Web.  28 Sept. 2015.  No Known Copyright Restrictions. 
Orange Suede Sofa.  "Lowell Walter House, Quasqueton, Iowa, 27 June 2015."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2 July 2015.  Web.  28 Sept. 2015.  CC BY-SA 3.0.
Steinway & Sons.  The Height of Audacity.  New York.  Steinway & Sons Issue Two, 2011: p. 49.  Frank Llloyd Wright Sites.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
Twombly, Robert.  Frank Llyod Wright: His Life and His Architecture.  New York: John Wiley & Sons, 24 April 1987: p. 4.  Google Books.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
Wright, Frank Lloyd.  Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography.  Petaluma: Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 2005: p. 422.  Google Books.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
Additional References:
  • Olsen, Teri Ann Berg.  "Frank Lloyd Wright."  Famous Homeschoolers.  Teri Ann Berg, 2000 – 2015.  Web. 10 Aug. 2015.
  • Secrest, Meryle.  Frank Lloyd Wright.  New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 9 July 2014.  Google Books.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.