The Design Observer Group


Posted 09.07.12


Mark Lamster

Mr. Wright Comes to Moloch



A place fit for banking and prostitution and not much else...a crime of crimes...a vast prison...triumph of the herd instinct...outgrown as overgrown....the greatest mouth in the world...humanity preying upon humanity...carcass...parasite...fibrous tumor....pig-pile...Inconguous mantrap of monstrous dimensions! Enormity devouring manhood, confusing personailty by frustration of individuality. Is this not Anti-Christ? The Moloch that knows no God but more?
Frank Lloyd Wright had rather strong opinions about New York City, as this epic catalog of insults so colorfully demonstrates. (It's taken from Herbert Muschamp's fine but slim book about Wright and the city, Man About Town.) For all his vitriol, Wright built his most famous building here — the Guggenheim — and that was in fact just one of many projects he designed in and around the city. He was more at home here than he admitted: he stayed at the Plaza, the only establishment of suitable grandeur for him, and enjoyed the bright lights and attention of celebrity. If a tendency to the hyperbolic is a natural condition of the New Yorker, than Wright fits just in. 

And so perhaps the great man is not looking down harshly from that Great Broadacre in the Sky, what with the news that his archive will be coming to New York, split between the Museum of Modern Art (which gets the models) and Columbia University (the correspondence, drawings, and other ephemera). It's a tremendous windfall for New York and for scholarship, as it will make this material far more accessible than in the past, and place Wright at the center of the architectural media universe.  

A bit of random convergence: over the last week I've actually been writing about Wright and New York, specifically his I'm-in-no-I'm-out-no-I'm-in vacillating in regards to the defining 1932 Modern Architecture exhibtion at MoMA (aka, The International Style show). He both wanted the exposure of the show, but didn't want to be a part of museum's "propaganda" — an encapsulation of his entire relationship with the city. However much he detested it, he couldn't stay away. And now he's here for good. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.  

[note: that's a drawing of his House on the Mesa, the project he put in the show.]