Who among us does not know of the work of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright? Though I have various architects whose work I’ve admired over the years, it’s his that has fascinated me the most. I knew little about his life, however, until I read Nancy Horan’s “Loving Frank” this week.
Mamah Borthwick Cheney was FLW’s mistress for several years and this novel is written from her point of view. Mamah and her husband, Edwin Cheney, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them in 1903 in Oak Park, IL. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives. You'll love the Random House website for this book which even uses the fonts Wright liked when he incorporated sayings in his buildings.
"Loving Frank" was a very compelling read and immediately afterwards I went to the library and checked out Ken Burn’s 1998 PBS documentary “Frank Lloyd Wright” and now I want to read his autobiography and his biography. Though I have seen some of his buildings over the years, my interest is piqued to see even more. I’ve seen the Guggenheim in New York (but haven’t been inside), Hollyhock House in Hollywood, and Taliesin West outside Phoenix.
As an older person myself, it was amazing to see how creative and bright he remained until the end of his life. He died at 92 in 1959. He also had some deep flaws and an ego a mile wide, but most highly creative people I've known are far from perfect.
I’m a sponge for learning new things so this novel has started me out on a journey. It helps that my two young grandsons love to build things, too, and that Fritz, who will be five this fall, wants to be an architect, he says. He loves to show me a book with many architectural styles in it and he knows most of them by name already. I sure as heck wasn't remotely interested in architecture at that age.
Incidentally, for those of you who live in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, the famous Wayfarer's Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes was designed by his son Lloyd Wright. I often go there to write.