Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space
[生活型態 ]

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space

Thirty spokes are joined at a hub; because of the void we have the use of the wheel.
Clay is thrown into a pot; because of the void we have the use of the vessel.
A door is cut from a wall; because of the void we have the use of the room.
We profit from what exists; we use what doesn't exist.
-- Laozi
from the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) "The Use of Non-existence"

Translation by Bevin Chu

Many Americans know that Frank Lloyd Wright was America's greatest architect, and arguably the greatest architect who ever lived. Some Americans even know that Wright's "Prairie House" was the revolutionary prototype for countless pale imitations dotting the American landscape. But how many Americans know that Wright's Prairie House owed an artistic debt to traditional Chinese architecture? How many Americans know that, for better or worse, suburban America looks the way it does partly as a result of architectural influences from China?

Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural design philosophy bears a close spiritual affinity with Chinese mystical philosophy. Wright, who was Welsh, reveled in Welsh Druidism, named his house in Wisconsin "Taliesin," and never tired of quoting the above famous passage from the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching. Wright detested the Greek/Roman/Renaissance/Beaux Arts architectural tradition, which conceived of space as merely the absence of matter. He once told interviewer Mike Wallace "For 500 years what we call architecture has been phony." Instead Wright strongly identified with the Chinese/Korean/Japanese architectural tradition which conceived of space as every bit as "real" as solid matter.

Wright rejected western rationalism and embraced eastern mysticism. "The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet" he said, "But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist."

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959 at the age of 92. Even today, forty-four years later, architectural historians and critics in the West still don't quite know how to account for the historical anomaly of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unable to reconcile Wright's "exotic" output with what came before, unable to fill in the missing pieces of the Wrightian puzzle, they remain befuddled and vaguely discomfited. The reason is simple. They are not looking in the right place. They are like the proverbial drunk who knows he dropped his key in the darkened alley, but insists on looking for it under the street lamp because "that's where it's brightest." If the experts ever get serious, the answers will not be hard to find. They need only turn their heads and look to the East.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Tao of Space
Illustration(s): The Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) by Laozi
Author: Bevin Chu
Affiliation: CETRA Design Information Section
Source: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect
Publication Date: 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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