Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Design Style by Robert Green
Architect AIA


 By Robert M. Green Architect AIA

I am from Savannah, Georgia originally.  I moved to Atlanta when fourteen and started at Georgia Tech at seventeen, already knowing that I wanted to be an architect, yet knowing nothing about architecture. 

 In the library of the School of Architecture I discovered books containing pictures of the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright.  They were a revelation to me: houses low, long, tying into the ground, beautiful in proportion, fascinating in plan and space.

 At that time at Georgia Tech, the favorite of the styles among the professors was the all glass buildings of Mies van de Rohe. The professors tended to force the students into copying that man's stark, modern buildings.  I liked the naturalness of Mr Wright's better.  After two years at Tech, I joined the U.S. Marines; for at that time men my age had the "two year obligation."  I joined to satisfy that requirement, and to get the G.I. Bill, which would allow me to attend college where I wanted: California preferably.

After the Marines, I attended the University of California in Berkeley long enough to realize that there some of the same stuff was being forced down student's throats as at Georgia Tech.  I could not take any more of that, so I went back to my job and girl friend in San Francisco and enjoyed life a few months.  Finally, I realized that if I was ever going to become an architect, I had better get out of there.  (Also, if I stayed longer, I would be marrying the girl, and I was not ready for marriage.) 

 I returned to Georgia Tech for another year and a third.

 And it was in the middle of a quarter that I decided to quit Georgia Tech, permanently.  Three professors sat me down and tried to talk me out of leaving.  Finally I said, "Well, let me ask y'all a question: I have at one time or another heard each of you three say that you thought Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West was a `great building.'"  They nodded in the affirmative.  "Well, I agree that it is a great building.  But, let's look at it for a minute.  Actually, the plan doesn't `work'.  Imagine coming into the drive and turnaround with a van full of food for all those fifty or more people there.  You would have to carry that food across the gravel parking area, down a few steps, around the office and up more steps, then past the long drafting room...and somewhere back behind all this, you would find the kitchen.  As for the living room: it's almost impossible to even find.  Still, I repeat: it is a great building.

"Now, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that Mr Wright had not designed the building and, instead, one of us students had."  I paused and looked at each of them before saying, "What grade would we have made?"

 They were silent a few moments, and finally one said, "Well, Bob, you would have flunked.  But, you see, Frank Lloyd Wright is a genius."

 I exploded!

"That's exactly what I have been trying to say.  If Mr Wright designed a great building, then it's great; but if one of us students designed it, we would get an F.  In other words, we are not allowed to even try to design anything good; for if we are so talented or lucky as to have accidently designed a great building, you will flunk us.  Gentlemen, you have just proved my point: I have been wasting my time at Georgia Tech."

 They didn't say a word while I picked up my stuff and left. 

 I left for California again, and the only professor I had liked in Atlanta, who also had left Tech and had been made the head of Architecture at the University of Southern California, in L.A.  I went through Scottsdale first and learned that Frank Lloyd Wright would allow students to pay him with the G.I. Bill, if accepted to study with him.  When I arrived at L.A. I wrote to Mr Wright.  A nice long, heartfelt letter about wanting to study with him.

 Three weeks and no answer.

 I wrote another one.  Again no answer.

 Finally, I wrote a short, nasty letter saying, " least you should show me the common courtesy to answer my letter..." and sent along drawings of the only building I had designed at Tech which I still liked (and on which I received the lowest grade I had ever made).  A week later I received an application form, and an appointment to meet with Mr Wright at Taliesin West, Arizona.

 Arriving at Taliesin West, I was told to wait outside the office, that Mr Wright was in the theater and would be right out.  Frank Lloyd Wright came into sight, and he saw me about the same time I spied him.  He was speaking to a man and I stared at him--he was about thirty feet away--and he kept looking at me.  The man left and I resolutely approached Mr Wright, sticking my hand out and saying, "Mr Wright, I'm Robert Green, I came to study with you," figuring the short, direct method had gotten me that far, so why not continue.  I was all of twenty-three years old.

 Mr Wright chuckled and then said, "Well, Robert, do you want to live out here in the desert where it's cold at night and hot in the day?  Amongst the snakes and things?"

 "Yes sir."

 "We have taken on several new apprentices recently, and I don't know if we have room for you."  All the time looking straight into my eyes.

 "Mr Wright, I'll sleep in my car if I have too."

 He laughed, and then said, "Well, we won't make you do that." Then he looked to his right at a high hill behind the camp and said,  "You know, we had snow on that hill last night.  The first time I've ever seen that here."  And then we spoke of the weather the next minute or two.  Finally, he said, "Robert, you go down to the office there and see Gene Masselink.  Tell him I said to get you fixed up with everything you'll need."

 And that was my acceptance by Frank Lloyd Wright.

 (Later I talked with several apprentices who told me that their interview lasted for hours, with Mrs Wright being called in to voice her opinion, etc.)


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