"ORGANIC (OR INTRINSIC) ARCHITECTURE IS THE FREE ARCHITECTURE OF IDEAL DEMOCRACY": ELEVEN-PAGE TYPED MANUSCRIPT INSCRIBED BY FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT TO LEWIS MUMFORD
WRIGHT, Frank Lloyd. Typed manuscript inscribed. Taliesin West, February, 1953. Eleven pages, each 8-1/2 by 11 inches, typed and inscribed on the rectos. $8800.
Original 11-page typed manuscript on "The Language of Organic Architecture," inscribed by its author, Frank Lloyd Wright, to his friend, the architecture critic Lewis Mumford, "For Lewis, F.L. Wright." With Mumford's annotation in the top right corner, "Feb 1953." The distinctive type face and spacing of the text invite the possibility that Wright typed this himself.
"The Language of Organic Architecture" is perhaps the most succinct elucidation of Wright's architectural philosophy. It lays out nine terms (but really principles) that defined what he termed "Organic (or intrinsic) architecture," which he considered "the free Architecture of idea DEMOCRACY." Wright's "nine-word lexicon," that he found helpful to "defend and explain whatever I have myself written on the subject," included: "NATURE," "ORGANIC," "FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION," ROMANCE," "TRADITION," "ORNAMENT," "SPIRIT," "THIRD DIMENSION," and "SPACE." Wright offers a brief comment after each, observing how each term had been abused. (For instance, after "FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION," he complains that "Too many foolish stylistic constructions are placed upon the slogan.")
After he lays out his general principles, Wright delves in deeper to analyze each term, perhaps the most important are his discussions of the terms "ORGANIC," and "ROMANCE": "The word ORGANIC denotes in Architecture not merely what may hang in a butcher shop, get about on two feet or cultivated in a field. The word Organic refers to entity, perhaps Integral or intrinsic would therefore be a better word to use. As originally used in Architecture, Organic means Part-to-Whole-as-Whole-is-to-Part. So Entity as integral is what is really meant by the word Organic. INTRINSIC."
"ROMANCE," like the word BEAUTY, refers to a quality. Reactionary use of this honorable but sentimentalized term by critics and current writers is confusing. Organic-architecture sees actuality as the intrinsic Romance of human creation or sees essential Romance as actual in creation. So Romance is the new Reality. Creativity divines this. No team-work can conceive it. A committee can only receive it as a gift from the inspired Individual…" This essay originally appeared in print in Wright's occasional series of broadsheets as Taliesin Square-Paper 16 in February 1951, and again, in a slightly revised form in May 1953, under the title "Organic Architecture." The essay again appeared in an anthology of Wright's essays published by Horizon the same year, The Future of Architecture. Lewis Mumford and Frank Lloyd Wright first began corresponding in the 1920s, after Mumford had contributed an essay to the Dutch journal Wendingen in 1925 in which he discussed Wright's work as a continuation of a line of innovation begun by H. H. Richardson and Louis Sullivan, as well as placing Wright in contrast to the European modernists like Le Corbusier. Mumford also characterized Wright's work as an ideal of form and expression ideally suited to the American landscape. An article along similar lines authored by Mumford for The American Mercury, elicited a response from Wright in August 1926, in which the architect questioned the depth Mumford's understanding of his work. A set of exchanges culminated in their first meeting, a luncheon at the Plaza Hotel in New York, during the winter of 1926-1927 that would being a long and productive dialogue and friendship.
This friendship, born of mutual respect and a love of argument, came under enormous strain in the years leading up the Second World War. Mumford, a liberal Democrat, viewed the rise of Nazism and Fascism anxiously—as he detailed in numerous articles and two full-length works: Men Must Act (1939) and Faith For Living (1940) . Wright held a different view. His general distrust of empire compelled Wright to take a stand against American involvement in the escalating European conflict that struck many as merely isolationist—a charge that the architect roundly rejected.
The final straw for Mumford came in a broadsheet published by Wright: A Taliesin Square-Paper, subtitled as "A nonpolitical voice from our democratic minority"), which declared "HITLER IS WINNING THIS WAR WITHOUT A NAVY. We are facing a new kind of warfare that the British Empire, owing to traditional faith in a great navy, cannot learn in time even if we furnished the equipment… Our frontier is no longer England, nor in any sense, it is European. Our frontier is our own shores."
An infuriated Mumford shot back to Wright: "You dishonor all the generous impulses you once ennobled… Be silent! lest you bring upon yourself some greater shame." To this, Wright retorted: "There is no good Empire, there never was a just war." True to his principles, Wright remained steadfastly opposed to the Second World War, and war in general. Escalating the feud, Mumford published his response to Wright in the interventionist journal, the New Leader. The two did not speak for over a decade.
The postwar period saw a thaw in their relationship, and Mumford remained a great admirer of Wright's work, despite their personal and philosophical differences. And Wright, despite Mumford's public shaming of the architect in print, continued sending New Year's greetings, unanswered by Mumford. However in the spring of 1951, Wright forwarded Mumford a copy of Sixty Years of Living Architecture, inscribed: "In spite of all, your old F. Ll. W." The gesture moved Mumford to respond and the two began the process of reconciliation, and the pair continued to correspond until Wright's death in 1959. (Wright, Mumford, et al., Frank Lloyd Wright & Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence, 22-26.).
Staple holes to top left corners. Fine condition.