5 Pieces of Advice From Frank Lloyd Wright

Library of Congress // Public Domain
Library of Congress // Public Domain / Library of Congress // Public Domain

Happy birthday, Frank Lloyd Wright! America’s best-known architect was born 148 years ago today—though if he were still alive, he would have said he was turning 146. (He told people that he was born in 1869, although birth records indicate otherwise.) As befits the sagacity of his old age, here are five pearls of wisdom from the quintessential American designer.

1. “You must read the book of nature.”

In an article Wright wrote in The New York Times in 1953, he advised an intense study of the environment: 

It is necessary to have recourse to Nature with a capital N in order to get an education. Necessary to learn from trees, flowers, shells—objects which contain truths of form following function. If we stopped there, then it would be merely imitation. But if we dig deep enough to read the principles on which these are activated, we arrive at secrets of form related to purpose that would make of the tree a building and of the building a tree.

2. Get rid of your air conditioner. 

Wright was all about building homes that blended in with their natural surroundings. In his book The Natural House (excerpted by The New York Times in 1954), Wright argued that “air conditioning is a dangerous circumstance ... I think it far better to go with the natural climate than to try to fix a special artificial climate of your own," he wrote (emphasis his). “Climate means something to man. It means something in relation to one’s life in it. Nature makes the body flexible and so the life of the individual invariably becomes adapted to environment and circumstance.”

3. Have a drink.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. Image Credit:Carol M. Highsmith via Wikipedia // Public Domain

Interviewed by The New York Times in the 1950s at the age of 89, Wright explained his habit of drinking a pre-dinner Irish whiskey thusly: “A man is a fool if he drinks before he reaches the age of 50, and a fool if he doesn’t afterward.” In the same interview, he declared that “Coffee is food for the body; tea, food for the mind.” 

4. Appreciate poetry. 

Wright thought all geniuses were poets at heart (including architects). At the end of one of his monographs, he railed against a lack of poets in American society: 

How America needs poets! God knows—she has enough profit takers, enough garage mechanics, enough journalists, enough teachers of only what has been taught, enough wage slaves. Without the poet—man of vision wherever he stands—the Soul of this people is a dead Soul. One must be insensible not to feel the chill creeping over ours…

5. Don’t rely too much on other people's advice.

Though Frank Lloyd Wright was a teacher who regularly advised young architects, he didn’t think too highly of other people’s advice. “Advice never bought a character worth the name, though advice is good,” he said in his first published lecture on architecture in 1900.