During this time of momentous change, Wright’s own domestic situation saw a change towards permanence with a much younger woman, Olgivanna Ivanovna Lazovich. Born in Montenegro of auspicious decent, she was very beautiful—with dark, mysterious eyes. She was also a follower of George Gurdjieff, a mystic with a large, cult-like following. Wright first saw her dancing with fellow travelers, finding her irresistible, by all measures it was love at first sight. Soon, she was pregnant and Wright at the age of nearly 60 was to be a father all over again.
It was during this period of personal and national upheaval that Wright first began detailed plans for what was to become “Broadacre City,” named as such because every home was allotted one acre of land. Wright determined that people would thrive with an area of land that was large enough to insulate from neighbors as well as increasing self sufficiency. Anyone who wanted to grow their own food, cash crops, animal husbandry, or participate in social engagements, could. The population of Broadacre City would also have cultural pursuits available to them from art to music to large scale sporting events hosted in a giant sub-level stadium. The doctors would have their hospitals, teachers their schools, and manufacturers their factories.
Wright envisioned people flying personal helicopters to and fro-automobiles would not be the primary transit option. Clean air, safe neighborhoods, families living together in harmony; Architecture enabling and ennobling.
Wright’s fortunes changed in 1937 when he was asked to design a home near Stanford, California. The builders, Paul Hanna and his wife Jean, wanted a house that could grow with them and their family—or the contraction thereof. This house would be the forerunner of Wright’s “Usonian” homes, of which he had written about in several of his books. The Hanna house is also called the Honeycomb house due to it being based on a hexagonal floor plan. Wright was always fond of using geometrically based plans, often situated around squares, triangles, or even circles. Each system allowed for various arrangement of internal space, ensuring that the surroundings were spacious enough for the art of living.
The Hanna house reinvigorated is practice, allowing him to work on his masterpiece, a house on Bear Run in Pennsylvania.
Wright and Olgivanna together conceived of a program that would enable young adults of both genders to learn organic architecture from the master himself. The first Taliesin class was initiated in 1932. The majority of Wright’s young apprentices acted mostly as free labor (they paid Wright for the privilege) they farmed the fields, cut the lumber for the expansion of Taliesin, and on weekends dressed up for dinner and musical performances. Wright used these events to give out morsels of wisdom directly from his mouth.
There is almost universal acclaim that Wright’s premier work of any period, is the previously mentioned home in Pennsylvania. Designed for Edgar Kaufman, a wealthy department store owner in Pittsburgh he envisioned a house that would look upon their favorite waterfall…except for Wright, who was of the mind that the house should be on the waterfall.
Wright seemingly sat on the design creating no drawings or even doing outlines on the site plans. The day came when the Mr. Kaufman called the fellowship to alert them that he would be in the area and would love to see the progress on the plans. As told by fellowship member Edgar Tafel, Wright literally sat at the drafting board and immediately began sketching out floor plans, elevations, and even a small perspective view. Once Mr. Kaufman arrived; Wright showed him what he had on hand and then took him out to lunch so the apprentices could do the finish work!
The home as it was built stands as a monument not just to Wright, or even his ideals of organic architecture; it stands defying the doubters of his work, modernists like Phillip Johnson who said that Wright “was the best American architect of the 19th century.” Fallingwater proved that Wright was the best in the 20th as well.
The next decade brought Wright more work than he ever had in his career; including some of the most startling constructions ever attempted…including a “small” museum in New York City.
Part Four to come…