Ada Louise Huxtable, Author . Viking $19.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-670-03342-3

The fascinating life and work of the great American architect gets a stimulating, well-balanced treatment in this installment of the Penguin Lives series. Huxtable, the Wall Street Journal architecture critic, pairs a critique of Wright's architecture with an engaging narrative of his scandalous private life, including his abandonment of his first family, the murder of a mistress and her children by a deranged servant, and other tempestuous relationships with artistic, high-strung women. She traces his achievements to his upbringing in a family of Unitarians, where, she contends, he was steeped in the Emersonian transcendentalism that led him to infuse the austere functionalism of high-modernist architecture with romantic spirituality and nature worship. He also acquired a self-righteous rectitude with which he faced down dubious clients, the architectural establishment, and the creditors who would bedevil him throughout a free-spending but impecunious life. Huxtable's well-researched account corrects Wright's mythologizing of his life, but she generally accepts his excuses that his misbehavior and megalomania were necessary to his artistic self-realization. She is clearly a big fan: her reviews of Wright's major buildings are warmly appreciative to adulatory; she considers his revolutionary redesigns of the family home to be models of livability, and his later hypermodern works to be almost miraculous prefigurations of today's computer-assisted geometries. With its dollop of sizzle, this fluently written biography will provoke renewed interest in Wright's architecture among general readers. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Show other formats
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-7862-7181-8
Paperback - 251 pages - 978-0-14-311429-1
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4362-1363-9
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 272 pages - 978-1-4362-1364-6
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