Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson

Hugh Howard. Bloomsbury, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-62040-375-4
In this upbeat and informative dual biography, Howard (Houses of the Founding Fathers) follows the intersecting—often conflicting—careers of 20th-century architects Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) and Philip Johnson (1906–2005) to demonstrate the influence each had on each other as well as on the American landscape. Though Wright is the acknowledged master, known for his provincial manner and organic style, Howard explains that Johnson brought a sleek international style into vogue and, as curator of architecture at MoMA and pedagogue at Yale’s School of Architecture, wielded enormous influence over mid-century building design. The 40-year age difference between the two architects makes for challenging chronology, as Howard must shift back and forth in time to describe each subject’s education and career. Still, he successfully shows that when Wright and Johnson’s architectural practices did overlap, their antagonistic relationship spurred both of them to their greatest achievements. Howard’s prose is fluid, and he deftly explains technical terms without slowing the story. The result is narrative non-fiction of a high order, enlivened by anecdotes and quotations from two very outspoken and colorful characters. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 05/24/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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