Frank Lloyd Wright, probably the most important American architect ever, did not like Miami. He visited in 1955 and thought the natural environment was beautiful, but he was not afraid to share his opinions about the buildings that occupied it.
Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Fashion Group of Miami, Wright said Miami homes were “things a pig would be ashamed to live in, if pigs could talk.” About Miami’s grand hotels, he said “you can’t tell if they’re hotels, office buildings or something that belongs in a cemetery. Why can’t you citizens of Miami produce something all of your own?”
Of course by then we had produced original architecture of our own, including the works of Alfred Browning Parker and the subtropical modern architects, and those Morris Lapidus and the other MiMo architects.
Parker, an undoubtedly excellent designer, was one of the few architects anywhere whose work Wright openly praised. He recommended Parker to become a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1959.
But Parker’s work shares a lot of similarities with Wright’s. Lapidus’ work, on the other hand, is very different, and Wright thought Lapidus’ magnum opus, the Fontainebleau Hotel, was “worse than an anthill.”
WTVJ reporter Keith Leslie interviewed Wright on the day of the luncheon, and the architect wasn’t afraid to elaborate. “Well I don’t regard Miami as a city exactly,” he said. “There’s a straight line on the waterfront, and the Realtors have divided it up into little squares. On them are little houses and everybody seems to be in a little cubicle of some sort. Miami is such a beautiful place, no one seems to have taken much advantage of it. The Realtor has been here working. I think that’s the trouble with Miami… Throw out the Realtor and take the land over. Why not?”
In a word, he thought Miami’s architecture was “horrible.”
Gee, thanks Frank.
[Head photo is Frank Lloyd Wright looking at a photo of the Fontainebleau Hotel]
Frank Loyd Wright had one basic idea that found resonance with some voices of his generation. Scholars have been critical of his creativity in meaningful ways. By way of example, his public space works lack a consistent underlying personality. They, in contrast to his residential home designs, lack distinctive character. Each could have been the work-product of a different architect. There is no personal distinguishing feature to them.
Also, FLR did not know Miami architecture at all. His opinion is the product of basic ignorance.
Lastly, his comments, aside from being misinformed, lack grace and elegance.
Quite frankly, as a person he was known to have been an insufferable ego maniac who defended the position that he “was architecture.”
Frank Lloyd Wright was quite full of himself. He was a contrarian; different for the sake of being different.
Interesting commentary. I wonder what Mr. Wright might say today. Remember, besides Lapidus there were other great architects here, among them Igor Polevitzky, Henry Hohauser, the inimitable Robert Swedroe and others.