Frank Lloyd Wright: in his own words

The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, who designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Wikipedia

Space is the breath of art.

All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.

Less is only more where more is no good.

Organic architecture seeks superior sense of use and a finer sense of comfort, expressed in organic simplicity.

I hate intellectuals. They are from the top down. I am from the bottom up.

Art for art’s sake is a philosophy of the well-fed.

As we live and as we are, Simplicity—with a capital “S”—is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.

—FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, The Natural House

Frank’s words resonate with us on that human, personal level, and like the designs of his buildings, his syntax is intentionally clean and minimal.

Arguably the greatest architect of the 20th century desired a Simple heart—Simplicity in all aspects of his life—and like him, I think the answer to our complex questions (and our fraught, complex lives) is much simpler than we imagine. Will knowing this (even agreeing with it) change anything? Maybe not now. But later? With your last breath in earth? Yes. You’ll know. Have the courage while it still matters.


Feature image copyright © 2014 Bauhaus2YourHouse

Feature: The G E T T Y

The J. Paul Getty Trust is the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organization dedicated to the visual arts

History (taken from

The Getty is the legacy of the businessman and art collector J. Paul Getty, and his view that art is a civilizing influence in society. Throughout his adult life, he took greater and greater steps to make art available for the public’s education and enjoyment. In 1953, he established the J. Paul Getty Museum Trust. The following year the J. Paul Getty Museum opened in his ranch house in Malibu (today, Pacific Palisades).

Mr. Getty died in 1976, with most of his personal estate passing to the Trust in 1982. Drawing upon the vision Mr. Getty articulated in the Trust Indenture, the Trustees sought to make a greater contribution to the visual arts by expanding the Museum and its collections, and creating a range of new programs to serve the world of art. Reflecting this expanded mission, the Trust’s name was legally changed to the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1983.

Mr. Getty’s philanthropy enabled the construction of the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades and the Getty Center in Brentwood, the expansion of the collections of the Museum, and the creation of the four programs, which constitute “the Getty.”

Four Programs

The Getty is composed of four programs offering resources and expertise within research, conservation, education, and digital innovation.

The Getty Conservation Institute: “advances the practice of art and cultural heritage conservation worldwide.”

The Getty Foundation: “supports the understanding and preservation of the visual arts through strategic grant initiatives around the world.”

The J. Paul Getty Museum: “collects, presents, conserves, and interprets great works of art.”

*The Getty Research Institute: “conducts pioneering research in art history and the humanities.”

GRI Mission Statement

The Getty Research Institute is dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts and their various histories through its expertise, active collecting program, public programs, institutional collaborations, exhibitions, publications, digital services, and residential scholars programs. Its Research Library and Special Collections of rare materials and digital resources serve an international community of scholars and the interested public. The Institute’s activities and scholarly resources guide and sustain each other and together provide a unique environment for research, critical inquiry, and scholarly exchange.
. .

All available digital images at the Getty—that is, images in the public domain or with rights held by the Getty—can be used for any purpose. No permission is required.

What’s in Open Content?
Currently, there are over 100,000 images from the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute available through the Open Content Program, including more than 72,000 from the Research Institute’s Foto Arte Minore archive, which features photographs of the art and architecture of Italy over 30 years by German photographer and scholar Max Hutzel (1913–1988). Other images include paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, antiquities, sculpture, decorative arts, artists’ sketchbooks, watercolors, rare prints from the 16th through the 18th century, and 19th-century architectural drawings of cultural landmarks. [The Getty is] adding more images as high-quality digital files become available.

Access to Open Content Images
All of the images can be found on Getty Search Gateway, and the J. Paul Getty Museum images can also be accessed on the Museum’s Collection webpages.

*The GRI is where I will be working (12/4/2017 will be my first day). So much needs to be written; consider this your introduction.

Feature: Frank Gehry, an Outlier of Modern Architecture

“You can’t ignore history; you can’t escape it even if you want to. You might as well know where you come from, and you might as well know that everything has been done in some shape or form.” – Frank Gehry

Architecture as an art form can easily be overshadowed by the stringency of function. Yet everything about architect Frank Gehry challenges this status quo. His building designs are a testament to his philosophy. He wasn’t afraid to bend the rules—or the angles of his buildings.

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Frank Gehry is widely regarded as one of the most influential and revered figures in modern architecture, and I am fascinated to understand why. Innovation isn’t always met with widespread acceptance and accolade—especially during an artist’s lifetime—which is why I am intrigued by Gehry and the story behind his success.

My curiosity surfaced as a result of reading The Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, who explains successful people like Gehry “appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience.” Yet, Gladwell argues, they don’t. “They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy,” he explains.

“Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky—but all critical to making them who they are.”

I’m beginning to deconstruct, like Gladwell did with Bill Gates and others, the reason behind Gehry’s rising-from-nothing story.

Gehry was born Ephraim Owen Goldberg in Toronto on February 28, 1929 to immigrant Jewish parents, Sadie Thelma Caplanski and Irving Goldberg. [1] When Gehry was eight, his family moved to Timmins—a small mining town 428 miles north of Toronto—for his father’s business ventures distributing slot machines. In addition to bullying received by Polish children with anti-Semitic notions, Gehry recalls his emotionally unravelling father referring to him as “stupid” and “a day dreamer.” Irving doubted his son possessed any practical abilities to function in the world, abused him physically on occasion, and was seemingly convinced the boy would amount to very little. [1]

Gehry’s start in life and later outcome suggests yet another story of triumph against all odds, but there were key factors making this possible. Gladwell emphasizes:

“People don’t rise from nothing….It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

Unlike his father, Gehry’s mother believed in her son’s potential and pushed him as a child. She wanted to expose him to the culture she felt deprived of in her youth and brought him to museums and classical music events while they lived in Toronto. He also had grandparents in Toronto that “gave him the sense that the world was rich in possibility.” [1] Such a world was created through hours spent building small cities out of wooden blocks with his grandmother and through studying the Talmud with his grandfather, which taught him the importance of curiosity and critical thinking.

Due to his father’s failing health, the family moved to Los Angeles when Gehry was eighteen. This redefined everything—leading Gehry towards the right kinds of failures and eventual successes that brought him to where he is now.

I’m focusing on Gehry’s childhood because I believe we truly are products of our time. As a young adult, Gehry was uncertain of his career direction. He remembers asking himself, “What do I like? Where was I? What made me excited?” He then explains, “I remembered art, that I loved going to museums and I loved looking at paintings, loved listening to music. Those things came from my mother, who took me to concerts and museums. I remembered Grandma and the blocks, and just on a hunch, I tried some architecture classes.” [2]

Gehry’s decision could not have been more timely. He began his career while “Los Angeles was in the middle of a post-war housing boom, and the work of pioneering modernists like Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler were an exciting part of the city’s architectural scene.” [2] The distinctive asymmetrical designs celebrating Gehry’s aesthetic philosophy would’ve been meaningless without the starkly contrasting geometric forms of these predecessors.

We’re all waiting for a lucky break, hoping we were born at the right point in time, trying to fall back on the right kind of internalized support from our childhood, and trusting we failed at the right things.

When we worry we’ve missed choice opportunities or fear we aren’t good enough to live up to the opportunities when they finally come our way, we must keep in mind that it takes a very unique combination of timing, upbringing, location, and cultivated talent for every past story of success.

“To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages today that determine success—the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history—with a society that provides opportunities for all.” – M. Gladwell


[1] Goldberger, Paul. (2015). Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

[2] “Biography and Video Interview of Frank Gehry at Academy of Achievement”. Retrieved 10-15-17. 

Image source

Featured Image and video trailer: Copyright © 2017 MasterClass / Frank Gehry Teaches Design and Architecture

Frank Gehry Walt Disney Concert Hall: Photograph – Kurgusal. Sketch – Gehry Partners.

Feature: Gary Snyder, American Man of Letters

“The more completely the world is allowed to come forward and instruct us (without the interference of ego and opinion), the better we can see our place in the interconnected world of nature.”


When awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his 1974 collection of poetry, Turtle Island, Gary Snyder hoped he might override his “Beat poet” epithet. Yet his personal friendships with other leaders of the movement had forever endeared him as a Beat writer.

In 1951, Snyder graduated from Reed College and began his masters in anthropology. He quit soon after and left from San Francisco to Japan in 1956 to study at the First Zen Institute of Kyoto. During an interview, Snyder explained that “Anthropology was concerned with understanding human nature—but then why go to other people, why not study one’s own nature. So…Zen.”

Two years later, in 1958, he returned to the States and published his first book of poetry, Riprap (1959). “The Zen tradition of Buddhism often defines itself as ‘seeing into one’s own nature,’” Snyder explained, “and its discipline of meditation aims at gaining a clear perception of the self and the external world.” Zen, an echo of the more orthodox Taoist philosophy, was the foundation for Snyder’s work.

Snyder was drawn to poetry; he found his muse in communicating cosmic concepts in a few short lines, paving an ancient understanding that correlated humanity and nature into a meaningful fashion that inspired the readers of a morally deprived post-World War generation.

He called poetry “a riprap [cobbled trail] over the slick rock of metaphysics.” Snyder’s poem “Riprap,” the title his first book was later given, is composed of short words that allow the reader to feel the prick of reality; the simple words themselves are not the pinnacle of meaning. 

In his last edition of Riprap & Cold Mountain Poems, Snyder explained how, “the title…celebrates the work of hands, the placing of rock, and my first glimpse of the image of the whole universe as interconnected, interpenetrating, mutually reflecting, and mutually embracing.”

Riprap by Gary Snyder
Lay down these words 
Before your mind like rocks. 
  placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
  in space and time: 
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall
  riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way, 
  straying planets, 
These poems, people, 
  lost ponies with 
Draggling saddles —
  and rocky sure-foot trails. 
The worlds like an endless 
Game of Go. 
  ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word 
  a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
  with torment of fire weight 
Crystal and sediment linked hot 
  all change, in thoughts, 
As well as things. 

When describing the inspiration behind his condensed yet distinctly nuanced poetic lines, Snyder said, “I tried writing poems of tough, simple, short words, with the complexity far beneath the surface texture. In part the line was influenced by the five- and seven-character line Chinese poems I’d been reading, which work like sharp blows on the mind.”

Beginning in Snyder’s lifetime, composing poetry in America was a means of openminded imagination and freedom in a country paralyzed by the fear of the unknown. Poetry was especially influential as science (the study of the natural world) began to break down due to its limited ability to manifest the “straying planets” of the unknown—the other biologies or, essentially—the undefined components of reality.

Language and science have limitations. For most Americans who lived through the War and experienced its devastating global impact, the only recourse was an endless round of work, diversion, and consumption of goods and services, which Snyder adamantly tried to escape and denounce throughout his lifetime.

“Riprap” is a loaded, multidimensional indication to both the potential and limitation of words as symbols of deeper understanding. Snyder argues the imagery of language—in this case, poetry—can serve as the stepping stones from which we find the means to understand our interconnected, ever-changing environment and, by consequence, our mysterious selves.
In a portrait by Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder relaxes at home. (Allen Ginsberg LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

Almon, Bert. (1977). Buddhism and Energy in the Recent Poetry of Gary Snyder. Mosaic: A Journal for the Comparative Study of Literature and Ideas, Vol. XI, No. 1.

Charters, Ann. (2001). Beat Down Your Soul. “Gary Snyder.” Penguin Putnam Inc.

Snyder, Gary. (1995). “Language Goes Two Ways.” A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds; New and Selected Prose. Counterpoint Publishing.

Snyder, Gary. (1965). Riprap & Cold Mountain Poems. Counterpoint: Publishers Group West.

Tarn, Nathaniel. (1972). From Anthropologist to Informant: A Field Record of Gary Snyder. Alcheringa, issue 4.

Featured Image of Gary Snyder © The Washington Post