Reconciling finding philosophical (and spiritual) value in Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture with the way he lived


So I just love Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture. Whenever I am nearby a house or building I can tour, I take detour to visit…there are very few in the region where I live. Places like his home in Chicagoland, the Guggenheim, and Fallingwater are pretty amazing to me. Frank talks about the philosophy of his work, and I see that philosophy reflected in his architecture. There is a lot to learn about. He designed Synagogues, some Christian churches, and Unitarian temples (He was Unitarian). I don’t know if he ever designed anything Catholic. There is value in what he done on many levels…including philosophical and maybe even spiritual.

I know he was Unitarian, and I also know he had many affairs and many mistresses in his life. Somebody even wrote a book about it…Loving Frank. I’d like peoples thoughts on how to reconcile Frank’s work where I see value with his life that was not Christian.

Of all the things I’ve struggled with, I’ve struggled with this one quite a lot.


King Solomon built a breathtaking temple for God. At the same time, he had an excessive number of wives, permitted them to worship their pagan false gods, and even joined them in doing so.

The temple wasn’t any less breathtaking because of his behavior, and plenty of very holy people, including Jesus, worshipped and taught there.

God can use people who do immoral things for his own good purposes. We see this throughout the Old Testament especially.

Additionally, admiring the quality of art created by any artist doesn’t mean we have to also approve their personal lifestyle. Many artists were pretty immoral, or they were tortured souls who happened to be blessed with the ability to create art while their personal lives were a wreck.

Best thing you could do for Frank would be to pray for his soul, if you feel so drawn to his work.


I actually never thought of that at all. Great advice! Next time I go into one of his buildings, I will actually do that.

We’ll see if part of the ceiling falls off and hits me in the head…kidding…sort of.


Have you ever looked at any of Fay Jones’ work? I’m a convert, was married prior to my conversion, and was married in one of Fay Jones’ chapels.


I had seen his work before…pretty cool. He was a protégé and a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright. Some of Fay Jones’ chapels are quite something.


People are complicated


You should watch the play/film Amadeus. It deals with this sort of thing. The fact is, people who created things we admire were human just like us. Some of them just happened to commit more conspicuous sins than others. I’ll bet that even Bach probably had a few sins on his conscience.

As for where to draw the line, that’s up to you personally. I struggle, for example, with Eric Gill. He was a great artist who produced some beautiful work, but he did have sexual relations with his servants, his daughters (as children), his sister, his brother-in-law, and his dog. For me it’s the sustained and systematic campaign of sexual abuse of his daughters that tips me over into considering him sufficiently beyond the pale that I struggle to enjoy his art.

Similarly with the brilliant children’s writer William Mayne, when it came out that he had in fact been a prolific sex offender, including exploiting his position as a celebrated children’s writer to further his crimes, I just couldn’t enjoy his books any more.


I have some of Eric Gill’s art in my Catholic Art Pinterest. I had no idea about his profane history. Now that I know, I will not remove his art, but will pray for his soul. As depraved as he is, I stand behind separating the artist from his evils. Everyone is entitled to draw their own line. For me, I feel that if I looked for only artists of pure virtue, I would have no art to admire. Should they be saints? And if you look at lives of saints, many had scandal in their past. Maybe Gill had the chance to redeem himself, only God knows.


I think God would want us to learn, once again, from these sorts of examples, that no person is all good or all bad, that most people are a mixed bag of good and evil. There are plenty of people who appear “good” or “bad” in public, but in private may have a completely opposite side to their behavior that is only seen by God and maybe a few humans. There are people who are so anxious to please and look good in public that they reserve their negative behavior to only a couple of very trusted people who they rely upon to not tell about their awful secrets or bad private behaviors.

We would also do well not to regard a particular crime, such as incest, as somehow a greater sin than the ones that many of us commit regularly. In the eyes of God we may be guilty of sins that are just as bad or even worse, and also we have no idea if the other person had some kind of state of mind or circumstance that would cause God to show mercy to him. Many who abuse were themselves abused as children and are just repeating behavior they learned at the hands of others. It is still a sin but God would also have understanding for the fact that the person was a victim who may not have ever had any rescue or help.


If I were an architect, I might have concern about this and if the buildings were in the process of being built. But seeing how it doesn’t really affect me directly, I really don’t care too much.


Thank you for the good responses…to my odd thread…

So I thought about this further, and googled it further. I found this link which I thought was interesting.

I talks about the architectural and philosophical lessons and ideas from Frank Lloyd Wright a well as some of his quotes. For example…

  1. “The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”
  2. “The architect must be a prophet… a prophet in the true sense of the term… if he can’t see at least ten years ahead don’t call him an architect.”
  3. “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”
  4. “There should be as many (styles) of houses as there are kinds (styles) of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals. A man who has individuality has a right to its expression and his own environment.”

Frank’s quotes almost take on a religious/spiritual tone. While I haven’t really thought about all of what he said, I don’t agree with him always, but his philosophical ideas are worth discussing.

For example point 4 above…he is talking about the right of individuality to express itself. Does the same individuality lead to many mistresses? Is the same individuality necessary to be a great architect or artist? Do Christians have a right to individuality like Frank described?

For point 1, I’d really doubt that art/architecture/engineering/science really represent the soul of a civilization. A people can be in poverty an not have the luxury to create, but their civilization still has a soul. At the same I’ve been to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel…wow! Is Frank’s narrow definition of a soul of a civilization blinding him to what was important in life? How do Christians judge the soul of a civilization, and how does it differ from Frank’s view?

Anyway, these are my thoughts and questions for tonight :wink: …I’d welcome anybody who wants to have an interesting discussion…

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