In all that is written, rewritten, discussed, and exhibited about Frank Lloyd Wright, “Romanza” is rarely at the forefront. It was a word the architect reserved for his California projects, a means of describing the unique romanticism that characterized Wright’s West Coast work.
In his most recent book, Frank Lloyd Wright on the West Coast (Gibbs Smith, $50), architectural historian Mark Anthony Wilson unearths the term, creating an encyclopedic salute to Wright’s Occidental passions. The first half is devoted to private residences in California, from famous designs such as the Ennis and Millard Houses to lesser-known (though no less extraordinary) projects like the Hanna House and Stewart House. Wilson uses the final chapters to pay homage to Wright’s public works in California, including his famously controversial Marin County Civic Center, and more residential projects in the Pacific Northwest. Each building bears a story, and perhaps the book’s most intriguing are the largely unstudied exchanges between Wright and, as Wilson writes, “his West Coast female clients, who were strong-willed and independent-minded enough to successfully lobby him to get major changes in his designs,” a rarity in the architect’s practice.
Wilson makes a compelling case, showing the reader that Wright’s affinity for the organic shines ever brighter in California. As writer T. C. Boyle famously put it: “I see him as one of the original hippies.”
Click to see a slide show of Frank Lloyd Wright’s West Coast projects.