I just finished watching Ken Burns’ two episodes on Frank Lloyd Wright. I’m left with where I was at the start, with mixed feelings. Yes, Falling Water is one of the most stunning architectural masterpieces of the past century, but for the most part Wright’s architecture focused on creating inner sanctums, not windows to the world. And most of it leaves me cold.
He was a philanderer and a charlatan and a narcissist and an egoist. And there is no “however” to follow to make up for his personality flaws. The man seems to have been totally unbearable.
But there was genius. He knew how architecture could create a richer internal world.
Which makes me think about his mother.
Ken Burns’ documentary makes clear that Wright’s first and ever love was his mother, and he was hers. His father abandoned them, just as he later abandoned his own first family. The man never negotiated the Oedipus complex, because he didn’t have to. So throughout his life he remained the narcissistic omnipotent childish overlord, and demanded that everyone treat him as king.
But maybe in that pre-oedipal refusal of oedipus, in that refusal to succumb to a superego (the heir of the oedipus complex), he was able to retain an inner magical world that could create Falling Water? What does that say about the tradeoffs we all make every day, trading away creativity for civilization?