Modern Master's living designs;Arts;Exhibition

19th March 1999 at 00:00
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Living City. Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow. Until April 11. This Frank Lloyd Wright show is the first in a series of three Modern Masters of Architecture exhibitions being staged as part of Glasgow's year-long festival of design and architecture.

An American by birth, Wright is considered one of the outstanding architects of the 20th century. By the time he died in 1959 at the age of 92, he had designed an estimated 800 buildings, from schools, shops and petrol stations to entire cities. He is particularly known for his low-built prairie-style bungalows and as the architect of the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in New York (1956-9). He also designed furniture and textiles.

Wright was born in the state of Wisconsin in 1867, to a clergyman father and a Welsh mother. He abandoned his first wife and their six children for a woman who was subsequently murdered by his butler, who set fire to their house and hacked the occupants to death as they tried to escape. A period of turmoil followed - the architect went bankrupt and even spent some time in jail. But he re-established his reputation by writing his autobiography and setting up his own architecture school, eventually going on to design as many buildings during the last 20 years of his life - including the spiral-ramped Guggenheim Museum - as he had in the previous 50.

Wright's work is represented in the exhibition by 169 drawings, 50 photographs, five architectural models, four videos and 45 pieces of original furniture and objects - all of high quality.

His architectural drawings are superb in their detail and colour. The plans for his famous Living City should thrill and inspire even small children, with their sci-fi-like commuter helicopters, bubble cars and other Fifties-style space-age features.

Among the table-top models is the "great workroom" from the 1936 FC Johnson amp; Son administration building in Wisconsin, which includes lit interiors with dozens of tiny desks, typewriters, spiral staircases and revolving doors through which you can look.

Wright admitted that he found designing chairs difficult, and described many of his attempts as "heavy, clumsy or angular".One of the chairs on display in Glasgow, designed for the 1956 Price Tower, an office and apartment building in Oklahoma, underlines his insecurity in this particular field.

But this is a show that will leave you wanting more. Teachers and children of all ages would be well advised to visit it.

All day modelling and multimedia workshops have been organised for Secondary 1 and 2 pupils, followed by in-service workshops for teachers who were also invited to a free "Architects Talking" evening at Glasgow University.Further information from the Glasgow 1999 education officer, Anne Wallace, on 0141 287 7191.

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