The documentary is created by Ken Burns, a celebrated and renowned documentarian. Although the video sounds lengthy with about two hours in duration, it is very engrossing that viewers will never get bored!

Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet2
DVD Cover of Frank Llyod Wright_©imdb.com

Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) is a documentary that revolves around one of the greatest architects of all time – Frank Lloyd Wright! The documentary is created by Ken Burns, a celebrated and renowned documentarian. Although the video sounds lengthy with about two hours in duration, it is very engrossing that viewers will never get bored!

Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet1
Ken Burns_©Twitter

The opening of the documentary was eye-catchy. It started by having William Cronon, a historian, sum up Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision. When William emphasized how Wright perceives architecture, he quoted from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once said “Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you.” After the introduction, the camera fades and shifts to several Wright’s masterpieces.

Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet4
William Cronon_©madison.com

The documentary spent significant time in mentioning the major life events of Frank Lloyd Wright beginning from his birth in 1867 to his death in 1959. Burns also interviewed some of Wright’s grandchildren and the students that he had taught before, which makes the documentary more authoritative.

In the beginning, Burns brought up a discussion about Wright’s family background, mainly about his mother, who shaped him to be a great architect. Although Wright was raised by a far-sighted mother who inspired him to become an architect, he grew up in a traumatic childhood. Despite that, no obstacle can hinder Wright from chasing his dream. At Wright’s 20s, he left his hometown and approached the most renowned architect in New York, a place where Wright’s life as an architect started to take flight. Yet, Wright’s road to success is unlike any other man – he took a shortcut, a path that not everyone will agree with. 

Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet5
Wright when he was little_©flwright.org

Besides, not only does the documentary reveal the key to Wright’s road to success, but it also mentioned something about his personal life that you would not want to miss! Wright was also a man who had a long story about his family relationship that is worth knowing. Despite all the immoral things Wright did in his career and family, he is still loved and supported by a lot of his wealthy clients. 

Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet6
Wrights Family photo_©flwright.org
Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet3
Wright with Olgivanna_©pinterest.com

Other than revealing Wright’s personalities and his personal life, the documentary also shows us how Wright would negotiate with his clients, as well as his design process. For example, how he came up with a masterpiece in just two hours before his client arrived. In the documentary, you will also be able to see the way that Wright used to solve problems. Wright’s buildings are usually challenging for builders due to the limitations of technology in the past. In his first attempt to build the Johnson Wax Headquarters, where tall columns are used to support the ceiling, was being judged for its feasibility. The way Wright dealt with the problem was smart and showed how intelligent he is!

Documentaries for Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) - Sheet7
Johnson Wax Headquarters_ ©atlasofplaces.com

Yet Wright’s career wasn’t as smooth as we expected. One common thing about most buildings of Wright is that they are usually over budget. Moreover, his designs are not always appreciated by others. As a result, Wright did not secure his high rank in being an architect, where the details can be discovered by watching the documentary. The obstacles faced by Wright have further proven his determination to break through and succeed in his career. 

All in all, Burns focuses more on summarizing the architecture genius’s life events, it is like a biography written for the public audience. However, if you are an aspiring student expecting information about the nuts and bolts of architecture, I would recommend you to go to a library and read some books or articles about the greatest architect of all time!

Tsz Kiu Pun
Author

Josephine Pun is a student who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Being a storyteller, journal and photography are channels that she uses to express her unique perception of architecture. Read her articles and experience architecture without leaving your couch!

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