Betsky at Taliesin . . . Duck!

Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Chicago. (flwright.org)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Chicago. (flwright.org)

Amusing to hear that modern architecture’s ranter-in-chief, Aaron Betsky, has been hired as dean of the School of Architecture at Taliesin West – in Scottsdale, Ariz – where Frank Lloyd Wright spent his final years as an architectural provocateur. How fitting.

Aaron Betsky. (mikkischaffer.com)

Aaron Betsky. (mikkischaffer.com)

Frank Lloyd Wright, in cape. (pressvision.wordpress.com)

Frank Lloyd Wright, in cape. (pressvision.wordpress.com)

FLW in class, 1957. (flwfoundation.tumblr.com)

FLW in class, 1957. (flwfoundation.tumblr.com)

As a notorious ranter in my own right, I bow down to the decision by FLW’s heirs and assigns to put the school into the hands of an expert arm-flapper. His recent expression of anger in Architecture, mouthpiece of the AIA, at the New York Times for allowing criticism of modernism to appear on its oped pages must have been noticed at Taliesin. And certainly they were impressed by the Betsky scandal at the Cincinnati Art Museum, which led to his resignation one year ago. Betsky permitted an art installation in which a marksman shot a bullet down a hallway at the museum in order to navel-gaze at the bullet’s passing propinquity to actual works of art.

So, yes! Duck, indeed!

Wright’s career had its famous highs and lows. After decades designing signature houses that emphasized horizontality and ornament that embraced its terrain – the Prairie School – he suffered a brain fart that led to work that won him affection from modernists after decades of arms-length frigidity. Many modernists have tried to closet the traditional work of their early careers. Wright never did, and few recall the ambivalence among modernists that attended his inclusion at the 1932 MoMA exhibition that launched the International Style in America. His reputation has survived apostasy, tragedy and episodes of marital infidelity that would tarnish that of a lesser light.

Wright imbibed of the modernist Kool Aid relatively late in his career. That was before it became the new orthdoxy. He would be appalled today at what modernism has become. He would refuse to join the lickspittle brigades that carry on the cult. Betsky, no less than the faculty and staff he will oversee in Taliesin, does not realize that they are as far in spirit from Wright as it is possible to be. In short, he is the perfect choice to carry on its mission of helping young architects stick their heads in the sand as they continue modernism’s mission of aiming its calculated arrogance at the public.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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