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Wright Out of Vienna


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To the editors:

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the article on the Unity Temple [Neighborhood News, October 13] and the author referred to Frank Lloyd Wright's "use of Japanese-inspired architecture" in designing the building.

Fortunately, it is documented that Wright collaborated on some interior designs with Viennese architects/designers but I would just for once love to see someone in Oak Park talk about how Wright was influenced in his building designs by the Viennese architect Otto Wagner.

Unity Temple, for instance, has so many details that are similar to Wagner's designs: the boxy shape like the Church at Steinhof (minus the dome, of course); the interior light fixtures; the use of Wagner's characteristic square box pattern on the facade. Wright, after all, did go to Europe.

But really, Japanese???? Try Viennese!

Renee Calderon

N. Cambridge

Bryan Miller replies:

And my Wright experts couldn't believe this letter. For instance, Wright lecturer Lyman Shepard says that, while there is some influence from the Viennese architect Josef Marie Olbrich, designer of the Secession building, many more of the details (particularly interior) are Japanese in origin. Olbrich was a student of Otto Wagner, but, says Shepard, to attribute much influence on Wright to Wagner "is really stretching it."

He adds, "You can argue all kinds of things, but it certainly is fair to call [Unity Temple] 'Japanese inspired.' This is all academic stuff, really."

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