Cheap and Thin: Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright

Written by Raymond Richard Neutra
Category: · Arts & Photography

What “Cheap and Thin: Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright” is About

What is the psychological process whereby one person inspires and influences another? In this richly illustrated book, Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra traces the forty-year relationship between his parents and the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The author’s father, the pioneer modern architect Richard Neutra, immigrated to the United States in the early 1920’s with the dual motivation of working for his idol Frank Lloyd Wright and for exploring the American industrial potential for economical and light weight housing, schools, medical facilities and other “architecture of social concern.” He brought his young wife with him to work for Wright in the last part of 1924 and they maintained a correspondence with Wright over the next forty years until the great man’s death. Within nine years of his arrival in the United States Richard Neutra’s writings on American building practices and technology and his 1927-29 steel framed “Lovell Health House” and plan for a prefabricated Ring Plan School won him a place in the 1932 MOMA “International Style” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Wright’s early cordiality changed to vitriol when he characterized those projects as “Cheap and Thin.” Although meant as an insult, the characterization revealed a recognition of the different direction that Richard Neutra’s goals had given to the basic strategies that Wright had developed twenty years earlier: Neutra wanted to develop an economic and light way to deploy technology and nature for a happy and healthy life. The book quotes from the many letters exchanged between Wright and the Neutra’s and recounts family memories of visits between them. It then explores the substantial influence of Wright on Neutra and how Neutra adapted, adopted and added strategies and design features to gradually develop what was to become mid-century “California Modern.”

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