Frank Lloyd Wright as Inspiration for RNC Stage Design
Tags: Architecture, Art Criticism, Design, GOP, LA Times, Politics, Stage Design
On Saturday morning, with the Republican National Convention just days away, the LA Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne reveals the inspiration for this year’s stage design– Frank Lloyd Wright– and poses the inevitable question of how that choice will be interpreted symbolically.
Wright (1867-1959), who designed more than 1,000 structures in his lifetime, is arguably the most significant figure in American architecture and design. As Hawthorne points out, the stage design is only subtly reminiscent of Wright and is more aligned with his “Praire Style” domestic architecture than his avant-garde masterpieces: its faux-wood construction and sense of horizontality are, according to Hawthorne, “more Oak Park than Fallingwater, more Robie House than Guggenheim Museum.”
What Hawthorne finds curious is not the RNC’s choice of Wright’s less radical works– they do, after all, resonate with middle-class America and capture that “town hall feel” that Romney is aiming for– but he makes two valid points that question whether or not Wright in general was the right choice.
The most obvious point he raises is the connection to Ayn Rand. Rand chose Wright and his “stubborn sense of individualism” as inspiration for the architect Howard Roark in her 1943 book “The Fountainhead.” Paul Ryan, Romney’s vice presidential running mate, is famously a devotee of Rand– a title that he has shied away from in recent years in an attempt to separate himself from Rand’s stance on atheism and abortion rights. By choosing Wright as their architectural influence, Hawthorne argues, the GOP is setting themselves up for scrutiny on a subject they have attempted to sidestep this election year.
Hawthorne also points out that, beyond the Rand connection, Frank Lloyd Wright is hardly a pillar of Republican Conservatism. His political views, while inconsistent, were more closely aligned with the left; he was distrustful of capitalism and was accused on occasion to have communist affiliations.
Jim Fenhagen, lead production designer for the convention, acknowledges neither point when detailing the rationale behind the design. Instead, he points to Romney’s desire to humanize the immense steel and glass structure of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, while simultaneously offering a contrast to President Obama’s choice of neoclassicism at the 2008 DNC– a design that critics viewed as “grandiose and self-important.”
[via LA Times]
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