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Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

The Wasmuth Portfolio

Berlin, 1909-1910


The distinguished architectural historian, Vincent Scully, considers 'The Wasmuth Portfolio' to be 'one of the three most influential treatises of the twentieth century.' It was printed by the eminent architectural publisher A.G. Wasmuth in Berlin in 1909-1910 in an edition of several thousand. However, both Wasmuth and Wright were disappointed in their hopes for success; most of the edition was stored in Wright's home and studio Taliesin East, Wisconsin and were destroyed in a fire. The surviving prints, therefore, have become more precious as the major statement of the architect's first twenty years - the richest and most revolutionary period of his career.

Some of Wright's greatest achievements - the Dana and Coonley Houses, the Larkin Building, Unity Temple - were included in the portfolio, as well as projects he created with no client in mind. The exteriors and many ground plans are printed on the soft colors he specified for his interiors (buff, grey, green). Most of these presentation drawings are followed by a tissue sheet giving a ground plan or architectural detail.

Although the heavy-paper sheets are more conventionally impressive, the tissues preserve the look and feel of the architect's studio. All of these were the product of enormous man-hours of work by Wright and the draftsmen in his office. Many of those, including Marian Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffin, were excellent architects and draftsmen themselves.