Friday, November 18, 2011

Wright's New Orleans Mission

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) visited Tulane University in 1950. He had been invited to address New Orleans business leaders by Buford L. Pickens, then director of the School of Architecture.

Years later, Pickens recounted the event:

"Well, about Frank Lloyd Wright's visit--Ken Landry drove Wright from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. During this two hour ride down, Wright had 'confessed' to him that he had done the design of the old Illinois Central railroad station, that Sullivan was busy doing something more important at the time and Wright had actually done that building. I think Wright was the chief draftsman. At the time it would have been difficult to satisfy the needs of the railway people and to keep that building. What could have been done, however, would have been to have Wright design the building to replace it. That was the whole purpose of this visit, to come down and have him present his pitch to the Chamber of Commerce or its equivalent with its big wheelers and dealers, prime movers in New Orleans. People coming down from Chicago would get off the train and walk through a palm tree garden and have a very botanical kind of setting. Prominent alumni architects in this school helped to sponsor that meeting because they were influential in agreeing with me that if we got Wright personally to confront these people, that maybe he could pull it off and get the job."

Buford L. Pickens, interview with Bernard Lemann, recorded April 1988. As transcribed in Bernard Lemann, et al. Talk about Architecture: A Century of Architectural Education at Tulane. New Orleans: Tulane University School of Architecture, 1993, p. 112.

Image above: Unknown photographer. Frank Lloyd Wright at Tulane University. 1950. Color diapositive. Frank Lloyd Wright Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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