Frank Lloyd Wright on simplicity

Frank Lloyd Wright, Hilla von Rebay, and Solomon Guggenheim reviewing the plan for the Guggenheim Museum (August 1945)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Hilla von Rebay, and Solomon Guggenheim reviewing the plan for the Guggenheim Museum (August 1945)
Image credit: Iconic Photos

Now simplicity being the point in question in this early constructive effort, organic simplicity I soon found to be a matter of true coordination. And Beauty I soon felt to be a matter of the sympathy with which such coordination was effected. Plainness was not necessarily simplicity. Crude furniture of the Roycroft-Stickley-Mission Style, which came along later, was offensively plain, plain as a barn door—but never was simple in any true sense. Nor, I found, were merely machine-made things in themselves simple. To think “in simple,” is to deal in simples, and that means with an eye single to the altogether. This, I believe, is the secret of simplicity. Perhaps we may truly regard nothing at all as simple in itself. I believe that no one thing in itself is ever so, but must achieve simplicity (as an Artist should use the term) as a perfectly realized part of some organic whole. Only as a feature or any part becomes an harmonious element in the harmonious whole does it arrive at the estate of simplicity. Any wild flower is truly simple, but double the same wild flower by cultivation, it ceases to be so. The scheme of the original is no longer clear. Clarity of design and perfect significance both are first essentials of the spontaneously born simplicity of the lilies of the field who neither toil nor spin, as contrasted with Solomon who had “toiled and spun”—that is to say, no doubt had put on himself and had put on his temple, properly “composed,” everything in the category of good things but the cook-stove.

Five lines where three are enough is stupidity. Nine pounds where three are sufficient is stupidity. But to eliminate expressive words that intensify or vivify meaning is speaking or writing is not simplicity; nor is similar elimination in Architecture simplicity—it, too, may be stupidity. In Architecture, expressive changes of surface, emphasis of line and especially textures of material, may go to make facts eloquent, forms more significant. Elimination, therefore, may be just as meaningless as elaboration, perhaps more often is so. I offer any fool, for an example.

To know what to leave out and what to put in, just where and just how—Ah, that is to have been educated in the knowledge of Simplicity.
Frank Lloyd Wright in Modern Architecture: being the Kahn lectures for 1930, edited by Neil Levine, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 75. Originally published 1931.

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"Now simplicity being the point in question"
Frank Lloyd Wright Posted on behalf of on Thursday, March 11th, 2010 under Quotations.

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