WRIGHT, FRANK LLOYD
Autographed letter signed ("F.L.L.W."), four pages, on a bifolium, on Jokake Inn letterhead, Jokake, Arizona, [ca. 1925]. In this letter, Wright asks architect "Edgar" [Tafel] to convey his response to the suggestion that he design a building for his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, spelling out his commission and other requirements, providing his rationale for the requirements, suggesting that the practical outlook of the University would make engaging him as likely as engaging "Jesus of Nazareth" for their commencement ceremonies, and closing on a note of optimism about the project.
In 1925, Wright was employed by the University of Wisconsin to design the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, but the following year, the Phi Gamma Delta alumni board dismissed him before his design could be executed. Although Wright attended the University of Wisconsin, he left the program in 1887 and did not receive a degree until 1955, when the University awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.
Folded in fourths; light soiling at creases. Transcription available upon request.
Estimate $ 4,000-6,000
"...You might pass this on to [Franz] Aust and the others:
Point I. I am not seeking a job. I never have sought one and never will seek one. When I am employed I wish to be employed upon the architectural merit of my performance and not upon someones recommendation, client or no client. I have done enough so this merit is in evidence and I have been so employed only.
Point II. The University has an architect who has served it satisfactorily from a business standpoint. I should not want to displace him but use him to execute my designs. [Arthur] Peabody would be, as he is, the architect of the University executing my plans and details to my own satisfaction assisted by my own trained assistants. He (Peabody) knows the politics and patronage of his job. Let that stand. I know nothing of it, nor do I want to know.
Point III. My commission would be ten per cent of the complete cost of the building deducting 2 1/2% for the services of the State architect's supervision of contract-construction; payments as usual and non-interference with plans after acceptance by regents, guaranteed.
Generally speaking: architecture is a fine-art--concerned with the utilities. All the more reason for ensuring the architect against the handicaps of his job, which are plenty without officious interference from any quarter, no matter how well meant or precautious.
And, why should anyone give me a job because someone else found me satisfactory as an architect? The 'someone else' might be an ignoramus, or prejudiced. The fact is, we get most of our abominable abominations in building just exactly that way.
It may be asking too much for a great educational institution to see this through its blinders--but true as can be just the same. I think there is just about as much chance for 'the greatest architect of the 20th century' doing a building for the University of Wisconsin as there would be for Jesus of Nazareth to preach at the annual commencement, were he available for the purpose.
You see I expect not too much from my 'alma mater'--and why? You should know why just as the world knows why--or soon will. Butter and cheese ideals don't leave much to the imagination, you know. Pretty hard to go up against them with anything requiring a premium placed upon that quality in life or work for its own sake. But maybe I have grown too pessimistic. Even a University may change its course and therefore its Destiny in spite of Fear. Let's see...".