Ladies Man

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Architects and apprentices in the Taliesin West drafting room, ca. 1962 (Courtesy Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, Taliesin West)

On Wednesday night, the Guggenheim brought together the women behind the man, and apparently the myth of Frank Lloyd Wright, in a program titled “The Architecture of Wright: Wright, Women & Narrative.”

Co-organized with the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, the lecture was accompanied by the premiere of A Girl Is A Fellow Here: 100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, a 15-minute documentary film produced by the Foundation. Throughout his career, Wright employed over 100 women architects and designers, and the film focuses on the lives of six of these women, including Marion Mahony, Isabel Roberts, Lois Gottlieb, Jane Duncombe, Eleanore Petterson, and Read Weber, who worked alongside Wright during his prolific career from his Oak Park offices to Taliesin West.Through their work and words, the film reveals what each woman learned from their time with Wright, what they took with them, and how they went on to become established architects in their own right. From splitting wood, to laying shingles, drafting, and designing, women were treated as equals under Wright. Given the opportunity of training and practice, the film shows, these women went from apprentices to partners and owners of their own firms, creating thousands of projects across the country.

While the film focused more specifically on the women and their role in the history of modern architecture (which unfortunately, for the most part, was overlooked until this documentary), the accompanying discussion, led by Suzannah Lessard with Carol Gilligan and Gwendolyn Wright, was structured around Wright. Using the documentary as a catalyst, the lecture delved into deeper issues of architectural narrative and how Wright’s autonomy often overshadowed his collaborative relationships, in this case, with the women he employed.

The film is scheduled to be released in mid-July, and will soon be available on the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation’s website.

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