The Unexpected Life Behind Architecture’s Rebel, Frank Lloyd Wright
The Unexpected Life Behind Architecture’s Rebel, Frank Lloyd Wright

The Unexpected Life Behind Architecture’s Rebel, Frank Lloyd Wright

Aimee Heidelberg - May 13, 2023

The Unexpected Life Behind Architecture’s Rebel, Frank Lloyd Wright
Wright’s design for Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, built as King Kamehameha Golf Club, Waikapu, Hawaii. Heidi deVries (2021)

When Frank Met Marilyn

After marrying Arthur Miller in 1956, Marilyn Monroe contacted Wright to create a home on Miller’s Roxbury, Connecticut property. They were looking to renovate the house Miller had bought in 1949 when he completed Death of a Salesman. The were thinking of tearing down the original building, a Revolutionary War-era farmhouse built in 1769, replacing it with something sleek and modern. Rather than drawing a brand-new design, Wright resurrected unbuilt plans he created for a wealthy Texas couple. But Miller disliked the design. Nor did he want to take on oversight of a complete overhaul of the property. The couple divorced in 1961, and the plans remained unbuilt. Miller would live in the original farmhouse until his death in 2005. But the plans wouldn’t stay down for long; in 1988, some investors from Japan used the plans to create the King Kamehameha Golf Club clubhouse.

The Unexpected Life Behind Architecture’s Rebel, Frank Lloyd Wright
Crowds in from of Boy’d Department Store, Missouri, USA (c. 1910). Public domain.

Wright Hated Cities

Wright was no fan of the state of cities. He found them overcrowded, poorly designed, and lacking cultural and social quality. He once said, “To look at the plan of a great city, is to look at something like the cross-section of a fibrous tumor.” Wright would not avoid cities, however. One of his last big projects was the Guggenheim Museum along Central Park, which required him to make an extended stay in New York City. But Wright had a vision of making cities better. He developed his idea, Broadacre City, to create a better city, based on the automobile (one of Wright’s lifelong loves), to decentralize the urban core and focus on the individual. As with his architecture, the parts of the community all played into a whole, to serve as “urban form and democratic ideas” to allow for individual growth.

The Unexpected Life Behind Architecture’s Rebel, Frank Lloyd Wright
Monona Terrace, Wright’s design with arched windows. Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Emory (2014).

New Wright Buildings are Still Constructed

When Wright died, he left hundreds of design ideas in his file cabinet. Designers have adapted some of Wright’s designs for modern use and construction. In Madison, Wisconsin, Monona Terrace. The Marilyn Monroe plans that now serve as a golf clubhouse in Maui, Hawaii. And in 2007, Marc Coleman of County Wicklow in Ireland wanted to build a Wright design. He contacted the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, who looked at the land and selected a Wright design that would suit the terrain. Coleman chose a 1959 design. The Foundation requires people building a Wright design to consult with one of the architects that worked and studied with Wright, so they worked with E. Thomas Casey, who studied under Wright and was the structural engineer on Wright’s design for the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

10 things you never knew about Frank Lloyd Wright. Dana Schulz, 6sqft, 8 June 2017.

Busted: Frank Lloyd Wright “Failed to appear in class.” (n.a.) University of Wisconsin – Madison, College of Letters and Sciences, 25 January 2012.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan. Kevin Nute, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2021.

Frank Lloyd Wright credited Japan for his all-American aesthetic. Kevin Nute, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 June 2017.

Letters to Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright. Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (ed.). The Architectural Press: London, pp. 1 – 41.

Little known facts about Frank Lloyd Wright. Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art, 8 June 2017.

Long, hard journey: From the pen of Frank Lloyd Wright to Hawaii. Brett Campbell, Wall Street Journal, 19 April 2007.

Marilyn Monroe’s houses: Inside her most notable addresses. Lisa Liebman, Architectural Digest, 29 September 2022.

Native Genius. (n.a.), Time Magazine, 20 April 1959

The Auto as Architect’s Inspiration. Ingrid Steffensen, New York Times, 6 August 2009.

The Houses Wright Built. Charles Lockwood, New York Times, 8 June 1986.

The Massacre at Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Love Cottage.” Christopher Klein,, 8 June 2017

The Triumph of Frank Lloyd Wright. Arthur Lubow, Smithsonian Magazine. June 2009.

Unmasking Frank Lloyd Wright. Gary Abrams, Los Angeles Times, 29 November 1987.

Usonian Architect. (n.a.) Time Magazine, 17 January 1938.