The 1923 opening of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, was the culmination of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most ambitious and elaborate commissions. It was Wright’s first international project, inaugurating him as one of the first twentieth century architects of global significance. In celebration of the Imperial Hotel’s 100th anniversary, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy are partnering to offer a series of online conversations about Wright’s engagement with Japan and the world. Wright first visited Japan in 1905 and ultimately made seven trips there, spending a total of nearly three years in the country. The Imperial Hotel commission was an opportunity for Wright to experiment with themes and ideas that had been in gestation for years and that would later resurface in his work: Japanese prints, the relationship between architecture and landscape, and a deep interest in global cultures. Talks, moderated by Jennifer Gray, Vice President of the Taliesin Institute at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, will highlight the network of people and places that intersect with Wright’s experience in Japan and resurface in projects around the world.

Support for this event series provided by:
Lee Altmayer
Rotary Historic Preservation Fellowship

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Speakers & Sessions

Report from Japan: 1923-2023

Ken Oshima
Professor Ken Tadashi Oshima
University of Washington

Thursday, November 9, 2023
7 p.m. EST / 4 p.m. PST

The centennial of Wright’s Imperial Hotel invites us to reflect on the global nature of his practice as well as its continued relevance today as a fourth new Imperial Hotel is being planned by Tsuyoshi Tane Architects and the first major exhibition on Wright’s work in twenty-six years opens at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in Toyota City, Japan. In this talk, one of the co-curators of Wright’s Imperial Hotel at 100: Frank Lloyd Wright and the World explores the multicultural design and historic significance of Wright’s original 1923 design, the architect’s first global commission, in the context of the Wright’s broader engagement with a globalizing world. Publications such as the well-known Wasmuth portfolio—its design influenced by the Japanese prints Wright collected, prepared in Italy, published in Germany, and ultimately impacting a generation of European modernists—capture the transcultural nature of Wright’s practice. Such global networks reverberate across Wright’s career, from his significant relationships with Hendricus Wijdeveld and the journal Wendingen in the Netherlands, the architects Bruno Zevi and Carlo Scarpa and the commission for the Masieri Memorial in Italy, to numerous engagements with Japanese designers and publications, such as Kameki Tsuchiura and Kokusai kenchiku, Masami Tanigawa and Wright and Japan, and the work of Yoshio Watanabe, Osamu Murai and Yukio Futagawa. Wright’s globalism was prescient during his lifetime and continues with new building campaigns, scholarship, exhibitions, publications, and this online series that engage and advance his legacy today.

'To See A World In A Grain Of Sand'

Matthew Skjonsberg
Matthew Skjonsberg
Director, Praxis Institute

Thursday, December 7, 2023
7 p.m. EST / 4 p.m. PST

With the Usonian Automatic system of concrete blocks Frank Lloyd Wright created a method of construction that, like his earlier ‘textile blocks’, could be used for individual houses or for community buildings and infrastructure. This lecture will address the creation and deployment of this system together with other systems he developed, while considering how the system reflects the influence of architecture from other places – including Japan, Egypt, and France.

Apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright: Kameki & Nobu Tsuchiura

Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka, Ph.D.
Architectural historian; lecturer, Kanagawa University

Thursday, January 11, 2024
7 p.m. EST / 4 p.m. PST

Kameki Tsuchiura (1897-1996) apprenticed to Wright in Los Angeles and Spring Green from 1923 to 1925, with his wife Nobu1900-1998) who aims to become an architect. The talk will focus on their life in the US and their works in Japan in the 1930s, based on the interview in 1988-89.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Water Gardens, 1893-1959: The Japanese Tradition

Kathryn Smith
Kathryn Smith
Author, historic preservation consultant, and lecturer

Thursday, February 8, 2024
7 p.m. EST / 4 p.m. PST

Drawn from current book in progress: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Water Gardens, 1893-1959. Over his career, Frank Lloyd Wright was especially noted for designing not just buildings, but gardens and landscapes as extensions of his buildings. Wright drew on the two main landscape traditions: the Italian-French system of a man-made order dominating nature and the Japanese aesthetic of designing in harmony with nature. Wright did not see these traditions in opposition, he used one or the other, depending on the commission. Yet his was not an academic mind. He was an artist who looked at models and synthesized principles to generate his own creation. Between 1916-22, Wright lived most of each year in Japan where he experienced Japanese water (and dry) gardens in person, through books, and, possibly through instruction by his Japanese art master, Shugio Hiromichi. He became familiar with such sites as Shugaku-in Imperial Villa and Katsura Imperial Villa (both Kyoto). He was particularly prolific with water after he developed a sequential Japanesque eight-part system: a) pool as spring, b) stream, c) pond, d) waterfall, e) stream, f) river, g) lake, h) ocean. Sometimes these elements were present naturally on the site; other times, he designed one or more components (sometimes six or more) where the water garden became his own creation. Most of these schemes were unbuilt. However, two–Taliesin and Fallingwater–are acclaimed masterpieces. While the first consists of a-b-c-d-e-f components, Fallingwater is b-d-d-e.

Registration

Registration is required. Tickets are available for the full series ($45) or for each session individually ($15). Members of the two presenting organizations may register for the full series at the discounted rate of $30. In order to receive the member rate for the full series:

If you have questions about these events or require registration assistance, please email [email protected].

Register for the full series

Standalone registration is available for individual talks. There is no member discount for standalone registration.

How this event series works

Each session will take place on Zoom and last for approximately one hour, including presentation and discussion. Before each session, you will receive an email with a Zoom access link. Please install and test Zoom in advance on the device on which you intend to view the event. Every session will be recorded, and the recordings of the sessions for which you registered will remain available to view on demand through April 30, 2024.

Related exhibits

Frank Lloyd Wright's Plan for Greater Baghdad rendering

Plan for Greater Baghdad. Baghdad, Iraq. Project, 1957. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

The lecture series is planned to coincide with an international exhibition called The Wright Imperial Hotel at 100: Frank Lloyd Wright and the World, a multi-year collaboration between museums and curators in the United States and Japan, including Professor Ken Tadashi Oshima and Dr. Jennifer Gray. This is the first major exhibit on the American architect mounted in Japan in twenty-six years. It takes the Imperial Hotel as a point of departure for exploring Wright’s practice in a global context. The exhibition opens October 21, 2023, at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in Toyota City, Japan, and will include original architectural drawings, models, furniture, photographs, graphic design, films, and more. It will subsequently travel to the Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art (January 11—March 10, 2024) and the Aomori Museum of Art (March 20—May 12, 2024).

A thematically-related exhibition will take place at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo, New York, from November 17, 2023, through May 12, 2024. Thought-Built: The Imperial Hotel at 100 offers a rare look at this lost work through original architectural elements rescued from demolition, including tiles, bricks, Ōya stone blocks, and an art  glass window, as well as a deeper understanding of Wright’s relationship with the Martins during this formative period in his career.

Posted September 23, 2023