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Winer, J.A. (2005). Frank Lloyd Wright Power, Powerlessness, and Charisma. Ann. Psychoanal., 33:179-190.

(2005). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 33:179-190

Frank Lloyd Wright Power, Powerlessness, and Charisma

Jerome A. Winer, M.D.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an architectural genius. In this essay, I will tackle two areas of his amazing career. First, how Wright established charismatic relationships with many he knew personally or professionally. To do that, I will explore how interacting with Wright transformed many people who had an unconscious sense of being passive or unappreciated into individuals who felt they were active figures of merit and importance. Sometimes this transformation occurred because they lived in a house that he had designed for them, or because they had commissioned one of his buildings. With his Taliesin apprentices, it was because they worked in his fields, ate in his presence, listened to the music he loved, and stood at his elbow as he worked. To yet others, it might have been the way he made them feel personally important. Brendan Gill, New Yorker writer and later one of Wright's biographers, gives us an example of this: Despite the half-century difference in their ages Wright insisted on the young writer calling him Frank. “When he came to New York he would ring me up from the Plaza Hotel and say ‘Hello Brendan, this is Frank.’ And I felt as if George Washington were telephoning me from Mt. Vernon and saying, ‘Hello Brendan, this is George’” (Gill, 1998, p. 17).

The second major area I will discuss is how Wright's use of space resonates with core aspects of the personalities of many of us who view or enter his buildings. Wright abhorred what he called “boxes.” By doing away with traditional compartmentalization, he gives many a sense of freedom and soothing that often approaches awe. Wright removed boundaries in a way that served to blend his houses with their surroundings and the nature that lay beyond them—and beyond the world as we know it.

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