Frank Lloyd Wright and Kitchen Toilet Camo


Don't let anyone say you can't have a toilet in your kitchen. You can. It isn't about aesthetics, a kitchen toilet is all about utility. It is about convenience. It is about value add. Efficiency. Optimization. ROI. If your architect tries to talk you out of that request that's unacceptable. How dare he judge you or question your needs.

To secure the blueprints for your kitchen toilet, you will need to find an architect like Raymond Hood. In the 1920s Raymond built his reputation by giving people exactly what they wanted. He said,

I believe if a client wants a door here or a window there I give it to him. If he wants this or that room here or there or so big, he gets it and where he wants it. And after the thing is all together, if I can't make architecture out of the thing I camouflage the whole business.

Raymond wouldn't have judged your kitchen toilet, he would promise to make it work. As long as the porcelain matched the cabinets, Raymond could wash his hands clean and wipe away his role in your stinky mess. That was his job. Wipe, flush, wash, repeat.

Raymond's choice of the word camouflage is revealing because it shows what he believed the role of art was in his projects. If a client needed some eye candy on one of Raymond's buildings he simply applied whatever decorative style was in fashion at the time. In the 20s that meant the sugary flavor of Art Deco which could be troweled on as simply as spreading frosting on a cake.

He believed,

“There has been entirely too much talk about the collaboration of architect, painter and sculptor; nowadays, the collaborators are the architects, the engineer, and the plumber. …We are considering effort and convenience much more than appearance or effect.”

When the role of the artist gets reduced to camouflage, when convenience and effort gets prioritized above design integrity you end up with kitchen toilets.

Would it surprise you that Raymond Hood was confounded by Frank Lloyd Wright? Raymond was baffled by Wright's ability to create transcendent structures that seemed to contradict the desires that Raymond's customers typically requested. So he asked Frank,

How do you get your houses built? By telling the owner what he's got to do? Or do you hypnotize him?

Frank Lloyd Wright responded,

“Yes, I hypnotize him. There is nothing so hypnotic as the truth. I show him the truth about the thing he wants to do as I have prepared myself to show it to him. And he will see it. If you know, yourself, what should be done and get a scheme founded on sensible fact, the client will see it and take it.”

Wright and Hood both worked for the same type of clients. The difference is that one fought for truth and was immortalized. The other satisfied his clients perfectly and has been forgotten. Who will you be?

It is so easy to be Raymond Hood. Doesn't it feel like your job is to to input a checklist of requirements then hand the blueprints off to another specialist who executes the plans? It seems hopeless. The customer is always right and nobody has the authority to question that chain of command.

So we recite the mandatory customer service scripts.

We follow the mandated brand standards.

We re-skin the Wordpress theme. We insert the ads in the designated spots. We optimize the UX. We let the data drive our decisions.

We apply the frosting.

And as long as the porcelain matches the cabinets, we can wash our hands clean and wipe away our role in the stinky mess. Wipe, flush, wash, repeat.

We admit that this junk is all camouflage, just as Raymond Hood did, but what can we do? Isn't that our job? You feel like you would have to be a hypnotist to change the process.

I love how Wright demystifies the idea of hypnotism. He hypnotized with the truth. It reminds me of the overblown legend of Steve Jobs reality distortion field. To outsiders it looks like magic, but when you strip away the mysticism you are left with an ordinary person who is passionately fighting for truth. A person just like us.

Thanks for reading. If this story resonates, you would like my “Special Hell” series. I post every Saturday so follow me if you don't want to miss my next one. Stay Creative.


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