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Wrightscapes : Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0071377683
ISBN-10: 0071377689
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Could there be anything more to say about the 20th century's most written-about architect? Landscape architecture professor Charles Aguar (Univ. of Georgia) and wife Berdeana find a fresh perspective by examining Frank Lloyd Wright's work through the eyes of environmentally conscious landscape designers. Backed by a decade's fieldwork, interviews, and archival sleuthing, the authors offer highly informed critiques of 85 designs that span Wright's 70-year career. Familiar buildings are seen in an entirely new light as the authors scrutinize each structure's interrelationship with its grounds, plantings, and "hardscape" the terraces, walls, and planters Wright used to anchor his buildings to their settings. They emphasize Wright's prescient advocacy of sound environmental planning. Unfortunately, the Aguars' penchant for speculation sometimes leads to head-scratching conclusions Wright as feng-shui master? and the book's cramped typeface, eye-straining illustrations, and perfunctory index detract from a text that deserves much better presentation. However, by and large, this lucid, solidly researched analysis will open new avenues of appreciation and inquiry for Wright fans and scholars. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries, and wherever there is an interest in green architecture and sustainable landscapes. David Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Wrightscapes documents the environmental designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. Authors Charles and Berdeana Aguar chronicle the life of this talented icon from his childhood in the harsh climates of Wisconsin through to his adult life in the warmer temperatures at Taliesin West in the Arizona desert.

The authors show Wright as having been extremely sensitive to site planning and other landscape-related issues. The Aguars detail how Frederick Law Olmsted, the Columbian Exposition, and the rebuilding of Chicago after the great fire of 1871 had a profound impact on the career of America's most famous architect.

Wrightscapes clearly delineates Wright's life into understandable stages and tackles each phase with a level of detail that is impressive since Wright's life has already been so well researched. To obtain their wealth of Wright knowledge, the authors conducted extensive site visits and studies, established personal relationships with former and present owners of Wright projects and created a productive relationship with the people of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Wrightscapes will benefit those who believe landscape architects should strongly influence a site's design before the structural architecture is created. This book makes it clear that Wright took the landscape into consideration and consulted landscape architects, including the notable Jens Jensen, before designing houses and other buildings. Wright's interest in innovative landscape design can be seen early on in his career with the design of his Oak Park home and studio, which he sited to take advantage of views, privacy, trees, vegetation and microclimates. He was also an ardent proponent of the Prairie School, a modern architectural design style that promoted the use of native plants and creating a sense of place within designed landscapes.

Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's estate in Spring Green, Wisconsin, was one of his most mature landscape designs and upheld his Organic Architecture design principals. Wright took great pains to design the house and land into one element that combined American, Italian, and Japanese components of landscape design into one cohesive whole. The book points out that although Falling Water was his most famous design, it went against his Organic Architecture strategies. These design guidelines stated that architecture should be sited in a manner that lets the occupants enjoy the most prominent features of the site, instead of building on top of them. The in-depth study done on many of Wright's Organic Architecture design sites will benefit landscape architects because they show the importance that the sun, seasons, wind, and other natural parameters of the place play into designing our environment.

Wrightscapes may never have come to fruition without the persistence and dedication of Charles Aguar's wife Berdeana after the untimely death of her husband. Wright fans and landscape architects owe a great debt to her for this because without her diligence this important book may have never been published. Thanks to Berdeana, the world can enjoy a new book about Frank Lloyd Wright that is progressive and forward thinking, an extremely difficult feat to accomplish.

Unlike Wright, an architectural genius who realized fame and critical acclaim while living, it is sometimes difficult to assess a person's true accomplishments until after they have passed away. The extent a person impacts their community, profession and family can sometimes only be fully realized once they are gone. Such is the case with Charles Aguar who passed away before Wrightscapes was published. I have learned from many sources of Aguar's extreme devotion to his students, peers and his wife Berdeana, a bond that was undividable. Aguar also greatly impacted his community as seen through his contribution to the creation of Athens (GA) greenway.

He also contributed a great deal of research to the profession of landscape architecture including an in-depth study into the life and works of landscape designer Earle S. Draper, whom Aguar dubbed "the unsung hero of Southern (U.S.) landscape architecture." Aguar's most significant research legacy nevertheless will most likely be the work that he and Berdeana compiled into Wrightscapes. (Georgia Landscape Magazine 2003-07-01)

Excerpts from feature article in HOME section by Lisa Morrison

Springfield --

You hear the admiration in her voice as she begins to speak.

Berdeana Aguar, co-author of the book, Wrightscapes is talking about Frank Lloyd Wright looking at the site planning, landscape design and community planning elements of his career...

In 1994, the Aguars got the idea to write about Wright. When they looked at the vast number of books on the architect, they saw a hole. Not much had been written about the outside of Wright homes -- the landscaping and planning that went into the site selection and plantings.

They gathered information by traveling the country, visiting homes and talking to the families Wright designed for. Additional information was gained by looking at the original site plans and how they had evolved.

What began as a two-volume series was eventually edited down to one book and released in May 2002.

Berdeana was faced with finishing the book herself when her husband died in 2000. She is currently working on a new book about her husband's work across the country.

This is some of what the Aguars discovered after years of study:

* Much of what Wright created was a reaction against the formal Victorian period. His landscaping went to the opposite of the evergreen, planned and ornate landscapes.

* Wright didn't want his homes to look like other homes in the area. The large, high-maintenance gardens of the time were replaced with easy-to-maintain natural areas. Wright didn't try to hide but instead tried to blend where house and ground meet.

* He extended the lines of his structural designs with long linear planter boxes, which he preferred be planted with a draping ivy-type plant. He added depth and light to designs by layering the outsides as well as the insides of homes with sunken gardens and changing depths.

"The three elements you would use in a Wright garden would be native, deciduous and perennial plants," Berdeana said. ...

The Aguars' book takes a look at the wide range of work Wright created, the planned developments, site plans and the influences in his life. (Herald and Review, Decatur, IL 2003-05-11)

Review by Edith Payne from Spring 2003 Issue

Those interested in Wright have long awaited a definitive study of the surroundings for Wright's architecture. It has now been published, and it constitutes a masterful addition to those books that critically evaluate Wright's work.

The authors are a husband (now, unfortunately deceased) and wife: he a Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the horticulturally-eminent University of Georgia; she, a scriptwriter for commercial videos and documentary films. Coincidentally, Professor Aguar attended the Conservancy’s organizational meeting at Taliesin West, and he was on the program at the Conservancy’s 1991 meetings in Grand Rapids, where he presented some of the early research for this book.

Like many Wright aficionados, Professor Aguar, then a student of landscape architecture and city planning, sought to join the Taliesin Fellowship, and in 1948 both Aguars traveled to Taliesin for that purpose. Although Professor Aguar was unable to do so because of the unavailability of GI benefits, the interest of both Aguars in Wright continued throughout their lives. In the past decade, that interest became a major professional focus as they conducted the field investigations, the interviews of original and subsequent homeowners, and the research that underlie this book.

Wrightscapes itself is not an architecture book, nor it is wholly a landscape one. It is an integration that could only be achieved by a true landscape "architect." It teaches that, at least as far as Wright was concerned, buildings and their surroundings cannot be separated. It demonstrates that the whole is best interpreted by persons who have knowledge and understanding of both hardscape and natural surroundings.

The book is organized in a chronological fashion, spanning Wright's work from the early bootleg days to the conclusion of his Usonian years. The Aguars' focus, by necessity, is principally upon structure and siting as the authors explore the relationship developed by Wright between the two in individual homes and planned communities. However, the Aguars include as well extremely informative analyses of the forces that shaped Wright’s thinking and of the work of those who contributed crucially to its development.

As stated by Mrs. Aguar, "It never was our intent to write another book deifying Wright," and this book does not. Instead, it details with remarkable grace and balance the process by which Wright learned his craft, it discusses the distinctions that exist between his rhetoric and reality, and it describes not only Wright's extraordinary triumphs but also sympathetically analyzes his professional failings and the lessons learned from them.

Wrightscapes is in no sense a cocktail table book, since its layout is of a density that discourages casual reading. Along those lines, one could wish that the book had been published in the two volumes that were initially proposed so that the copious diagrams and illustrations could be viewed with greater ease. However, thanks, one suspects, to Mrs. Aguar's talents, the book is eminently readable, and it invites hard use as an accompaniment to Wright site excursions. Of particular interest to landscape designers and simple gardeners are the appendices containing lists of plant materials designated for use at various Wright projects.

In an afterword to the book, the authors write, "The writing of Wrightscapes will have been worthwhile if it prevents any more destruction of the type that resulted from saving an endangered landmark, but relocating it with a siting and orientation foreign to its former occupants. It will have been worthwhile if it creates an awareness for the importance of replacement planting to assure that a mature tree with an established root system will be in place to more readily fill the void created whenever a character-defining tree inevitably succumbs to natural forces. And it will have been worthwhile if it encourages restorationists—whether private owners, public or non-profit organizations—to undertake the kind of in-depth research of Wright's proposed site environment and the rationale behind his siting and orientation as preceded the restoration of the structure." Wrightscapes provides amply the knowledge necessary to avoid the Aguars' enumerated horrors, and they are to be commended for making that knowledge available to the reading public. (Bulletin: The Quarterly Newsletter of the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservatory 2003-04-21)

By D. Schuyler, Franklin & Marshall College

"Wrightscapes" are landscapes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that embody the basic principles of his approach to environmental planning. This book is the result of Aguar’s fascination with Wright, which began in the 1940s and continued until his death in 2000...Aguar concedes that Wright’s designs didn’t always live up to his ideal of an organic architecture, but they present Wright as "essentially pioneering the new discipline of environmental design." An important book. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.

(Choice 2002-12-02)

Reviewed by Virginia Lockett Russell, FASLA

I had a stack of books to buy that had gone over budget, and without giving it a glance I put Wrightscapes, by Berdeana Aguar and the late Charges Aguar, back on the shelf. A book entitled with one word including the cliche "scapes" can't be all that useful, I assumed, and besides, does my library (or the world) really need another book about Frank Lloyd Wright? I have since given the book a second chance, and if only one more book about the world's most frequency published architect is allowed, perhaps this should be it.

Here is a book that presents Wright, not as an icon, but as a designer coming of age under the influence of his upbringing, his region, and his colleagues within those turbulent times in Chicago. The first chapter places Wright beyond the oft-told tales of his apprenticeship with Adler and Sullivan, and firmly situates him in a sphere that included architects, planners, and landscape architects working in Chicago, most particularly Ossian Simonds, Walter Burley Griffin, and Jens Jensen. The authors' assertions include credit where credit is due, namely, "...Wright's organic architecture was inspired by much more than the primary motivating influences generally cited...," and their scholarship goes beyond the Froebel blocks and Japanese prints to include the teachings of Jensen and others. One of many insightful examples is that of the Jensen and Wright collaboration for the Sherman Booth estate (1911) in Glencoe, Illinois, which was never built. Many Wright texts dismiss or altogether omit the influence of his elders or peers, but Wrightscapes digs into the context to include the contributions of partners, not subordinates, in design.

The book is organized in chapters marked by turning points in Wright's career, from age 22 in 1889 to his death in 1959, and although most of these events are familiar, their presentation in the framework of landscape design, particularly as it relates to the discourse among schools of thought in landscape architecture, is still quite relevant.

Of particular interest to practitioners, academics, and students is the authors' use in conjecture analysis to define the use of site, climate, and architecture in Wright's designs. If you've ever spent time with Frank Lloyd Wright's archival materials, you would swear that every doodle he ever scratched has been catalogued, yet the drawings from which we have so much to learn were either not made or not saved. The Aguars have taken many of the beautifully drafted, frequently published "as built" site and floor plans to another level, interpreting them with diagrams of solstices, wind patterns, topographic features, and other elements of environmental design; these diagrams alone are worth the price of the book. Having painstakingly done this sort of "postoccupancy evaluation," the authors have license to point out those designs that subjugated or even ignored the site conditions, and we have much to learn from these examples as well.

According to the publishers, this is "...the first book to examine the environmental landscape designs of Frank Lloyd Wright." This is not true. There have been many books that tripped lightly over Wright's landscape designs as scenic backdrop to his architecture, and a few books of the above average scholarship have covered his landscape design, in particular De Long's Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922-1996. However, it is true to say that this book gives in-depth, rigorous coverage to the 70-year span of Wright's career, with attention to detail and documentation for 85 residential, commercial, and community planning projects, an unprecedented scope for landscape design in the body of Wright's literature. (Landscape Architecture 2002-11-01)

...a masterful and exhaustive richly illustrated treatise on Frank Lloyd Wright garden and landscape design. Included are the houses Wright did for the Martin brothers: William Everett Martin House, Oak Park, Illinois, 1902-1903, pages 73-78, and Darwin D. Martin, Buffalo, New York, 1904, pages 87-96. The design intent and originality of the Darwin Martin floricycle is discussed with insightful brilliance by the authors. (The Catalog of Landscape Records in the United States Newsletter 2002-11-01)

Designing Men by Edward Keegan

2 new architecture books examine the influence of Louis Sullivan and the use of landscape by Frank Lloyd Wright

Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright form the pinnacle of Chicago's architectural achievers in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. While shelves can be filled with books about them, two new publications explore some previously neglected facets of the architects' work. ..."Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs," by Charles E. Aguar and Berdeana Aguar, evaluates Wright's career from the perspective of the landscape architect. Both add to our still evolving understanding of these remarkable architects. ...

Frank Lloyd Wright has been universally applauded for breaking down barriers between interior and exterior space. His designs have always held strong material and metaphysical relations to the American landscape, particularly here in his native Midwest. In "Wrightscapes," the late Charles E. Aguar and his wife, Berdeana Aguar, are the first to approach Wright's entire career from the disciplined perspective of landscape architecture and environmental design.

The Aguars were married more than half a century before Charles' death in 2001 and spent the entirety of their married life looking at Wright's work as a team. In 1948 they celebrated their first wedding anniversary at Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin, and met the then-81-year-old architect. Charles was a landscape architect and professor at the University of Georgia; Berdeana was his editorial collaborator and is the writer who finished the "Wrightscapes" manuscript after he died. "Wrightscapes" is a term coined by the Aguars to describe Wright's designs, including their surrounding landscape and environment.

Organized chronologically, "Wrightscapes" provides ample biographical information about Wright, so the reader understands where each commission fits within the broader context of his life and travels. What's missing are the larger public buildings like Oak Park's Unity Temple, Racine's Johnson Wax headquarters and New York's Guggenheim Museum. While none of these is critical to the Aguars' discussion, it would have been helpful to include them.

"Wrightscapes" is dense and comprehensive, covering 85 designs by Wright in verbal and graphic depiction. The illustrations are plentiful and include period photographs and original drawings as well as modern-day photographs and diagrams prepared by the authors. These are essential supplements to the text...The Aguars provide consistently sensitive analysis, skillfully applied and rendered in relatively jargon-free prose.

Wright always denied being influenced by others, but the Aguars note various factors that shaped Wright's approach to the environment. It is clear that Walter Burley Griffin, a noted Prairie School architect in his own right, co-authored many of Wright's landscape designs during the first phase of Wright's career. Wright's trip to Japan in 1905 had a more profound effect on his overall understanding of the interaction between building and landscape. The Aguars demonstrate the later influence of historical European landscape design following Wright's year-long flight to the Continent with the wife of a former client.

To their credit, the Aguars are not apologists for Wright and can be sharply critical in instances where his so-called organic designs were hardly so. Fallingwater, a noted Wright house in Pennsylvania, is the most notable example, as it's built directly on top of a waterfall, completely dominating the natural feature that led its owners to that site. At times Wright seems to be the quintessential "tree hugger." For every project described as a complex piece of environmental design that sensitively incorporates the requirements of prevailing breezes, solar orientation and native vegetation, there's another one where Wright merely places his building's mass to avoid existing trees on the site. Sometimes, in what might be described as a recurring parlor trick, Wright keeps a tree growing through a broad eave or other architectural feature.

Despite his own rhetoric, Wright's interest in environmental siting varied from the intense to the non-existent. Throughout his career, Wright used his own homes as laboratories for the relationship between his architecture and the landscape. But from the Aguars' clear evidence, the older he got, the less his landscape creativity made it beyond the boundaries of his own back yard. Countless clients in his later years received less than adequate environmental solutions while Wright lavished attention on his own Taliesin homes in Wisconsin and Arizona. Amusingly, many of these same clients, in interviews years later with the authors, praise the architect who they barely met and whose product was assuredly inferior to those on which he had made his reputation.

"Wrightscapes" is a balanced and fair assessment of an aspect of Wright's architecture that has previously escaped detailed scrutiny. As such, it's a welcome addition to the vast volume of literature on Wright.

Copyright (c) 2002, Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune 2002-10-13)

David Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Could there be anything more to say about the 20th century's most written-about architect? Landscape architecture professor Charles Aguar (Univ. of Georgia) and wife Berdeana find a fresh perspective by examining Frank Lloyd Wright's work through the eyes of environmentally conscious landscape designers. Backed by a decade's fieldwork, interviews, and archival sleuthing, the authors offer highly informed critiques of 85 designs that span Wright's 70-year career. Familiar buildings are seen in an entirely new light as the authors scrutinize each structure's interrelationship with its grounds, plantings, and "hardscape" the terraces, walls, and planters Wright used to anchor his buildings to their settings. They emphasize Wright's prescient advocacy of sound environmental planning... by and large, this lucid, solidly researched analysis will open new avenues of appreciation and inquiry for Wright fans and scholars. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries, and wherever there is an interest in green architecture and sustainable landscapes. (Library Journal 2002-10-01)

Review by Harold Henderson

The Wright Landscape. The late Charles E. Aguar, AICP, and Berdeana Aguar, his wife, have produced an elegant and exhaustive accounting of "the all-embracing comprehensiveness" of Frank Lloyd Wright's "environmental vision" in Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs (2002; McGraw-Hill; 373 pp). The fruition of a joint interest spanning more than 50 years, the book is based on personal visits to 157 sites in 22 states, and more than 100 interviews with Wright apprentices and homeowners. The well-illustrated text is organized chronologically--from Wright's 1889 Oak Park home, which used its lot quite differently from its neighbors, to the late 1950s Tracy House in Seattle, an example of the compact Usonian "Automatic" house, with its "exceptional sense-of-place and indoor-outdoor connectiveness." Of special value is the authors' refusal to deify their subject. They appreciate Wright's environmental vision but document occasions when he failed to live up to it... (Planning Magazine 2002-08-01)

By Jaime Sarrio, Staff Intern

Berdeana Aguar navigates the pages of her book by instinct. Her familiarity with the contents suggests she has spent hour after hour memorizing the text she helped create.

She discusses the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright effortlessly, never pausing to contemplate a year or fact. In seconds she can point to a page, passage or drawing that supports her point. She's one half of the diligent team that reintroduced the well-known architect to the literary world. The other did not live to see the book's publication.

Aguar co-authored Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright's Landscape Designs with her late husband Charles E. Aguar. Charles, a seasoned landscape architect, city planner and professor of architecture at the University of Georgia, was always fascinated by Wright's complicated designs, which incorporate light and landscape into the master plan.

In the early '90s, the Aguars committed to writing the definitive work on Wright--one that would explore his influences and the impact they had on his work in a way no other volume had.

"Everyone talks about the homes organic character, but they never say why--and they ignore the landscape," Aguar said.

Married in 1947 when he was 21 and she was 19, the couple had been writing together for decades. Their correspondence began while Charles was a soldier during World War II and evolved into a professional text after they married. Berdeana, a scriptwriter for commercials and documentaries, shared her husband's passion for Wright. She also possessed editing and interviewing skills that were heavily employed during the writing process. Both personally and professionally, the two were a natural fit.

"We were never at a loss for wshat to talk about," said Aguar. "He would do the writing, and then I would do the editing. Charlie always said the questions I asked were what made him think."

After nearly a decade of research, the Aguars compiled two volumes of text on Wright. The tone and direction of the book had taken shape, but the couple had yet to decide on how to close it.

Just months after the couple began the editing process, Charles went to lay down in his bedroom and quietly died at age 73.

Plagued by tragedy and alone for the first time in the Athens home her husband designed, Aguar finally returned to the project after encouragement and support from her five children.

"I wasn't about to let it fall apart," she said. "We put way too much of ourselves into it."

In addition to the challenges Aguar faced as a widow, she also faced the difficult task of finishing the book. Editors requested the two volumes be condensed into one edition and the number of sketches be reduced. Aguar also faced the challenge of writing the conclusion that the couple had put off for so long.

Still uncertain of how she would close the book, Aguar began searching through her husband's belongings. In the closet with several other items related and unrelated to Wright, Aguar found several pages of text marked "conclusion."

This year, Aguar saw the culmination of years of work realized in Wrightscapes, a book that Aguar considers as a living memorial to her husband. The inscription reads "For Charlie--My beloved soul mate and coauthor--deceased February 22, 2000."

"I don't know what I would have done without this," Aguar said.

At 74 with one novel under her belt, Aguar is making plans to tell the story of another under-explored genius. He was a devoted lover who kept his wife's lipstick-kissed handkerchief for good luck. A war hero, who brought his girlfriend's picture along for flights in the South Pacific because he knew she would enjoy it. And a teacher who challenged her students to find solutions to complex zoning problems.

She plans to title it Charles E. Aguar: Unsung Champion of Environmental Design. (Gwinnett Daily Post 2002-07-20)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 374 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional; 1 edition (May 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071377689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071377683
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,863,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is an immense, original, dense, and unique attempt to evaluate what is "outside" of Wright's artful buildings. The authors' 50-year fascination with F.Ll. Wright's vaunted organic architecture and respect for nature results in the first book study of Wright's landscaping-only to discover Wright did hardly any landscaping, and what he did was often illusionary rather than natural (vide: spectacular and dramatic manipulation of artificial urns, planters, terraces, and axial markers)! The Aguars looked in the archives and, aside from impressionistic renderings or geometric exercises, they found hardly a developed site or garden plan from Wright's hand or after his early Prairie years! Consequently, the great bulk of this book is the authors' reconstruction or critical evaluation of the little that is explicit. Most of their attention is perforce upon what exists on the grounds of Wright houses today, 50 or 75 years on. The late Charles Aguar, a landscape architect, interviewed owners (37 original) and subjects 85 sites to intensive site analysis to try to reconstruct what was in Wright's mind and to evaluate the pros and cons of each landscape design. (Of course there's very little about the houses themselves, or their interiors.) Some of the most fascinating designs are Wright's ventures into mass suburban planning, where Aguar can trace the evolution of his thought and practice through a series of (mostly unrealized) housing schemes. Where available he includes original planting information from the archives, but supplies none of his own for the present day. He does address admonitions for maintenance or restoration to current owners of Wright places.Read more ›
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excellent - beyond expectations
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The analysis and depth of information of Frank Lloyd Wright's landscapes in this book is not only abundant, but also refreshing.
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