Essay: Mark Lamster
Over the past couple of weeks, the GOP has made a point of noting that the Tampa stage set on which it will nominate Mitt Romney is inspired by the Prairie School architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Chris Hawthorne, writing smartly in the LA Times, questions the wisdom
of the association, noting that Wright "was no standard-bearer for conservative values."
But of course most Americans don't know about Wright's dubious political (or even urbanistic) ideas. And in any case they would be hard pressed to find any serious trace of Wright in the GOP set, which is comprised of overlapping screens with faux-laminate frames. The idea is that this is Wrightian because it suggests the master's use of horizontal bands of wood. Perhaps that was the inspiration, but it is now so far from the source as to be irrelevant. More accurately, the multiple screens projecting propaganda images of a great leader is derived from Soviet Constructivism, but you can be absolutely positive that no one from the GOP will be making that connection this week.
Wright, however, is shorthand for American Greatness, so he is an easy signifier to glom onto, no matter the relevance. Also, some contrast was necessary with the Obama campaign, which in its own bit of cynicism, in 2008, proped itself in front of an enormous Classical set—no doubt to forestall any Republican suggestion that the candidate did not stand for "traditional values." As Hawthorne points out, Romney has now taken to criticising that set, associating it and thereby Obama with the Greek debt crisis.
Perhaps a more useful way to think about the architecture of the GOP convention would be to note that the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where it is being held, is a private arena buiilt with mostly tax dollars. Just something to keep in mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is a writer on the arts and culture. He is Associate American Editor of The Architectural Review
, and is currently at work on his third book, a biography of the late architect Philip Johnson. Follow: @marklamster.