Released: November 2, 2009
Lincoln, Neb. — Gwendolyn Wright, a professor of architecture at Columbia University and host of the PBS television series, “History Detectives,” will deliver the next Geske Lecture.
Wright’s lecture, titled “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Progressive Suburbia” will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2 in the Sheldon Museum of Art’s Ethel S. Abbott Auditorium at 12th and R sts. on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln city campus. The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will immediately follow the lecture in Sheldon’s Great Hall.
Frank Lloyd Wright has been praised and blamed for endorsing the American suburban ideal of distinctive single-family houses in bucolic landscapes. In fact, he advocated compact residential settlements throughout his career, although only a few were even partially realized. The most innovative design was a Model Suburb on the outskirts of Chicago for a 1913 competition. Wright went beyond the program to propose mixed incomes (including apartments near mass transit for single men and women) and a mixed-use greensward woven through the center (including a women’s club, a kindergarten, a library and a cinema) to bring people together. This little known proposal situates Wright within Chicago’s progressive reform movement of the time, even as it offers precedents for contemporary architecture’s interest in landscape urbanism, community facilities, density and transit-based suburbs.
Wright is Professor of Architecture at Columbia University where, in 1985, she was the first woman to receive tenure in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She also holds appointments in Columbia’s departments of history and art history. She received her M.Arch. and PhD. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. Academic awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Getty Fellowship, and election to the Society of American Historians, which honors literary quality.
Wright has focused principally on American architecture and urbanism from the late-19th century to the present day. She has also written extensively about transnational exchanges, especially colonial and more recent neo-colonial aspects of both modernism and historic preservation. She is the author of six books and scores of articles.
Her recent book is USA, part of the Modern Architectures in History series from Reaktion Books. USA recasts established ideas about American modernism by highlighting key shifts and conflicts about work, homes, and public life from 1865 to the present. Architecture and the entire built environment provide a matrix that interweaves social norms and individual imaginations, high art and popular culture, prevailing conditions and visions of change.
Since 2003 Professor Wright has also served as a host of the popular PBS television series, “History Detectives.” This program traces the dynamic processes and quandaries of historical investigations. Attracting professionals and the general public alike, the show reveals how historians track ideas and weigh conflicting evidence about what happened, why, and history’s implications for the present.
The Norman and Jane Geske Lectureship in the History of the Arts was established in 1995 through the generosity of Norman and Jane Geske and features noted scholars in the history of the visual arts, music, theatre, dance, film, or architecture. The lectures are intended to advance the understanding and appreciation of the arts with creative writing and thinking that reflect the importance of historical perspective of the arts. The invited scholar will present a public lecture open to the campus and the community, focused ideally on a single work, art form, or artist that will subsequently be published and distributed to major research libraries throughout the United States.