A June edition of Architectural Digest published a list titled “10 facts about Frank Lloyd Wright you didn’t know.” Alas, most of it held familiar information, like his disdain for the American Institute of Architects, even despite the gold medal he received from them in 1949. Clearly the reporter for the list - Carrie Hojnicki – is the unknowing one, even skipping the far bigger AIA honor for Wright and one he didn’t deserve.

Sins of omission

The A.I.A, established in 1857 to "elevate the standing of the profession,” inexplicably crowned Wright’s design for the vacation house in rural Pennsylvania known as Falling Water “the best building of the 20th century.” But his design was riddled with fall-down-flat flaws from the start.

Seldom mentioned in write-ups about him, surely this item qualifies for Hojnicki’s lineup of miscellany like, “Wright abandoned his practice for a year in 1909 to run away with Mamah Borthwick Cheney.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

What exactly was wrong with Falling Water? The four concrete floor slabs jutting out so picturesquely over a waterfall sagged so badly they risked collapsing from the moment they were erected in 1936.

If any prize should have been awarded, it should have gone to the homeowner, Edgar J. Kaufmann, a Pittsburgh department store owner who not only put up with a waterfront getaway that he couldn’t swim from, set sail from or even enjoy views of the waterfall from, he also had to endure constant fixes that doubled Wright’s original estimates even before he could move in - a factoid in itself.

Form without function

So here’s this place prized by his fellow architects that was such a mess it needed an $8.1 million overhauling a mere 27 years later.The Kaufmann family footed that bill, too, and donated the house to the nation. Talk about little-known facts. Wojnicki didn’t do her homework. Also missing from her list is the reason Falling Water was such a disaster: Wright didn’t believe in building codes.

“As he told his students in a recorded lecture in 1953, “A code is a series of rules and regulations made to be fool-proof but succeed only in being rules for fools.” He also disregarded load test results for the concrete slabs as well as the engineers who warned him that there wasn’t enough steel in the slabs to withstand the tension.

Female complaint

There’s one other missed factoid in Wojnicki’s “list of facts you didn’t know” - Wright’s attitude toward women.

You can hear it in “Frank Lloyd Wright’: His Living Voice,” recordings compiled in 1987: “When woman got to vote, she wanted to be equal to man, and I think she has become less and less equal to man and more and more inferior to man when she tries to do what man did and wants to do what man does.”

As for what Wright did, a question lingers for the A.I.A: What good is a winning building’s form if the building doesn’t function?