Mr. Wright, why don't you sit down and shut up?
Bruce Graham, interviewed by Detlef Mertins
DM: How was Mies significant for your work? BG: He was significant, but Chicago architecture is a broader historical thing. It isn’t just Mies. It isn’t just one person. Louis Sullivan wasn’t exactly stupid. The structures of Louis Sullivan are also very clear, very clearly expressed. By the way, that’s why I went to Holabird & Root first, before I went to SOM. They had a tradition of doing structural engineering and architecture together.
DM: Wasn’t it also Mies who suggested that you do that? BG: Yes. When I was a student, I came from Philadelphia to see him. He received me. He was a very nice man, a very simple man. I asked him where I should go to work, and he said Holabird & Root.
DM: What else did you talk about with Mies? BG: We were good friends. There wasn’t another intellect like him in the city. There just wasn’t. The person I didn’t like, as a person, was Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a real son of a bitch. I gave him hell one time. He was giving a speech at the University of Chicago and was blasting me. So I finally got up and said, “Mr. Wright, why don’t you sit down and shut up?” And I walked out. It’s ridiculous for an architect to criticize another architect that way. But by that time, he was a little insane. He certainly wasn’t a constructivist. Fallingwater nearly collapsed. He wouldn’t listen.
DM: Did you see Mies as a constructivist? BG: Yes.
DM: What did you talk about with him? BG: How the wine was. Once in his old apartment he had an easy chair with a table and his cigars and his martini and all the furniture against the wall—somebody asked him why he didn’t move into 860 Lake Shore Drive. He said, “There’s no place to put the furniture. I was born in a little village in Germany. I can dream and imagine this new world, but I can’t live in it.”