The Architect Can Only Advise His Client to Plant Vines

Frank Lloyd Wright? Herbert Hoover? Arch Oboler? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When I was a child I saw a gallery of images showing a house built at the top of a waterfall. I fell in love with that house, called Fallingwater, and later learned that it was built by the extraordinary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The amusing quote I would like you to investigate was listed in a biographical sketch that I read many years ago and still remember:

The doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.

Does this accurately depict Wright’s sense of humor or was it invented by someone else?

Quote Investigator: I agree that Fallingwater is a beautiful home. The quote you provide is very similar to a statement made by Wright in a lecture published in 1931. The address was titled “To the Young Man in Architecture” and near the end of the discourse Wright presented a series of fourteen pithy numbered points. Here are three: 1

9. Abandon as poison the American idea of the “quick turnover.” To get into practice “half-baked” is to sell out your birthright as an architect for a mess of pottage, or to die pretending to be an architect.

10. Take time to prepare. Ten years’ preparation for preliminaries to architectural practice is little enough for any architect who would rise “above the belt” in true architectural appreciation or practice.

11. Then go as far away as possible from home to build your first buildings. The physician can bury his mistakes,—but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.

Wright used the term “physician” instead of “doctor” in this original version. The quotation was further disseminated when an excerpt from the lecture was reprinted in the periodical “The Architect and Engineer” in November of 1931. Wright enjoyed the joke and used it multiple times over the years. 2

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Architect Can Only Advise His Client to Plant Vines

Notes:

  1. 1931, Two Lectures on Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, To the Young Man in Architecture, (Start Lecture Page 33), Page 62, The Art institute of Chicago,  The Lakeside Press, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Chicago. (HathiTrust) link
  2. 1931 November, The Architect and Engineer, Thumb Tacks and T-Square, Page 13, Column 3, Architect and Engineer, San Francisco, California. (Verified with scans; Many thanks to the Library Assistant at the Architecture Library of Georgia Tech)