Architecture’s Oddest Couple?

May 20, 2016

A Bookish Biography

00 Arch's Odd Couple jkt vThat would be Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson.

My book about them has attracted many reviewers — in London (at The Spectator and The Guardian) and in the States.  According to the Washington Post, “[it’s] a book that is distinguished by clarity, narrative energy and evocative description. Architecture’s Odd Couple . . . is an appealing primer in 20th-century American architecture.”

And Metropolis magazine: “As historian Hugh Howard reveals in this page-turner, the rivalry between the two outspoken, charismatic men is what drove them to creative heights and earned them such influence and legacy in architecture. Told with novelistic flair, the narrative charts the historical threads that connected the duo and captures the era they helped shape so emphatically.” And the New York Times Book Review  and elsewhere.

I’ve been interviewed by Leonard Lopate on WNYC . You can download my conversation with  Amelia Taylor-Hochberg at Archinect or read Deborah Kalb’s interview on her blog. I’ve had a conversation with Frances Anderson, host of KCRW’s design and architecture show, DnA, and have exchanged thoughts with a mix of other radio hosts, bloggers, and podcasters.

More about the book? In the years they shared—between their first acquaintance in 1931 and Wright’s death in April 1959—the two men were the yin and the yang, in love and in hate, the positive and negative charges that gave American architecture its compass. Up until his own death in 2005, Johnson would spend long decades wrestling with Mr. Wright’s shadow.

Several years ago I decided there was a book in their sparring—and in  the immeasurable contributions they made to twentieth-century architecture. Thus the just-published Architecture’s Odd Couple, a dual biography of the two men, which also looks at their greatest works, in particular Fallingwater, the Glass House, the Guggenheim Museum, and Johnson’s collaboration with Miës van der Rohe, the Seagram Building.

I hope you’ll want to read it.

If you want to hear me talk about the book – and the ineffable Messieurs Johnson and Wright, please get in touch; my email is

I’ve often talked about the past in connections with my previous books, which include Houses of the Founding Fathers, The Painter’s Chair, Houses of the Presidents, and others (for a partial list of where I’ve talked, click on Appearances, above).

I write for a mix of publications, too; for a sampling of those articles, see Miscellaneous short-form writings.

So let us talk, please, whether it’s about “frienemies” Johnson and Wright, the Civil War, the presidential past, the Founding Fathers, or any other passions we happen to share.