An Architectural Trilogy

Architects of an American Landscape is the third volume of an accidental trilogy.

The United States has seen three great architectural avatars. In the Federal era, Thomas Jefferson, tastemaker and amateur designer, made classicism our default national style for public buildings. In the twentieth century, Frank Lloyd Wright shaped an “organic architecture” as he become our best remembered architect. Located chronologically between the other two, Henry Hobson Richardson completed the triumvirate, a man with less name recognition yet one whom architectural historians regard as America’s most important architectural form-giver. 

In Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson (Bloomsbury, 2006), I revisited the life and work of Jefferson. Though he was remembered as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and our third resident, Jefferson’s contribution to architecture had been forgotten when a young scholar, Fiske Kimball (1888-1955), found a large cache of architectural renderings. Kimball’s book Thomas Jefferson Architect (1916) reestablished the Virginian’s essential place in the history of American building. “Howard argues convincingly that Kimball and Jefferson were the Boswell and Johnson of American architecture. Their conversation managed to leap over two centuries of separation and establish, for the first time, the origins of an indigenous American architectural style. And speaking of style, this book truly has it.”— Joseph J. Ellis

In Architecture’s Odd Couple (Bloomsbury, 2016), I recounted the often-at-odds relationship of Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson. Between their first meeting in 1931 and Wright’s death in April 1959, the two men were positive and negative charges that gave American architecture its compass. 

“Architecture’s Odd Couple is 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, with myriad insights into the vanity and interpersonal politics of the two men who dominated American architecture for a century.”

            — Philip Kennicott, Washington Post

“Hugh Howard’s nimble narrative . . .  is about the on-again off-again relationship between Wright and Philip Johnson, a pairing that a novelist couldn’t have improved upon. … Howard moves fluidly from Wright to Johnson and back in chapters that alternate between key moments of intersection between the two men and their major works. … Howard’s epilogue, “A Friendly Wrangle,” is a thoughtful and touching account of the denouement between the two men and a fitting conclusion to a lively and insightful chapter of American architectural history.” — Jack Quinan, Buffalo News