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John H. Howe, Architect

From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design

2015
Authors:

Jane King Hession and Tim Quigley
Foreword by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer

John H. Howe, Architect

A richly illustrated biography of John H. Howe, “the pencil in Frank Lloyd Wright’s hand” and one of Minnesota’s premier architects

A charter member of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship, John H. Howe earned a reputation as “the pencil in Wright’s hand” before establishing his own architectural practice in Minnesota. This is the first book to tell Howe’s story and also the first full account of his place in the history of modern architecture—as chief draftsman and valued interpreter of Wright’s designs and as a prolific architect in his own right.

John Howe had a remarkable career in architecture. Joining Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship at age nineteen, Howe quickly became the great architect’s chief draftsman, and he was present at the creation of some of the most famous buildings of the twentieth century. After Wright's death, Howe established his own office in Minneapolis, designing scores of elegant homes and other works in the organic manner pioneered by Wright. John H. Howe, Architect offers a thorough, beautifully illustrated account of a quiet, gentle man who left behind one of the finest bodies of modern architecture in Minnesota.

Larry Millett, author of Minnesota’s Own: Preserving our Grand Homes and Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities

In 1932 nineteen-year-old John H. Howe arrived at Taliesin as a charter member of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship. There he would remain for the next thirty-two years, earning a reputation as “the pencil in Wright’s hand” before establishing his own architectural practice in Minnesota.

This is the first book to tell Howe’s story and also the first full account of his place in the history of modern architecture—as chief draftsman and valued interpreter of Wright’s designs and as a prolific architect in his own right. Illustrated throughout with Howe’s sublime drawings, this biography is a testament to the underappreciated architect’s extraordinary design and rendering skills.

Influenced by Wright’s principles of organic architecture, Howe operated under the conviction that “the land is the beginning of architecture.” Architectural historians Jane King Hession and Tim Quigley show how this belief worked especially well for Howe in Minnesota, where his buildings appear to have grown naturally and organically from the landscape. Also remarkable are the visionary architectural schemes Howe created while serving time in prison during World War II as a conscientious objector—futuristic visions that anticipated Eero Saarinen’s later designs for airports and Victor Gruen’s plans for America’s first indoor shopping mall.

An enlightening look at an exemplary life in architecture, this book finally brings the accomplishment—and significance—of John Howe to the fore and at the same time illuminates a fascinating chapter in American architectural history.

Awards

Minnesota Society of Architectural Historians David Stanley Gebhard Award — Honorable Mention

John H. Howe, Architect

Jane King Hession, an architectural historian and curator specializing in modernism, is a founding partner of Modern House Productions; coauthor of Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954–1959 and Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design; and a former president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

Tim Quigley, AIA, is principal of Quigley Architects and taught architectural studio and history courses for twenty years at the University of Minnesota and Ball State University. He is a former president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, vice president of the Minnesota chapter of Docomomo, and president of the advisory board of the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota.

John H. Howe, Architect

John Howe had a remarkable career in architecture. Joining Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship at age nineteen, Howe quickly became the great architect’s chief draftsman, and he was present at the creation of some of the most famous buildings of the twentieth century. After Wright's death, Howe established his own office in Minneapolis, designing scores of elegant homes and other works in the organic manner pioneered by Wright. John H. Howe, Architect offers a thorough, beautifully illustrated account of a quiet, gentle man who left behind one of the finest bodies of modern architecture in Minnesota.

Larry Millett, author of Minnesota’s Own: Preserving our Grand Homes and Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities

Jane King Hession and Tim Quigley have told a first-rate and engaging story. This book not only brings attention to the legacy of organic architecture as embodied in John H. Howe’s work, but also reinvigorates the discussion of creating buildings in harmony with the nature of our planet.

Louis Wiehle, co-founder of Wiehle-Carr Architects and apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin

The book is a revelation, tracing Howe’s rise from raw teenager to superbly accomplished designer.

Star Tribune

John H. Howe: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Architecture will make a happy addition to the libraries of architects, Wright enthusiasts and those who favor mid-century architecture and design.

Friends of Fallingwater

John H. Howe, Architect is a compelling story of Howe’s daily collaboration with Wright.

Architecture Minnesota

In recounting Howe’s experiences, the authors give a very good sense of the inner workings of Wright’s studio, and indeed the personality and character of America’s greatest architect.

Ramsey County History

A richly illustrated and eminently readable book.

Minnesota History

John H. Howe, Architect

Contents

Foreword
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer
Introduction: The Land is the Beginning
1. The Taliesin Fellowship
2. A Sandstone Exile
3. Return to Taliesin
4. After Wright
5. The Freedom of California
6. A New Career in Minnesota
Epilogue: A Lasting Legacy
Acknowledgments
Chronology
Selected Projects
Notes
Illustration Credits
Index

John H. Howe, Architect

UMP blog: Did John H. Howe design any Frank Lloyd Wright houses?

At 19 years old, the architect John H. Howe became a founding member of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin Fellowship—a group of 23 apprentices that lived with the famed architect at his estate near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Howe earned a reputation as "the pencil in Wright's hand," and as such it's no surprise that speculation has spread over whether Howe designed any structures traditionally attributed to Wright.