Sunday, October 08, 2006

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet was what Frank Lloyd Wright called the windmill he built in 1896 on his relatives' farm near Spring Green, WI. It's on the grounds of Taliesin, which we toured this weekend thanks to an anniversary gift from our daughter.

A magnificent blend of art and science, poetry and engineering, the streamlined form of the 60-foot structure is composed of a diamond-shaped column (Romeo) facing into the wind and enfolded by the octagonal form of Juliet. Skeptics thought it would collapse in the wind, but Wright knew it was supported by the same forces that supported the surrounding oaks -- as well as skyscrapers and suspension bridges. Here's how he described it sixty years later in notes for an exhibit of his work in Chicago.
This windmill, towering above surrounding trees, is the combination of a working principle and artistic expression. Vertical metal straps are anchored in a deep stone foundation as the roots of a tree in the ground. The wooden superstructure, bolted to these rods, makes the whole structure as impregnable as a barrel. Romeo, the prow, faces in the direction of strong winds; while the observation tower, Juliet, clings safely alongside. This early engineering-architecture has long outlived the doubting valley residents who, after each storm, would come to their doors to see if the tower were still standing. It is -- after sixty years -- upright, slender and graceful as the day it was built.
And that was fifty years ago.

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