AARON G. GREEN AND FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT


Frank Lloyd Wright and Aaron G. Green Office, 319 Grant Ave. San Francisco. Established 1951

Frank Lloyd Wright sometimes banished apprentices from Taliesin for taking outside jobs, or – worse yet -stealing his clients. Aaron G. Green impressed him from the start by bringing a client to Wright, for the Rosenbaum house in Florence, Alabama. Green continued this practice throughout their association.

Green had first encountered Wright in art school at Cooper Union in New York. An entire issue of the professional journalĀ Architectural Forum published in 1938 had captured Green’s attention. Though Cooper Union taught Modern architecture, it had not taught about Wright. Green quickly visited one of Wright’s new houses nearby (the Rebhuhn house in Great Neck, Long Island) and was captivated. He joined the Taliesin Fellowship as an apprentice in 1940, working on a series of Wright projects: he oversaw construction of the Rosenbaum house, built the exhibition model of the Jester house in Palos Verdes, and brought Wright another intriguing commission for a cooperative housing project in the Detroit area. There a group of auto workers joined together to build a cooperative farm and community that would help them weather hard times in their industry. At Green’s suggestion, it was to be built of rammed earth, a plentiful material on the site. The cooperative members would be able to build it themselves. The war, however, ended the project. Green left Taliesin in 1943 to train as a pilot.

Keeping in touch with Wright throughout the war, Green was able to provide a unique service: he reported firstĀ raids. As a pilot stationed in the Pacific, Green finagled a visit to Japan shortly after the surrender, allowing him to confirm to Wright that the hotel, though partly damaged, still stood and was in operation.

In 1951 Green mentioned to Wright that he had decided to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco. To his surprise Wright proposed that they become associates and open a joint office there. Wright already had a busy architectural office spread between his compounds in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Scottsdale, Arizona, run by trusted colleagues William Wesley Peters, John Howe, and Eugene Masselink, and staffed with his apprentices. To take advantage of California’s thriving building climate, however, Wright wanted a separate San Francisco office with Aaron Green. It was the only one of its kind, demonstrating Wright’s confidence in Green, who would seek new jobs for Wright, act as a trouble shooter on challenging projects, and oversee the building of the projects Wright designed.

Major California commissions flowed to Wright as his fame grew in the ninth decade of his life, and Green was involved with the Walker house in Carmel, Anderson Court shops on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and numerous custom homes. Some projects went nowhere; Green introduced Wright to tract house developer Joseph Eichler, but Wright turned Eichler down, saying, “I’m just not interested in that kind of thing, it’s too low a standard.” (Green would later design a model house for Eichler.)

Some of these projects were visionary and never built; one was the Butterfly Wing Bridge to cross San Francisco Bay between Army Street and Alameda; another was the Lenkurt Electronics factory for the young Silicon Valley, which went unbuilt after a corporate merger.

One visionary project did get built: the Marin County Civic Center, including administrative offices, library, and courthouse set in a public park. Green, who had just completed a major public housing project in Marin City, was instrumental in bringing Wright and the county commissioners together. Though ground was broken for the first phase in 1960, almost a year after Wright’s death, Green saw the entire project through to completion in 1969 and continued as consulting architect to the county on additions.