Frank Lloyd Wright visited the School of Design at NC State University on May 16, 1950.  He spoke to over 5,000 people at Reynolds Coliseum, at the time largest attendance for any US architecture lecture. 


He opened with "it's nice to be back in Charleston, South Carolina," much to the amusement of the crowd.  He stayed the night in Dean Henry Kamphoefner's Modernist house in Raleigh. 

Did you attend?  We'd like to hear what you remember.

Did you take photos or record the talk?  We'd like to know.

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Wright, with Frank Depasquale sitting on his left

Wright, Kamphoefner, and Frank Depasquale

Wright with Frank Depasquale directly behind him.  There's a student taking photos on the right.

Wright with Kamphoefner


Wright with Kamphoefner

Photos courtesy of NC State University Archives

Noted Architect Urges South To Humanize Buildings
NCSU Technician, Vol. 30 No. 29, May 19, 1950

America’s chief capitalistic crime is “urbanization,” Frank Lloyd Wright, noted architect and author, told an audience of about 6,000 people in the William Neal Reynolds Coliseum at State College Wednesday night.  Wright, delivering an address under the sponsorship of the State College School of Design, called for a “decentralization” of the nation’s population centers and branded the big cities with towering skyscrapers as “vampires” incapable of survival without nourishment from the villages and rural areas.

Develop “Organic Architecture”

The South’s agrarian background and its failure to build large cities, he said, give this region the distinction of having less “vampires” than the North—a factor, he stated, which will enable the Southern states to develop an "organic architecture” suited to its own needs.  “War,” he continued, “is the clearing house for the civilization represented by the cities of the North.”  He urged the South’s leaders to work toward an “organic architecture” and “to humanize their buildings, making them richly human, warmly human with an affirmative approach.”

Greatest of Arts

The 80-year-old architect described architecture as “the greatest of all the arts and mother of the arts—the very essence and soul of our culture” and said that “Organic architecture is founded upon the essential principles which we should call democracy.”   “Organic architecture,” he stated, “grows from within outward—a thing of the spirit.” The nation’s sehools, he asserted, should revamp their curricula “to educate a man to see himself as himself” and should forget their “reverence of the past.”

Students today, he explained, must choose between “hypocritical humility” and “honest arrogance.” Turning to the hundreds of students attending the lecture, he said:  “I urge you to choose honest arrogance as the path to becoming cultivated individuals capable of cultivating others, but I warn you that it will not be easy at first.”

Believe in Yourselves

Appealing to the students “to believe in yourselves,” Wright said that “nobody has any faith any more in anything or anybody, because we don’t have faith in ourselves.” Such an attitude, he warned, is hampering progress.  He said that “the corporate press” is selling the nation its ideas and its opinions and expressed the opinion that the public does little thinking of its own. Consequently, he said, America “deserves the architecture which it has.” He concluded his message with a plea to the audience to do its part in developing “a great creative architecture.”  “We don’t have it now, but let’s have it,” he pleaded.

Wright, a prominent figure in American architecture for half a century, was given a rising ovation by the audience of about 5,000 as he entered the Coliseum. When he concluded his remarks, he received another loud ovation.  He was introduced by H. Th. Wijdeveld, a visiting professor of architecture in the State College School of Design and an associate of Wright for 30 years. Dean Henry L. Kamphoefner of the School of Design presided and acted as moderator during an open forum discussion following the address.

Letter from architecture critic Lewis Mumford about Wright's visit supplied by Russ Stephenson.

Sources include:  NC State University.