"IN THE CAUSE OF ARCHITECTURE":
COMMENTARIES IN MEMORIAM
I am John W. Geiger and I was born August 9, 1921 in Fairbault, Minnesota. We moved to Minneapolis in 1934 where I was graduated from West High School in 1939. I elected to attend the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis that fall with the obvious intent of becoming an architect. An introduction to architecture course led to my first exposure to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a fated encounter.
However, December 7, 1941, changed everything. All of the young men of this nation were registered for the draft and we architectural students were no exception. Our futures were very much in doubt. I enlisted in the Army Air Force and was eventually inducted in midyear 1943, reporting to Boca Raton, Florida, for basic training. That fall I was transferred to the Army Technical Training School at Yale University where I was trained as an aircraft maintenance engineer. I received my commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in December of 1943 and was shipped overseas in September of 1944 landing at Milne Bay at the eastern tip of New Guinea. I was returned to the US in September of 1946 and was discharged with the rank of Captain.
The Taliesin Fellowship beckoned and I began my apprenticeship in June of 1947. At the beginning of my 5th year in 1951 Mr. Wright sent me to New Hampshire to supervise the construction of the Zimmerman house. I returned to the Fellowship in the spring of 1952 and in the late summer of 1953 I was one of many apprentices sent to New York to work on the pavilion and Usonian house at the 60 Years of Living Architecture exhibition at the future site of the Guggenheim Museum. Mr. Wright left me there in charge of the show after the opening, and when the show was sent to Los Angeles in the spring of 1954, I followed and supervised the construction of a pavilion to house the exhibition at that location. After that I did a short stint supervising the Arch Oboler extension, the stone box, in Malibu. Oboler and I were not destined to be soul mates and that didn't last very long.
After the Oboler sojourn, I left the Fellowship and returned to Minneapolis to remodel my mother's 1890's Queen Anne house. When that venture was completed, I moved back to Los Angeles in 1955 at age 33 to find my very first gainful employment for a weekly paycheck. It was a novel experience. In 1956 former apprentice John DeKoven Hill, who was then the Architectural Editor of House Beautiful magazine and the architect for the upcoming Pace Setter house for 1957, offered me the opportunity to do the working drawings for that house. It was an offer not to be missed and I used this opportunity to establish my own practice. I have been retired for some 20 years now and have had ample opportunity to "Loafe and Invite My Soul," and to seriously consider the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The first reunion of the Taliesin Fellowship in 1987 was an important event for all apprentices. It was an opportunity to renew old relationships and to establish new ones. The Taliesin Fellows, a loose association of former apprentices and the general public, was formed as a direct result of that reunion with the goal of exploring the nature of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I was the founding president and assumed the responsibility as the publisher of the quarterly Journal of the Taliesin Fellows and Louis Wiehle was a very capable founding editor and art director. My responsibilities included establishing a name and address file of all apprentices. This, in turn, led to the establishment of a data base to maintain the apprentice list, which was later expanded to include as much information as possible on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the role of the apprentices in that work. It is an ongoing venture that is updated as information becomes available. I hope to put the entire data base on-line in the near future.