IT WAS IN GRADUATE SCHOOL that John Portman had his chance to meet Frank Lloyd Wright. The eager student took the opportunity to ask the established architect what was required to become a leader in their chosen discipline. Wright replied: “Young man, go seek Emerson.”
Like Wright, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a wholly American original, one who urged a profound recognition of the interdependence between humanity and the natural world.
Heeding Wright’s advice, Portman studied, graduated and went on to create an internationally acclaimed and widely influential body of work. Then, in the fall of 2012, Portman went seeking Wright himself, traveling to the Kaufmann Residence, also known as Fallingwater.
John Portman had always felt an innate connection to Fallingwater—its harmonious design exemplifying Emersonian ideals—yet this was Portman’s first time visiting.
For the accompanying team, what followed was a day-long symposium, led by a living master, at the site of Wright’s most iconic structure. The film includes revealing commentary from architects Gordon Beckman, Jack Portman, and Norris Hunt, as well as inspired newcomers Luca Maffey and Haldun Kececigil, as they all gained new appreciation as well as insights into their own work at John Portman & Associates.