Whether you think that the graphic stunts of Lisa Frank are a stylistic masterstroke or an artistic abomination, there is no disputing that the company’s latest piece of digital mischief will grab the attention of everyone who lays eyes on it. “Lisa Frank Lloyd Wright” sees the famous cantilevers of Wright’s renowned Fallingwater residence painted with a vibrant coat of zebra stripes and leopard print, with rainbow unicorns, adding to this surreal piece of virtual vandalism.
Lisa Frank, an Arizona-based corporation that makes stationery products and stickers for children, is known for its eye-watering use of rainbow colors and psychedelic wildlife, designed to fire creativity and exercise the imagination of young people. The company has a penchant for creating imagery that assaults the eyes, and their latest architectural effort is no different — Fallingwater’s garish reinvention suffers from a serious overdose of happy vibes.
Via Lisa Frank
Reaction to the image has been predictably polarized, even among longstanding fans of Lisa Frank’s signature style. “I can’t decide if this is a horrific aesthetic sin or the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” commented Facebook fan Clio Canticle. “If I showed this to my drafting teacher, he would pass out,” said Chynah Battle-John. The sentiment is understandable: This image is an affront to every thing that the Modernist movement stood for, and even the most perverse advocates of Postmodernist decoration might find themselves squinting in the face of such visual chaos.
So, what value can be placed upon such a flagrant violation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s hallowed creation?
The answer lies not in the image itself, but in the comments section immediately below it. At the time of writing, Lisa Frank’s image has garnered over 7,400 reactions, nearly 2,500 shares and more than 400 comments. A whimsical practical joke played on Fallingwater has been seen, most likely, by over half a million people through various channels. People are talking about this iconic house — many of whom will never have viewed the Frank Lloyd Wright building before.
Mirče Mladenov’s suburbanized Villa Savoye; image via Maxwell Render
Lisa Frank is not the first to have sparked a huge conversation with an extreme digital makeover of famous architecture. Back in 2014, digital artist Mirče Mladenov turned Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye into a supremely kitsch McMansion, complete with banana-yellow walls and an ostentatious turret. While this gaudy vision may have constituted sacrilege for purists, it clearly provided a source of fascination for many, winning the popular vote in the Maxwell Render for SketchUp competition “Out of Place.”
More significantly, though, Mladenov’s Savoye started a discussion about buildings among an audience who would not typically have been drawn to the subject. Even the largely justified outrage at such flippant treatment of a seminal work of architecture aided this cause. Protestations were met with questions, which in turn led the offended parties to provide explanations as to the cultural significance of Le Corbusier and his legacy. The same will undoubtedly occur on the Facebook post of this very article — and more people will be talking about architecture on social media than the day before.
However cringeworthy Lisa Frank’s image is to us, this fact must be considered a positive among architects and design journalists alike.
While it will undoubtedly infuriate traditional admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright’s dramatic residence, there is a silver lining to this particular cloud, and it lies in the expansion of discourse about buildings and their designers. With a generous helping of wit and no shortage of social media cunning, Lisa Frank got fans of 1990s stickers talking about architecture.
It’s time we held our breath, donned our sunglasses and dived into the debate.