I was once asked: “What’s it like to build a Wythe house” My response was immediate: “it’s not for the feint-hearted.”
Joe’s projects were difficult, the designs had that signature Wythe flair, of the uncommon in architecture. His credo of “alternative architecture” was evident in every drawing. I met Joe almost 40 years ago when he had his design studio on the Cedar Street Bridge. I spent an afternoon on that first day just looking at gorgeous renderings from his mind.
He drafted late into the night with pencil and straight edge, the old-fashioned way. He would call me when he was in his 90s asking me questions, I would say “Joe it’s late, are you still drawing”? “ Yes, I had a few things on my mind.” He loved his craft and lived it. An ardent admirer and scholar of Frank Lloyd Wright, Wright’s influence on his work was apparent. He created designs filled with wild lines and configurations, that worked. When projects were finally built, after battles with builders and owners, the genius of his inspiration came to light. Finished projects, such as the ‘Starship’ on Upper Gold Creek, are superb examples of his craft.
He was cantankerous, opinionated, impossible at times. All characteristics of the artist he was. Last year he asked me to write another opening for his newest book; it didn’t get completed. I learned much building Joe’s projects and am exceedingly grateful for the experience. I hope he and Wright are together griping about builders.
L. SCOTT HANCOCK