Posted by: nedpelger | November 9, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright on Choosing a Contractor

TBW and I were at a family reunion this weekend in Western PA. We had a great time as we walked around the historical small town of Ligonier. Here’s a fun birdhouse that caught my eye.


I found some fascinating old books, particularly one by Frank Lloyd Wright. As I paged, I found him pontificating on all things architectural, then I came across a small section on choosing a Contractor. He wrote, “I’d rather hire a crook who knows how to build than an honest man who doesn’t. I can police a crook but I can’t get something out of an honest man who doesn’t have it in him. I can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.”

Biblical analogy aside, I was intrigued by this quote. In a back-handed way, Wright indicated how much of a role the Contractor played on his projects. From the Wright drawings I’ve seen, he was mostly a concept guy, not strong on details. Basically he needed a clever Contractor to work out his details. I’m sure his arrogance would never let him admit that, but so many architects give so little thought to how things get built.

I took a photo of a hinge on a church door in Ligonier that helps prove the point. Perhaps the architect selected the look of the hinges, but consider all the details the contractor probably needed to resolve to actually make the doors work. And not just work for a year, but for decades.



I love helping work out those details and love working with folks who are creative and experienced in providing solutions. We are a bunch of problem solvers. As the old saying goes, “Life is short and full of blisters.” Make sure you get yours doing things you enjoy.




  1. Great Idea on your construction knowledge blog. I’ve always wonder how building committees, architects and business owners really select the builder. The thing I think is funny about Frank Lloyd Wright is every building he designed leaks when it rains Now if a contractor builds building that leak his is out business! The architect who designs them is a genius! Form follows function and the most basic function of any building is shelter from the elements!

    Happy Day!

    • Your comment made me laugh out loud and that’s always a good thing. Maybe we should all try to work that Wright quote into our marketing materials. Something like, “Choose experience over honesty for a truly excellent project”.

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