As I work through the Frank L. Moreland collection, I am frequently surprised and impressed by his original architectural ideas and style that brought him recognition as one of the leaders in the field of earth-covered dwellings and communities. While arranging a collection, learning of an architect’s influences offers a new depth to understanding their methods. These glimpses of influence provide the context necessary to connect their work with their predecessors and contemporaries.
Today, as I began arranging Moreland’s travel photographs, I opened several envelopes with titles referring to another famous architect, Paolo Soleri. This discovery was somewhat timely, as 2013 saw the passing of Soleri at the age of 93. After receiving his Ph.D. in architecture, Soleri traveled from Italy to Arizona in 1947 to apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright at FLLW’s Taliesin West. Soleri eventually purchased land in Arizona to work on his vision of the future, where architecture and ecology were inseparable. He termed this philosophy “arcology.”
Frank Moreland traveled to Soleri’s home and FLLW’s Taliesin West in 1991. By this time, Moreland was already an accomplished architect. He had started his own successful firm, Moreland Associates, built earth-covered residences around the Fort Worth area, and completed official reports for agencies such as the US Department of Energy, FEMA, and the National Science Foundation.
The amount of direct influence of Soleri’s work on Moreland’s designs remains to be discovered. So far, I have only come across a handful of photographs. However, certain methods used by Soleri in the 1960s and after were integral to Moreland’s designs. Most notably was the use of poured concrete structures. Moreland became very interested in the use of poured concrete structures while pursuing his undergraduate and graduate degrees. It is possible that he researched Soleri’s work during his time in school.
Regardless of the amount of direct influence, the fact that Moreland visited the home of the counterculture icon reveals that at some time, a connection was made. These connections are essential to tracing the history of ideas throughout any field. Soleri’s influence was certainly not the only one on Moreland, but it may have been an important one. He was also an avid researcher of earth-integrated dwellings throughout history and around the world. As an archives student, it is exciting to know that an effort is being made to preserve these connections. As Soleri and Frank Lloyd Wright influenced younger generations of architects with their work, Moreland has done the same. When Moreland’s materials are opened for research, they will be available once again to continue to influence a new generation of environmentally conscious architects.