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"The Ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright"

A CD about arguably the most controversial architect of this century .

The little booklet that comes with Microsoft Home's Frank Lloyd Wright CD-ROM states that they can't recommend a good place to start. Call me crazy, call me cynical, but when a publisher can't recommend even one approach to a product, I wonder how they checked it for usability.
Frank Lloyd Wright is quite possibly the most influential architect of this century. He moved away from the would-be Greek and Roman references of Nineteenth (and Twentieth) century buildings and argued for simpler, more elegant forms.
Byron Press Multimedia, under the Microsoft Homes banner has released a comprehensive collection of photographs and text covering Wright's work. At first glance the interface has received a lot of attention. The font of the heading text, the art-glass effects used throughout, even the background of the pop-up glossary windows refer back to Wright's era. However ...

Frankly, I found this CD a disappointment. Sure it's an invaluable source of material, with plenty of photographs, time lines, and text, but the presentation (ignoring the graphic glitz) is dry and uninspired. Compare this title to Microsoft's Art Gallery and it falls badly by the wayside. The 'walking tour' is a three-dimensional flythrough of three buildings. Unlike the Art Gallery tour which is engaging and well-prepared, the Wright tour is not self-running, has neither voice-over or sound effects and has no hotspots for gaining additional information about individual items. A couple of architectural or decorative features are mentioned, but that's all. The tour rapidly became boring - it needed to have quotes, statements by Wright or the owners, or critics (for or against).

A further problem was that trying to run any of the videos in any of the sections (such as modelling, life and times, Wright Work) caused errors at best, General Protection Faults at worst. Yuk. According to the Microsoft technical support people they have been having trouble with CD installs corrupting the video drivers, from which I gather that you shouldn't install without having your driver disks handy.
The sign of a good reference work of any kind is how quickly you can be sidetracked by fascinating information, and how you travel far away from your original query. I wasn't sidetracked. The photographs didn't seduce me into the supporting 'library' (which didn't appear to have a bookshelf to browse from) where I could get lost in history or theory or controversy.

This title is by the same company who put out Isaac Asimov's Robots, and like that CD it has more information than you would guess from the cover. There is no real index or table of contents to give you a comprehensive idea of the contents, especially before buying. Yes these graphical doohickeys are pretty and list-like, but they are not informative enough.

The Wright CD has the information, it has a pretty graphic design, but the interface needs attention. Somehow a bold and controversial body of work has been rendered dry and lifeless. If you love Wright's work, as I do, this CD is a must-have. It is an excellent source book for architect students and the like, but it is not something you buy to make junior become inflamed with a desire to be a architect when she grows up. Which is a pity, because this man changed the way in which we live and work and his work deserves our attention. Unfortunately this title doesn't capture the imagination the way the subject deserves.
… Ali Kayn


The Ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright

Microsoft Home Series
Purpose: Reference/study materials
Release media: CD ROM
Operating system: Windows
Language (e.g. English/) English
System requirements : Windows 3.1 machine with CD-ROM drive, sound card preferred
Target Audience : (Target Age: ) adults and students

Very Good
User DocumentationX
Ease of Use
Value for Money
(as a reference, excellent, as entertainment, poor to fair)
Satisfies Functional Expectations
Continuing Interest

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© copyright Festivale 1996. All rights reserved.

Filed 8-Nov-1996 Last compiled: 10-Aug-2014