Art: Made in Japan, U.S.-Designed

Twelve days after Tokyo's worst recorded earthquake (Sept. 1, 1923), famed Architect Frank Lloyd Wright received a cablegram from the Japanese baron who ran the Imperial Hotel: "Hotel stands undamaged as monument to your genius. Hundreds of homeless provided [for] by perfectly maintained service. Congratulations. Signed, Okura Impeho."

Wright had built daringly and well against earthquakes: he designed the Imperial to float like a flexible collection of barges on Tokyo's soft mud. The floors were cantilevered on supports which carried them the way waiters carry trays on one hand. To keep the center of gravity low, the outer walls (double shells of...

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