Floating like a Genius

And the waters rose and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 

Genesis 7:18    


The official opening of the Imperial Hotel was cancelled when a massive earthquake (with a magnitude of 8.3) rocked the city. 


Frank Lloyd Wright was hired to build the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, but was dismayed to learn that the construction site was covered with sixty feet of alluvial mud. Not only was it impossible to build a solid foundation on such fluid ground, but the area was prone to earthquakes.  

Wright, however, took up the challenge. If he could not build a foundation strong enough to withstand a quake, why not build one that would “ride on” the tremors? 

He designed the hotel to float like a boat. Each room was hinged like a string of railroad cars so they could sway during a quake. Normally, wiring and piping is encased in concrete, but Wright had them suspended so they could swing freely.  


On September 1, 1923, the day of the hotel’s grand opening, one of the most devastating quakes in Tokyo’s history leveled the city. 

When news of the disaster hit the United States, the word spread that Frank Lloyd Wright’s hotel had collapsed. One newspaper called Wright for comment. He told them they could print the story if they wanted to, but they would have to retract it later. Wright was adamant that his hotel withstood the quake.  

Later, Baron Kihachiro Okura sent a telegram to Wright: HOTEL STANDS UNDAMAGED AS MONUMENT TO YOUR GENIUS. CONGRATULATIONS. 


So, what was Wright’s “genius”?  His brilliance was his ability to acknowledge weakness. Since he couldn’t design the building to resist an earthquake, he made it “weak.” It didn’t matter if it rattled and swayed – all it had to do was “float.”  


Many artist renditions of Noah’s ark depict a ship, with a sloping hull. God, however, didn’t tell Noah to build a boat; he told him to build a big, rectangular box. Ships have hulls so they can go somewhere. The ark’s only purpose was to float.  

When the flood of God’s judgment deluged a wicked world, the ark served as God’s protecting mercy for those inside it. It didn’t matter how high the flood rose – the ark just floated on top of the water.  


No one is strong enough to withstand the crushing weight of guilt. But the Lord invites us to enter his ark. When we take refuge in his grace, we can be confident that we will float on top of the storm – safe, warm, and dry. 

Learn what it means to float, and Frank Lloyd Wright won’t be the only one considered a genius.  

(copyright 2013 by Marty Kaarre)