Frank Lloyd Wright – The Gifted Architect and Fantasist

“The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning of life.”

Frank Lloyd Wright, 1957
Frank Lloyd Wright
Source – Wikipedia

If you ask any average architecture student or an architect to name a famous American Architect and you can bet their answer will be Frank Lloyd Wright. The American Institute of Architects coined him as ‘Greatest American Architect of all time’ in 1991 because of his visionary work in the field of architecture. He designed almost 1114 building works throughout his long and prolific career that spanned for 7 decades. Furthermore, FLW brought about the development of American architecture to the forefront.

He was an architect, designer, writer and also an educator from Wisconsin, USA. Therefore, he believed in creative designing of harmony and the environment, a philosophy he penned as ‘organic architecture’. Strongly believing in individualism, Wright was also influenced by the natural world and making the connection between the people and the natural surroundings. In addition, he was also involved in the design of the interior elements. For instance, creating furnishings and stained glass windows. That helped to enhance the overall design.

Frank Lloyd Wright with workers
Source – Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

EARLY CAREER

Silsbee (1887 – 1888)

He joined as a draftsman in the office of Joseph Lyman Silsbee in 1886. Although the era had Victorian and Revivalist architecture common at that time, Wright did not believe in following the same style. As a result, hefound his practice to be majorly ‘gracefully picturesque’ than the then ‘brutalist’ style. Most importantly, he believed in doing progressive work rather than going with the flow.

Adler & Sullivan (1888 – 1893)

After Silsbee, Wright became an official trainee in the Chicago based firm of Adler & Sullivan. Louis Sullivan guided him and took him under his wing because of his great design ability. Wright always referred to Sullivan as his ‘Lieber Meister’ or ‘Dear Master’ because he respected Sullivan a lot.

OWN PRACTICE

Influence (1893 – 1959)

After leaving Sullivan’s firm, Wright established his own firm on the top floor of the Schiller building in Chicago. Meanwhile in 1896, along with his colleagues Robert C. Spencer Jr., Myron Hunt and Dwight H. Perkins, inspired the Arts and Craft Movement. They formed ‘the Prairie School’ because Louis Sullivan strongly inspired their works.

Winslow House (Rear View) and (Entrance Hall)
Source – Wikipedia

Sullivan’s ornamentation largely inspired his first independent project, the Winslow House with the emphasis on simple geometry and horizontal lines. Louis Sullivan also inspired most of his initial designs. In 1898, Frank Lloyd Wright relocated and established his studio in his Oak Park, Illinois home.

Also read another article – The Interlace in Singapore by Ole Scheeren

Prairie Style Houses (1900 – 1914)

By 1901, Frank Lloyd Wright had completed about 50 projects and during this time he transitioned into a new style. So, 1900 to 1901 was the onset of the Prairie Style of his experimentation. For example, the Thomas House and the Willis House in 1901 were the first examples of the Prairie Style.

Prairie Style Houses are often grounded and blend well with their surroundings. One to two stories with one story projections, an open floor plan, low-pitched roofs with broad, overhanging eaves, strong horizontal lines, ribbon windows, a prominent central chimney and wide use of natural materials like stone and wood. Similarly, the Robbie House, Chicago (1909-1910) and the Avery & Queen Coonley House, Illinois are considered as the masterpieces of Prairie Style.

Robie House and Avery & Queen Coonley House
Source – Chicago Architecture Foundation and Library of Congress

Notable Public Works (1900 – 1922)

FLW was a Unitarian and also the member of the Unity Temple built in 1905. Following that, Frank Lloyd Wright transitioned from structural to space architect. Subsequently, the Larkin Administrative Building, NY (1905), Geneva Inn, Wisconsin (1911), Midway Gardens, Illinois (1913) and Banff National Park Pavilion, Canada (1914) are some of his notable public buildings.

Larkin Administration Building and Banff National Park Pavilion
Source – ArchDaily and Wikipedia

“Architecture is the great mother of art, behind which all others are definitely, distinctly and inevitably related.”

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
Source – Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

LATER CAREER

Usonian Houses

A typical Usonian House is a gridded concrete slab, sandwich walls of wood sliding, plywood cores and building paper, flat roofs without basements and attics. The Usonian Houses were also a part of community planning. In other words, suburban development under the term ‘Broadacre City’. It was a concept he advocated in his book, “The Disappearing City” (1932).

Usonian House
Source – Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Falling Waters, Pennsylvania (1937) was his most famous private residence project. It was created with the intention of bringing the occupants closer to nature. Likewise, it is considered as the best all time work of American Architecture for its dynamism and striking integration with nature. In other words, it is one of Wright’s designed most iconic landmark.

Taliesin West was his winter home, studio complex and laboratory from 1937 until he died in 1959. Therefore, it is now a home for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Foundation and also a site of Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Falling Water and Taliesin West
Source – Getty Images/Walter Bibikow and Wikipedia

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York that took almost 16 years to construct – 1943 – 1959 is also considered as one of the most iconic landmark building. In addition, it is recognized as a greatest masterpiece of 20th century American architecture. Designed on the lines of geometry and modernism, the building is a spiral design recalled nautilus shell, which has continuous spaces flowing freely into one another. So, the museum visitors are to ride to the top of the building by an elevator, and then descend at a leisurely pace along the gentle slope of the continuous circular ramp, to view the atrium of the building.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Source – Ezra Stoller

COMMUNITY PLANNING

FLW also had a deep interest in community planning and urban design theories throughout his career.

Few notable community planning designs –

  • Quadruple Block Plan (1900 – 1903 Unbuilt).
  • Como Orchard Summer Colony, Montana (1909) – New Town.
  • Chicago Land Development Competition (1913) – Suburban Chicago quarter section.
  • Broadacre City (1934 – 1959) – Theoretical decentralized city plan.
  • Usonian Homes, NY (1945)

Also read other article – 20 Lesser-Known Facts about Bill Gates House you should know: Xanadu 2.0

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES

Above all the buildings designed by him, 8 of his buildings have given the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

  • Unity Temple, Illinois.
  • Frederick C. Robbie House, Illinois.
  • Taliesin, Wisconsin.
  • Hollyhock House, California.
  • Falling Water, Pennsylvania.
  • Herbert & Katherine Jacobs House, Wisconsin.
  • Taliesin West, Arizona.
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Source – Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Grounded residences and dynamic public buildings influenced by nature, for example, particularly shapes, forms and colours, patterns of plant life can be strikingly seen in all of his architectural works. Firstly, he was a huge pioneer of his work especially in America. Secondly, he was responsible for not only architecture and construction but also authored and founded various theories and movements. And thirdly, he created a unique vision for Urban Planning in the United States. In conclusion, eloquent and humane, design for democracy, integrity & connection are the principles he believed while designing buildings. To sum up. writing down Frank Lloyd Wright’s creative legacy into a few words is not an easy task.

Works Cited

(n.d.). Retrieved from Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: https://franklloydwright.org/

Fallingwater. (2021, January 8). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallingwater#Design

Frank Lloyd Wright. (2021, February 21). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Lloyd_Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beautiful Houses, Structures & Buildings. (n.d.). Retrieved from Architectural Digest: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/frank-lloyd-wright

Kaufmann, E. (2020, December 17). Frank Lloyd Wright. Retrieved from Britannica : https://www.britannica.com/biography/Frank-Lloyd-Wright

Mason, B. (2017, June 5). Ezra Stoller Captures Frank Lloyd Wright’s Iconic Buildings. Retrieved from ADPRO Architectural Digest: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/ezra-stoller-frank-lloyd-wright-iconic-buildings-fallingwater-taliesin

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. (2021, January 13). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_R._Guggenheim_Museum

Walsh, N. P. (2019, July 8). 8 Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Given UNESCO World Heritage Status. Retrieved from ArchDaily: https://www.archdaily.com/908517/8-buildings-by-frank-lloyd-wright-nominated-for-unesco-world-heritage-status

Winslow House (River Forest, Illinois). (2021, January 12). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winslow_House_(River_Forest,_Illinois)

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