Spotlight: Frank Lloyd Wright

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Fallingwater House. Image © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Fallingwater House. Image © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy In 1991, the American Institute of Architects called him, quite simply, “the greatest American architect of all time.” Over his lifetime, Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) completed more than 500 architectural works; many of them are considered masterpieces. Thanks to the wide dissemination of his designs and his many years spent teaching at the school he founded, few architects in history can claim to have inspired more young people into joining the architecture profession.

Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frank_Lloyd_Wright_portrait.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a>. Photograph by Al Ravenna in the public domain. Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frank_Lloyd_Wright_portrait.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a>. Photograph by Al Ravenna in the public domain.

Wright is particularly interesting because of the unique period in history which he occupied: as a disciple of Louis Sullivan ("form follows function") in the late 19th century, his work forms something of a bridge between the traditional architecture of that era and the modernists which began to appear

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/132084522@N05/17207156426'>Flickr user Sam valadi</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
Taliesin West. Image © <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TaliesinWest2010.JPG'>Wikimedia user AndrewHorne</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY 3.0</a>
Frederick C. Robie House. Image © Nat Hansen
Marin Civic Center. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/joevare/3506611084'>Flickr user joevare</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-ND 2.0</a>
Wingspread. Image © Galen Frysinger
Ennis House. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ennis_House_front_view_2005.jpg'>Wikimedia user Mike Dillon</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
SC Johnson Wax Research Tower. Image © SC Johnson
Fallingwater House. Image © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
the early 20th century. Some of his later work is formally modernist, yet still retains a sensibility rooted in that earlier period.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/132084522@N05/17207156426'>Flickr user Sam valadi</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a> Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/132084522@N05/17207156426'>Flickr user Sam valadi</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
Taliesin West. Image © <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TaliesinWest2010.JPG'>Wikimedia user AndrewHorne</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY 3.0</a> Taliesin West. Image © <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TaliesinWest2010.JPG'>Wikimedia user AndrewHorne</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY 3.0</a>

In many of his works, Wright sought to define a quintessentially American architectural style. This was perhaps expressed most clearly through his houses: in his early career, Wright was often identified with the "Prairie Style," with buildings such as his Robie House featuring horizontal lines and long, low roofs which reflected the landscape of his country. Later, this ideal evolved to become the basis of his Usonian Houses--"Usonian" being a mostly-forgotten moniker coined by writer James Duff Law in 1903 to distinguish people of the USA from the other Americans of Canada and Latin America. In these designs Wright kept the low, horizontal lines of the Prairie Style, but integrated modernist features such as flat roofs and open-plan spaces.

Frederick C. Robie House. Image © Nat Hansen Frederick C. Robie House. Image © Nat Hansen
Marin Civic Center. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/joevare/3506611084'>Flickr user joevare</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-ND 2.0</a> Marin Civic Center. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/joevare/3506611084'>Flickr user joevare</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-ND 2.0</a>

Wright's designs were also driven by the desire to nurture the lives of their occupants. He referred to his architecture as "organic"--in complete harmony with itself and its surroundings, as if it had developed as naturally as a tree--but without necessarily resorting to formal imitation. This approach can be seen in his famous Fallingwater house, where balconies mimic the stratified rock of the waterfall below, and also in his research tower for SC Johnson, where the internal floors are cantilevered off the building's central trunk. His love of nature and the American landscape was also visible in the urban planning vision of Broadacre City, his proposal for sprawling, pastural landscape of incredibly low population density.

Wingspread. Image © Galen Frysinger Wingspread. Image © Galen Frysinger
Ennis House. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ennis_House_front_view_2005.jpg'>Wikimedia user Mike Dillon</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a> Ennis House. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ennis_House_front_view_2005.jpg'>Wikimedia user Mike Dillon</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

For many people, Wright is the quintessential vision of the architect: he presented himself as a lone genius, fastidious down to the smallest details of his design, and his personality was often rather brash. But there is no denying his vision--and the timelessness of his designs continues to reveal just how strong that vision was.

SC Johnson Wax Research Tower. Image © SC Johnson SC Johnson Wax Research Tower. Image © SC Johnson
Fallingwater House. Image © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Fallingwater House. Image © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
See all of Frank Lloyd Wright's classics featured on ArchDaily via the thumbnails below, and more coverage of his work through the links beneath those: Frank Lloyd Wright Explains Why He Was Labeled "Arrogant" in this 1957 Interview Walk Inside: Google Cultural Institute Puts New York's Guggenheim On The Map Go on a Virtual Tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin East 26 Things You Didn't Know About Frank Lloyd Wright At Crystal Bridges Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman-Wilson House Reframes Architecture as Art Frank Lloyd Wright Upholds Egotist Reputation in Interview When Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier Had a Public Argument in The New York Times How 3D Printing is Saving a Frank Lloyd Wright Treasure Frank Lloyd Wright Archives relocate to New York Ten Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage List The 58-Year Evolution of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum Frank Lloyd Wright's Early Blueprints of the Guggenheim Reveal Design Ideas That Didn't Make It The New Yorker Cartoon That Accompanied the Opening of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Final (Unbuilt) House Design With this 3D Model Frank Lloyd Wright's Textile Houses Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater: Keepsake or Liability? See Frank Lloyd Wright's Missing Works Recreated in Photorealistic Renders 9 Times Architects Transformed Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum Gallery: Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum by Laurian Ghinitoiu Explore Frank Lloyd Wright's Curvaceous Unbuilt House Design for Marilyn Monroe See How Frank Lloyd Wright's "Tree of Life" Stained Glass Windows are Assembled

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