Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright (born: Frank Lincoln Wright, 8 June 1867 died: 9 April 1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator. He designed more than 1,000 projects, which resulted in more than 500 completed works. Wright promoted organic architecture (exemplified by his project- Fallingwater), was a leader of the Prairie School Movement of architecture (exemplified by the Robie House and the Westcott House) and developed the concept of the Usonian home (exemplified by the Rosenbaum House). His works include original and innovative examples of many different buildings, including offices, churches, schools, sky scrapers, hotels and museums. Often Wright designed many of the interior elements of his buildings, such as the furniture and stained glass.

Besides authoring 20 books and many articles, he was a popular lecturer in the United States and in Europe. His colourful personal life often made headlines, most notably for the 1914 fire and murders at his Taliesin studio. Already well known during his lifetime, Wright was recognised in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as ‘the greatest American architect of all time’.


His influence:
Young Frank spent much time playing with geometrically shaped blocks that could be assembled in various combinations to form three-dimensional compositions.

Wright’s autobiography talks about the influence of these exercises on his approach to design. Many of his buildings are notable for their geometrical clarity. Wright evolved a new concept of interior space in architecture. Rejecting the existing view of rooms as single-function boxes, Wright created overlapping and interpenetrating rooms with shared spaces. He designated use areas with screening devices and subtle changes in ceiling heights and created the idea of defined space as opposed to enclosed space. Through experimentation, Wright developed the idea of the ‘Prairie House’ – a long, low building with hovering planes and a horizontal emphasis. He developed these houses around the basic crucifix, L or T shape and utilised a basic unit system of organisation. He integrated simple materials such as brick, wood and plaster into the designs.

Wright fully embraced glass in his designs and found that it fit well into his philosophy of organic architecture. Glass allowed for interaction and viewing of the outdoors, while still offering protection from the elements. In 1928, Wright wrote an essay on glass in which he compared it to the mirrors of nature: lakes, rivers and ponds. One of Wright’s earliest uses of glass in his works was to string panes of glass along whole walls in an attempt to create light screens to connect solid walls. The simple geometric shapes that yield to very ornate and intricate windows represent some of the most integral ornamentation of his career.

Wright rarely credited any influences on his designs, but most architects, historians and scholars agree he had five major influences:

  1. Louis Sullivan, whom he considered to be his ‘Lieber Meister’ (dear master),
  2. Nature, particularly shapes/forms and colours/patterns of plant life,
  3. Music (his favourite composer was Ludwig van Beethoven),
  4. Japanese art, prints and buildings,
  5. Froebel Gifts

His Philosophy:
For Wright, design and form acquired a symbolic meaning. Architecture can embody ‘picturesque’ qualities that harmonise with the environment. Architectural beauty is seen as a reflection of the harmony that manifests from the integration of design, plan, form and materials. This is Wright’s ‘organic’ approach to design.

Architectural beauty is a natural outcome of the clear design plan of simple and harmonious relationships. All elements of a structure should be designed with economy according to the natural principles of geometrical relationships and the unadulterated use of appropriate materials.
Wright’s ‘organic’ approach to design of the exteriors was also carried to that of the interiors. In this way, Wright is considered to be very much part of the modernist agenda in the early twentieth century architecture. His approach favoured a doing away with traditional construction practices, in favour of new and innovative freedoms in design. Wright’s design solution was to view all details of a structure as the product of a single independent mind – including all major and minor ornamental and symbolic elements. An important aspect for design is the value that ornament should be based upon the abstraction of nature. Wright developed his own distinctive ornamental vocabulary. With it he strove to unify the interior and exterior of a design through its decorative detailing. By employing this method, Wright sought to unify structural and aesthetic elements into a single composite form. Architectural beauty being the product of combining simple forms and expressing harmonious relationships.

His thoughts on suburban design started in 1901 with an article in Ladies Home Journal. The article was designed to showcase ‘New Series of Model Suburban Houses Which Can Be Built at Moderate Cost’. Wright not only submitted a home design, but also even proposed the Quadruple Block Plan as a proposed subdivision layout. This design strayed from traditional suburban lot layouts and set houses on small square blocks of four equal-sized lots surrounded on all sides by roads. The houses were set toward the centre of the block so that each maximised the yard space and included private space in the centre. This also allowed for far more interesting views from each house. This design would have eliminated the straight rows of houses on parallel streets with boring views of the front of each house. His first commission using the Quadruple Block Plan was for Charles E. Roberts in 1903, and Wright continued to push his concept in many of his large-scale designs through the end of his career.

Wright’s creations took his concern with organic architecture down to the smallest details. From his largest commercial commissions to the relatively modest Usonian houses, Wright conceived virtually every detail of both the external design and the internal fixtures, including furniture, carpets, windows, doors, tables and chairs, light fittings and decorative elements. He was one of the first architects to design and supply custom-made, purpose-built furniture and fittings that functioned as integrated parts of the whole design, and he often returned to earlier commissions to redesign internal fittings. Some of the built-in furniture remains, while other restorations have included replacement pieces created using his plans. His Prairie houses use themed, coordinated design elements (often based on plant forms) that are repeated in windows, carpets and other fittings. 

Much of modern architecture, including the early work of Mies van der Rohe, can be traced back to Wright’s innovative work.

His Expressions:
A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.

A free America... means just this: individual freedom for all, rich or poor, or else this system of government we call democracy is only an expedient to enslave man to the machine and make him like it. 

A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart. 

A man is a fool if he drinks before he reaches the age of 50, and a fool if he doesn’t afterward. 

All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable. 

An architect’s most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board, and a wrecking bar at the site. 

An idea is salvation by imagination. 

Art for art’s sake is a philosophy of the well fed. 

Buildings, too, are children of Earth and Sun. 

Bureaucrats: they are dead at 30 and buried at 60. They are like custard pies; you can’t nail them to a wall. 

Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change. 

Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world. 

Every great architect is - necessarily - a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age. 

Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union. 

Freedom is from within. 

Get the habit of analysis - analysis will in time enable synthesis to become your habit of mind. 

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities. 

God is the great mysterious motivator of what we call nature, and it has often been said by philosophers, that nature is the will of God. And I prefer to say that nature is the only body of God that we shall ever see. 

Harvard takes perfectly good plums as students, and turns them into prunes. 

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. 

His Major Projects:

  1. Boomer Residence, at Phoenix, Arizona, 1953.
  2. Coonley House, at Riverside, Illinois, 1908. 
  3. D. D. Martin House, at Buffalo, New York, 1904. 
  4. Ennis House, at Los Angeles, California, 1923 
  5. Fallingwater, at Ohiopyle, (Bear Run), Pennsylvania, 1934 , 1938, 1948
  6. Guggenheim Museum, at New York, New York, 1956 to 1959.
  7. Hanna Residence, at Palo Alto, California, 1936. 
  8. Imperial Hotel, at Tokyo, Japan, 1916 to 1922.
  9. Jacobs House, Madison, at Madison, Wisconsin, 1936.
  10. Jacobs House, Middleton, the Solar Hemicycle, at Middleton, Wisconsin, 1944.
  11. Johnson Wax Building, at Racine, Wisconsin, 1936 to 1939.
  12. Larkin Building, at Buffalo, New York, 1904, demolished 1950
  13. Marin Civic Center, at San Rafael, California, 1957. * 3D Model * 
  14. Mrs. G. M. Millard House, at Pasadena, California, 1923. 
  15. Pfeiffer Chapel, at Lakeland, Florida, 1938. * 3D Model * 
  16. Price Residence, at Paradise Valley, Arizona, 1954. 
  17. Price Tower, at Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 1952 to 1956. 
  18. Robie Residence, at Chicago, Illinois, 1909. * 3D Model * 
  19. Rosenbaum House, at Florence, Alabama, 1939. 
  20. Storer Residence, at Los Angeles, California, 1923. 
  21. Taliesin, at Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1911 and 1925. 
  22. Taliesin West, at Scottsdale, Arizona, 1937 onward. 
  23. Wingspread, at Wind Point, Wisconsin, 1937. 
  24. Unitarian Meeting House, at Madison, Wisconsin, 1947 to 1951. * 3D Model * 
  25. Unity Temple, at Oak Park, Illinois, 1906. * 3D Model * 
  26. W. E. Martin House, at Oak Park, Illinois, 1903. * 3D Model * 
  27. Walker Residence, at Carmel, California, 1948. 
  28. Ward Willits House, at Highland Park, Illinois, 1902. 
  29. Zimmerman House, at Manchester, New Hampshire, 1950