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Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959) designed dramatically innovative buildings during a career of almost 70 years. His work established the imagery for much of the contemporary architectural environment.

The most famous, although never the most popular or successful, among American architects, Frank Lloyd Wright set himself the task, as no previous architect had, of designing distinctive and varied architecture for the diverse terrains of a nation that stretched over the valleys, deserts, woods, and mountains, spanning an entire continent. Herald of thesis that architecture should express its time, its site, its builders, and its materials, Wright argued from that romantic, specifically Hegelian thesis that the United States, as a new nation with a new society on a new frontier with a new technology, should express those unique conditions and should build its special aspirations into buildings that would be distinctively and wholly its own—a new style that would speak of the American environment, "Usonian," he once called it, an architecture of democracy.

Wright's art was so original, his imagination was so endlessly fertile, and his sense of form was so appropriate to the site and so bold and uninhibited that even the most recent students, although they are more than a generation removed from Wright and nurtured in urban premises and technical resources alien to his, still see in his drawings and his buildings that virtuosity in planning, that command over form, that grace in shaping space which have been the talent of only a few, the greatest masters of architecture.

Wright was born on June 8, 1869, in Richland Center, Wis. When he was 12 years old his family settled in Madison, and Wright worked on his uncle's farm at Spring Green during the summers. He developed a passion for the land that never left him. He attended Madison High School and left in 1885, apparently without graduating. He went to work as a draftsman and the following year, while still working, took a few courses in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

In 1887 Wright went to Chicago, worked briefly for an architect, and then joined the firm of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. Wright was very much influenced by Sullivan, and, although their relationship ended in a rupture when Sullivan found out that Wright was designing houses on his own, he always acknowledged his indebtedness to Sullivan and referred to him as "lieber Meister." In 1893 Wright opened his own office.

Master of Domestic Architecture

The houses Wright built in Buffalo and in Chicago and its suburbs before World War I gained international fame wherever there were avant-garde movements in the arts, especially in those countries where industrialization had brought new institutional and urban problems and had developed clients or patrons with the courage to eschew traditional design and the means to essay modernism, as in Germany (the Wasmuth publications of Wright's work in 1910 and 1911), the Netherlands (H. T. Wijdeveld, ed., The Life Work of the American Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1925), and, later, Japan, where Wright designed the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo (1916-1922). Similarly, in the United States, Wright's clients were exceptional individuals and small, adventurous institutions, not governments or national corporations. A small progressive private school (Hillside Home School, Spring Green, 1902) and an occasional private, commercial firm (Larkin Company in Buffalo) came to him, but, chiefly, his clients were midwestern businessmen, practical, unscholarly, independent, and moderately successful, such as the Chicago building contractor Frederick C. Robie, for whom Wright designed houses.

Commissions to design a bank, an office building, or a factory were rare; Wright never received any large corporate or governmental commission. These were awarded to the classicists and the Gothicists of the early 20th century; at midcentury, after the case for modernism was won, the corporate commissions continued to go to large, dependable firms who worked in a rectilinear, contemporary idiom. Wright was left for nearly 70 years to exercise his art, always brilliantly and often resentfully, chiefly in domestic architecture, where, indeed, Americans, unlike many other peoples, have long lavished enormous, probably inordinate attention, assigning to their spacious, freestanding, single-family dwellings the inventiveness that some other nations have reserved for public architecture.

Early, Wright insisted upon declaring the presence of pure cubic mass, the color and texture of raw stone and brick and copper, and the sharp-etched punctures made by unornamented windows and doors in sheer walls (Charnley House, Chicago, 1891). He made of the house a compact block, which might be enclosed handsomely by a hipped roof (Winslow House, River Forest, Ill., 1893). Soon, the restrained delight in the simplicity of a single mass gave way to his passion for passages of continuous, flowing spaces; he burst the enclosed, separated spaces of classical architecture, removed the containment, the sense of walls and ceilings, and created single, continuously modified spaces, which he shaped by screens, piers, and intermittent planes and masses that were disposed in asymmetric compositions. By suggesting spaces, but not enclosing them, then by connecting them, Wright achieved extended, interweaving, horizontal compositions of space, and his roofs, windows, walls, and chimneys struck dynamic balances and rhythms. Vertical elements rise through horizontal planes (Husser House, Chicago, 1899); interior spaces flare from a central chimney mass (Willitts House, Highland Park, Ill., 1900-1902); low spaces rise into a high space that is carved into a second story (Roberts House, River Forest, 1908). Unexpectedly, light is captured from a clerestory or a room beyond, and a space flows in vistas seen beyond a structural pier, beneath low roofs and cantilevered eaves, over terraces and courts, and through trellises and foliage into gardens and landscape (Martin House, Buffalo, 1904). All his genius with weaving space, with creating a tension between compact alcove and generous vista, with variegated light, with occult balances of intermittent masses, with cantilevers that soared while piers and chimneys anchored, came to unrivaled harmony in the Robie House, Chicago (1909; now the Adlai Stevenson Institute, University of Chicago).

The Robie House has few antecedents. Perhaps its composition recalls the 19th-century rambling, picturesque houses of Bruce Price and Stanford White; its spaces owe something to Japanese architecture, and something is owed, too, to the master of dramatic balance of bold masses, Henry Hobson Richardson; but the Robie House is Wright's own, a uniquely personal organization of space. While wholly original, the Robie House stands within the principles of Chicago's special theory of architecture, as developed by Sullivan. That the Robie House also reflects an international movement, cubism, which had begun to fascinate pioneering artists in France, the Netherlands, and Germany, shows that Wright, while sensitive to his contemporaries' innovation, subsumed many traditions without any subservience.

Philosophy of Architecture

Wright's philosophy of architecture was compounded of several radical and traditional ideas. There was, first, the romantic idea of honest expression: that a building should be faithful in revealing its materials and structure, as Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc had argued, without any classical ornament or counterfeit surface or structure, which John Ruskin abhorred. There was, second, the idea that a building's form should reflect its plan, its functional arrangement of interior spaces, as Henry Latrobe and Horatio Greenough had proposed. There was, third, the conviction that each building should express something new and distinctive in the times (G. W. F. Hegel, Gottfried Semper) and specifically the new technical resources, such as steel skeletons and electric light and elevators, which suggested skyscrapers and new forms of building (John Wellborn Root). There was, fourth, the ambition, even pride, to achieve an art appropriate to a new nation, an American art (Emerson, Hawthorne, Whitman), without Continental or English or colonial dependencies. Finally, there was the theory derived by Sullivan from Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer that a building should be analogous to a biological organism, a unified work of art, rooted to its soil, organized to serve specified functions, and, as a form, evolved as an organism evolves, fitted to its landscape, adapted to its environment, expressive of its purpose.

Those diverse currents of thought were not readily united. The Unitarianism of Wright's family prepared him to design the humanist Unity Church in Oak Park, Ill. (1906), a cubistic, light-filled meetinghouse, constructed, quite extraordinarily, in concrete. His introduction in kindergarten to F. W. A. Froebel's system of education through construction with blocks prepared Wright to design the playhouse and school of the beautiful Avery Coonley House, Riverside, Ill. (1908); there, significantly, in the progressive architecture of a house and school, John Dewey and his students were educational advisers. Form breaking and function making, the ferment of ideas in late-19th-century Chicago encouraged new thinking about institutions for religion, education, and urban settlement; Wright led a revolt from precedent in form and a celebration of necessity in new functions. His essay "The Art and Craft of the Machine" announced his leadership at Hull House in 1901; and he continued to state his dissatisfaction with America's failure to build institutions and environment adequate to the social problems and opportunities. His theory of an "organic architecture: the architecture of democracy" was broadcast in his Princeton lectures of 1930 and London lectures of 1939, as well as in his Autobiography (1932), which also offers some insight into his life and his family, including the apprentices who lived with him and for whom he established the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932 at Taliesin East, the house Wright built over many years (beginning in 1938) at Spring Green.

His Idea and Imagery for Modern Design

If the handsome Taliesin East, whose roofs are rhythmical accents on the brow of a bluff overlooking the confluence of two valleys, were all that Wright left, he would be remembered as the finest architect who worked in the 19th-century tradition of romantic domestic design. But, early, he prepared an idea and an imagery for modern design. He achieved in the Larkin Building, Buffalo (1904; destroyed) an unprecedented integration of circulation, structure, ventilation, plumbing, furniture, office equipment, and lighting; that building, an early example of modern commercial architecture, was emulated by Peter Behrens and Walter Gropius in Germany and Hendrik Petrus Berlage in Holland. Wright's plans for Midway Gardens, Chicago (1914; demolished) and the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo (1916-1922), organized complex modern institutions into new architectural compositions, and they showed inventiveness in structural technique, such as the structure of the Imperial Hotel, which was intended to resist earthquakes, which it did, even though it could not resist the wrecker in 1967. Wright tended to enjoy and to glorify nature and the rural condition, but he attacked various urban problems. Beginning with inexpensive row apartments in 1895, he designed buildings for cities, culminating in his drawing for a high-rise tower whose floors were to be cantilevered from a central shaft, the St. Mark's Tower project for New York City (1929); that project is reflected in the Price Tower at Bartlesville, Okla. (1953). Like many of his projects, the tower was a fundamental element in the Broadacre City project, the coherent, self-sufficient agricultural and industrial community Wright designed in 1931-1935.

Constant Search for Form

Significantly, Wright's concern for 20th-century problems, including urban form, did not lead him to the mechanistic rectilinear forms and finishes admired by Gropius or the sculptural purism of Le Corbusier. Always distinctive and independent, Wright's style changed often. For about 10 years after 1915 he drew upon Mayan massing and ornament (Barndall House, Hollywood, 1920). He cast ornament in concrete blocks (Millard House, Pasadena, 1923), and he did not achieve his several versions of a decisively modern style until various European architects, including Le Corbusier and others, notably Richard Neutra (who came to the United States in the late 1920s), had dramatized a sheer, stripped geometry. Even then Wright avoided the barrenness and abstraction of the isolated, single parallelepiped; he insisted upon having the multiple form of buildings reflect the movement of unique sites: the Kaufmann House, "Falling Water," at Bear Run, Pa. (1936-1937), where cantilevered, interlocked, reinforced-concrete terraces are poised over the waterfall; the low-cost houses (Herbert Jacobs House, Madison, Wis., 1937); and the "prairie houses" (Lloyd Lewis House, Libertyville, Ill., 1940). No architect was more skillful in fitting form to its terrain: the Pauson House in Phoenix, Ariz. (1940; destroyed) rose from the desert, like a Mayan pyramid, its battered ashlar and shiplapped, wooden walls reflecting the mountains and desert. There is a compatibility, an organic adaptation in stone walls, wooden frames, and canvas that marries Wright's western home, Taliesin West (1938-1959), to Maricopa Mesa, near Phoenix.

Those brilliant rural houses did not reveal how Wright would respond to an urban setting or to the program of a corporate client. But in the Administration Building for the Johnson Wax Company, Racine, Wis. (1936-1939, with a research tower added in 1950), he astonished architects with his second great commercial building (after the Larkin Building). A continuous, windowless red-brick wall encloses a high, clerestory-lighted interior space; that space, which contains tall dendriform columns, is one of the most serene and graceful interior spaces in the world. Thereafter, a college, Florida Southern at Lakeland, Fla., was encouraged to retain Wright to design its campus (1938-1959); unfortunately, it suffers from an obsession with multifaceted form and oblique and acute angles (as does the Unitarian Church in Madison, Wis., 1947). But after those probings toward a new geometry Wright succeeded with complex pyramids (as suggested earlier by his Lake Tahoe project of the 1920s) when he built the Beth Sholom Synagogue at Elkins Park, Pa. (1959), a Mycenaean sacred mountain. Such a temple, a sanctuary of light approached by a continuous spiral, fascinated the elderly Wright. At Florida Southern College he juxtaposed circle and fragmented rhombus, recalling Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, Italy; he set a helix inside the Morris Gift Shop in San Francisco (1948-1949). Ultimately, he conceived of having the helix surround a tall central space: the six-story Guggenheim Museum in New York City (1946-1959), which paid in significant functional defects to gain a memorable experience in viewing art, especially where the helix affords views into a side gallery below.

Of Wright's colossal helix that he proposed for the Golden Triangle in Pittsburgh (1947), nothing was built. He envisioned ramps for automobiles that would lead to stores and galleries and auditoriums. His drawings, which are in ink and crayon on huge sheets of rice paper, stand among the greatest and most inspiring displays of architectural imagination; what was built in Pittsburgh by other hands is expedient and vulgar. His drawings are magical and lyrical. No one might ever build accordingly, but Wright was never content with the commonplace or servile to the conventional or the practical. He imagined the wonderful where others were content with the probable. Avoidance of the vulgar or probable excited him to ecstatic design: the hyper-bole of the Grand Opera and Civic Auditorium for Baghdad, Iraq (1957). The drawings of helix, domes, and finals suggest how far Wright's talent transcended any client's capacity fully to realize his dream: a world of sanctuaries and gardens, of earth and machines, of rivers, seas, mountains, and prairies, where grand architecture enables men to dwell nobly.

Wright died at Taliesin West on April 9, 1959. His widow, Olgivanna, directs the Taliesin Fellowship.

Further Reading

Wright's An Autobiography (1932; enlarged 1943) remains the best statement of his architectural theory. Other books by Wright to consult are An Organic Architecture: The Architecture of Democracy (1939), essays based on his London lectures of 1939; and When Democracy Builds (1945). An American Architecture, edited by Edgar Kaufmann (1955), is an anthology of Wright's writings and includes photographs of his work. Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings, selected by Edgar Kaufmann and Ben Raeburn (1960), is a well-edited compendium. A complication of Wright's work is Buildings, Plans and Designs, with a foreword by William Wesley Peters and an introduction by Wright (1963). Arthur Drexler, The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright (1962), contains some of the finest examples of Wright's art.

The standard monograph on Wright is Henry-Russell Hitchcock, In the Nature of Materials (1942; 2d ed. 1969). Grant C. Manson, Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910 (1958), is a detailed study of his early work. Vincent Scully, Frank Lloyd Wright (1960), a sensitive and informative essay about Wright's imagery, covers his entire career. John E. Burchard and Albert Bush-Brown, The Architecture of America (1961), interprets Wright in terms of American architectural experience. Wright figures prominently in John Jacobus, Twentieth-century Architecture: The Middle Years, 1940-65 (1966). □

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Wright, Frank Lloyd

Frank Lloyd Wright

Born: June 8, 1869
Richland Center, Wisconsin
Died: April 9, 1959
Phoenix, Arizona

American architect

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed dramatically creative buildings during a career of almost seventy years. His work established the imagery for much of the modern architectural environment.

Early life and education

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1869, in Richland Center, Wisconsin, the first of three children to William, a preacher, and Anna Wright. When he was twelve years old his family settled in Madison, Wisconsin, and Wright worked on his uncle's farm at Spring Green during the summers. After the couple divorced in 1885, Frank lived with his mother, and the two shared a lasting relationship. It was from her that he developed an early love for pure geometric forms and designs, which later influenced his architecture.

Wright developed a passion for the farmland that never left him. He attended Madison High School and left in 1885, apparently without graduating. He went to work as a draftsman, and the following year, while still working, took a few courses in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

In 1887 Wright moved to Chicago, Illinois, worked briefly for an architect, and then joined the firm of Dankmar Adler (18441900) and Louis Sullivan (18561924). Wright was very much influenced by Sullivan, and, although their relationship ended when Sullivan found out that Wright was designing houses on his own, he always acknowledged Sullivan's influence and referred to him as "lieber meister." In 1893 Wright opened his own office.

Master of domestic architecture

The houses Wright built in Buffalo, New York, and in Chicago and its suburbs before World War I (191418), when German-led forces pushed for European domination, gained international fame wherever there were avant-garde (having to do with new ideas and techniques) movements in the arts. Similarly, in the United States, Wright's clients were exceptional individuals and small, adventurous institutions, not governments or national corporations. A small progressive private school (Hillside Home School, Spring Green, 1902) and an occasional private, commercial firm (Larkin Company in Buffalo) came to him, but chiefly, his clients were Midwestern businessmen, practical, unscholarly, independent, and moderately successful, such as the Chicago building contractor Frederick C. Robie, for whom Wright designed houses.

Early, Wright insisted upon declaring the presence of pure cubic mass, the color and texture of raw stone and brick and copper, and the sharp-etched punctures made by unornamented windows and doors in sheer walls (Charnley House, Chicago, 1891). He made of the house a compact block, which might be enclosed handsomely by a hipped roof (Winslow House, River Forest, Illinois, 1893). Soon, the delight in the simplicity of a single mass gave way to his passion for passages of continuous, flowing spaces and he burst the enclosed, separated spaces of classical architecture, removed the containment, the sense of walls and ceilings, and created single, continuously modified spaces, which he shaped by screens, piers, and different planes and masses.

Philosophy of architecture

Wright's philosophy of architecture was composed of several radical (extreme in difference) and traditional ideas. There was, first, the romantic idea of honest expression: that a building should be faithful in revealing its materials and structure, as Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (18141879) had argued, without any classical ornament or fake surface or structure. There was, second, the idea that a building's form should reflect its plan, its functional arrangement of interior spaces, as Henry Latrobe and Horatio Greenough had proposed. There was, third, the belief that each building should express something new and distinctive in the times (G. W. F. Hegel [17701831], Gottfried Semper [18031879]) and specifically the new technical resources, such as steel skeletons and electric light and elevators, which suggested skyscrapers and new forms of building (John Wellborn Root). There was, fourth, the ambition, even pride, to achieve an art appropriate to a new nation, an American art, without Continental or English or colonial dependencies. Finally, there was the theory derived by Sullivan from Charles Darwin (18091882) and Herbert Spencer (18201903) that a building should be similar to a biological organism, a unified work of art, rooted to its soil, organized to serve specified functions, and, as a form, evolved as an organism evolves, fitted to its environment, expressive of its purpose.

If the handsome Taliesin East, whose roofs are rhythmical accents on the edge of a bluff overlooking two valleys, were all that Wright left, he would be remembered as the finest architect who worked in the nineteenth-century tradition of romantic domestic design. But, early, he prepared an idea and an imagery for modern design. He achieved in the Larkin Building, Buffalo (1904; destroyed) an integration of circulation, structure, ventilation, plumbing, furniture, office equipment, and lighting.

Constant search for form

Always distinctive and independent, Wright's style changed often. For about ten years after 1915 he drew upon Mayan (an ancient Indian tribe in Mexico) ornament (Barndall House, Hollywood, California, 1920). Even then Wright avoided the barrenness and abstraction of his designs, he insisted upon having the multiple form of buildings reflect the movement of unique sites: the Kaufmann House, "Falling Water," at Bear Run, Pennsylvania (193637), where interlocked, reinforced-concrete terraces are poised over the waterfall; the low-cost houses (Herbert Jacobs House, Madison, 1937); and the "prairie houses" (Lloyd Lewis House, Libertyville, Illinois, 1940). No architect was more skillful in fitting form to its terrain: the Pauson House in Phoenix, Arizona (1940) rose from the desert, like a Mayan pyramid, its battered wooden walls reflecting the mountains and desert.

Those brilliant rural houses did not reveal how Wright would respond to an urban setting or to the program of a corporate client. But in the Administration Building for the Johnson Wax Company, Racine, Wisconsin (193639, with a research tower added in 1950), he astonished architects with his second great commercial building (after the Larkin Building). A continuous, windowless red-brick wall encloses a high, window-lighted interior space; that space, which contains tall columns, is one of the most peaceful and graceful interior spaces in the world. At Florida Southern College he set side-by-side circle and fragmented rhombus (a four-sided plane), recalling Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, Italy; he set a helix (spiral form structure) inside the Morris Gift Shop in San Francisco, California (194849). Ultimately, he conceived of having the helix surround a tall central space: the six-story Guggenheim Museum in New York City (194659), which paid in significant functional defects to gain a memorable experience in viewing art, especially where the helix affords views into a side gallery below.

The architectural drawings Wright left behind are magical and lyrical. No one might ever build accordingly, but Wright was never content with the commonplace or ordinary to the conventional or the practical. He imagined the wonderful where others were content with the probable. Wright's drawings suggest how far his talent surpassed any client's capacity fully to realize his dream: a world of sanctuaries and gardens, of earth and machines, of rivers, seas, mountains, and prairies, where grand architecture enables men to dwell nobly.

Wright died at Taliesin West on April 9, 1959. His widow, Olgivanna, directed the Taliesin Fellowship.

For More Information

Gill, Brendan. Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Putnam, 1987.

Secrest, Meryle. Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Smith, Kathryn. Frank Lloyd Wright: America's Master Architect. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1998.

Thomson, Iain. Frank Lloyd Wright. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1997.

Thorne-Thomsen, Kathleen. Frank Lloyd Wright for Kids. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1994.

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Wright, Frank Lloyd Lincoln

Wright, Frank Lloyd Lincoln (1869–1959). American architect, some say the greatest of C20. He learned the rudiments of his art from Joseph Lyman Silsbee (1845–1913), whose essays in the Queen Anne and Shingle styles were competent. He later (1888) became assistant to Louis H. Sullivan, and remained with the firm of Adler & Sullivan until 1893. While revering Sullivan, Wright was also influenced by Owen Jones, the English Arts-and-Crafts movement, Ruskin, and Viollet-le-Duc (or rather by what Viollet was said to have written), interlocking forms (perhaps suggested by the Froebel blocks with which he played when a child), and Japanese architecture (prompted by the Japanese pavilion at the Chicago Exposition of 1893). In 1889 he designed his first independent building, his own house and studio at Oak Park, Chicago, IL, an eclectic work, with a shingled exterior (altered and extended 1889–1911), and in 1894 became a founder-member of the Arts-and-Crafts Society in Chicago. At this time he began to evolve his Prairie House type, with volumes developing from a central core, long, low roofs that appeared to float over the structure, corners treated as voids, and enclosing walls that were treated more as independent screens (techniques he called ‘breaking the box’). Furthermore, the main axes within the houses were continued into the gardens and terraces, suggested in the schemes Wright published in the Ladies' Home Journal (1901), and developed in the series of houses he designed from that time until just before the 1914–18 war. Yet Lutyens had also been moving in this direction, as with the Deanery, Sonning, Berks. (1899–1902), while Schinkel had also brought gardens, water, and terraces within his profoundly ordered geometries, as at the Court Gardener's House and Roman Baths complex, Potsdam (1820s). Wright's finest essays in the Prairie House style were the Willitts House, Highland Park, IL (1902), Robie House, Chicago (1908), and Coonley House, Riverside, IL (1908–12).

With the Unity Temple (Unitarian Church), Oak Park (1906), and the Larkin Building, Buffalo, NY (1904—demolished), a severe, monumental architecture evolved, in which a powerful grid-like geometry was well to the fore, while the architectural language seemed to owe something to a stripped Classicism reminiscent of aspects of the work of Schinkel, Otto Wagner, and others (especially the rows of square columns at Unity Temple which recall the Berlin Schauspielhaus (Play House) by Schinkel and some of the Vienna Metropolitan Railway Stations by Wagner).

Wright's work had been widely publicized, and in 1910 Wasmuth of Berlin published Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright (Realized Buildings and Projects of Frank Lloyd Wright) as a handsome pair of portfolios, followed in 1911 by a paperback volume of illustrations and plans. The introduction was by C. R. Ashbee, the prominent English Arts-and-Craftsman, and these publications helped to promote Wright's work. His designs seem to have enjoyed considerable favour in Germany (Gropius and Mies van der Rohe were two architects affected) and in The Netherlands, in particular, where Robert van't Hoff, Dudok, and some members of De Stijl were undoubtedly influenced by his work, and it shows. In 1911 he moved to the Wisconsin countryside, where he built his Prairie House-based home and studios at Taliesin (burnt down 1914, but rebuilt and extended during the 1920s). There he was the Master with his pupils, a pose he developed further at Taliesin West, mentioned below.

In spite of a scandalous private life he gained two important major commissions: the Midway Gardens, Chicago (1913—demolished); and the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan (1915–22—with Antonin Raymond—also demolished). Both had highly organized plans in which axes featured prominently, and both were lavishly decorated with polygonal, triangular, and other sharp-angled forms, including chevrons, that had already begun to appear on the lead cames of some of the Chicago houses, and that anticipated Art Deco ornament. With the Hollyhock (or Barnsdall) House (1916–21), Los Angeles, Calif., he experimented with repetitive stylized motifs (abstractions of hollyhock forms) cast in moulds (the whole house was cement-rendered), and created a building faintly reminiscent of pre-Columbian American architecture, a theme more pronounced in the Ennis House, Los Angeles (1923–4), constructed of decorated concrete blocks, and featuring battered walls set on terraces. He again used concrete blocks in e.g. the Millard House, Pasadena, CA (1923), and Freeman House, Los Angeles (1923–4), but for the rest of the decade his work did not attract the attention his earlier designs had enjoyed. In the 1930s, however, Wright's buildings were once more widely publicized.

At the Kaufmann House (1935–48), ‘Falling Water’, Connelsville, PA (1935–48), he gave full expression to horizontals and verticals in a tour-de-force constructed over a stream called Bear Run, a design that had superficial resemblances to the International Modernism of the time, but, with its coursed rubble walls and hand-crafted detail, owed more, perhaps, to the Arts-and-Crafts tradition, while the disposition of elements derived from his Prairie House type. In 1936–9 he designed and built the Johnson Wax Factory, Racine, WI, with a tall interior the roof of which was supported by tapered mushroom-shaped columns, the walls being of brick with glass tubes forming the light-sources. At the same time he developed his low-cost Usonian houses, based on vernacular American buildings, that explored the possibilities of prefabrication. The prototype was the Jacobs House, Madison, WI (1936–7), and Wright publicized his ideas in Architectural Forum of 1938. He also evolved proposals for Broadacre City, a low-density plan in which the Usonian house would feature large. In 1937 he designed Taliesin West, winter quarters for himself and his disciples, which he built at Scottsdale, AZ From 1942 he prepared designs for the Guggenheim Museum, NYC (completed 1960), a spiral ramp that proved to be an inappropriate form for viewing works of art, but as an exercise in formal geometry was remarkable for its time. At Bartlesville, OK, he designed the Price Tower (1953–6), a tall block rather more elegant than the slabs so prevalent during that period, demonstrating Wright's interest in the acute angles he had also employed at Taliesin West. Among his last works the Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael, Calif. (1957–66), and the Beth Sholom Synagogue, Elkins Park, PA (1958–9), deserve note.

Wright has been seen as an exponent of organic architecture, by which he seems to have meant design that proceeds from the nature of Mankind and his circumstances as they both change. Although his writings suffer from rather obvious conceit, prolixity, and dense obfuscation (e.g. An Autobiography (1943), An Organic Architecture (1939), and When Democracy Builds (1945)), they were collected and published as Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture: Selected Writings 1894–1940 (1941) and In the Cause of Architecture: Essays by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Architectural Review 1908–1952 (1975).

Bibliography

Alofsin (ed.) (1999);
Bolon et al . (1988);
Etlin (1994);
Futagawa (ed.) (2002, 2002a);
B. Gill (1987);
G&I (1981);
Gutheim (ed.) (1941);
T. Heinz (1982, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000);
Hitchcock (1973);
D. Hoffmann (1988);
LeG&S (1996);
Levine (1996);
Long (1996);
McCarter (1997);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
K. Smith (1998);
N. Smith (1966);
Storrer (1974, 1993, 2002);
Stungo (1999a);
R. Sweeney (1978);
Jane Turner (1996);
I. Thomson (2000);
Twombly (1979);
Wright (1943, 1945, 1970, 1975, 1998);
van Vynckt (ed.) (1983);
Zevi (1979)

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Wright, Frank Lloyd

Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867–1959, American architect, b. Richland Center, Wis. Wright is widely considered the greatest American architect. After studying civil engineering at the Univ. of Wisconsin, he worked for seven years in the office of Dankmar Adler and Louis H. Sullivan in Chicago.

The Prairie Style

Wright's first independent commission was the Winslow residence (1893) in River Forest, Ill. Establishing himself in Oak Park, Ill., he built a series of residences with low horizontal lines and strongly projecting eaves that echoed the rhythms of the surrounding landscape; it was termed his prairie style. The most famous examples are located in Chicago and its suburbs; they include the Willitts house (1900?–1902), Highland Park; the Coonley house (1908), Riverside; and the Robie house (1909), Chicago.

Innovative Techniques and Styles

From the beginning Wright practiced radical innovation both as to structure and aesthetics, and many of his methods have since become internationally current. At a time when poured reinforced concrete and steel cantilevers were generally confined to commercial structures, Wright did pioneer work in integrating machine methods and materials into a true architectural expression. He was the first architect in the United States to produce open planning in houses, in a break from the traditional closed volume, and to achieve a fluidity of interior space by his frequent elimination of confining walls between rooms. For the Millard house (1923) at Pasadena, Calif., he worked out a new method, known as textile-block slab construction, consisting of double walls of precast concrete blocks tied together with steel reinforcing rods set into both the vertical and the horizontal joints.

Important Works

The Larkin Office Building (1904; destroyed 1950), Buffalo, and Oak Park Unity Temple (1908), near Chicago, were early monumental works that exerted wide influence. Among other notable works are the Imperial Hotel (1916–22; demolished 1968; partially reconstructed, Meiji Mura Mus., Inuyama, Japan), Tokyo, Japan, which withstood the effects of the 1923 earthquake; the Midway Gardens (1914; destroyed 1923), Chicago; and Wright's own residence "Taliesin" (1911; twice burned and rebuilt) at Spring Green, Wis. Among his later projects were "Taliesin West" (1936–59), Scottsdale, Ariz. (which has continued since his death as a school of architecture); the Johnson administration building (1936–39; research tower, 1950), Racine Wis.; and the house for Edgar Kaufmann, "Fallingwater" (1936–37), Bear Run, Pa., which is dramatically cantilevered over a waterfall.

After World War II, Wright continued a large and ever-inventive practice until his death. He created dynamic interior spaces with spiral ramps for the V. C. Morris Gift Shop (1948–49), San Francisco, and for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1946–59), New York City. Other notable later buildings include a Unitarian church (1947), Madison, Wis.; the Price Tower (1955), Bartlesville, Okla.; and Beth Sholom Synagogue (1959), Elkins Park, Pa. He left numerous unrealized projects, including one for a mile-high skyscraper ( "The Illinois" ) for Chicago and an ambitious design for a civic center in Madison, Wis. The latter was later reconceived as the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center and opened in 1997.

Writings and Bibliography

Wright's architectural philosophy was expressed in his lectures and writings. Among them are On Architecture (1941); When Democracy Builds (1945); Genius and the Mobocracy (1949, enl. ed. 1971), an evaluation of his master Louis H. Sullivan; The Future of Architecture (1953); An American Architecture (1955); and A Testament (1957). His influence can be seen throughout Europe. Volumes illustrative of his works were published in France and Germany as early as 1910. In 1995 about 5,000 of his architectural drawings were published in CD-ROM form as Frank Lloyd Wright: Presentation and Conceptual Drawings.

See also his autobiography (enl. ed. 1977); biographies by his daughter, Iovanna Lloyd Wright (1962) and his wife, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright (rev. ed. 1970), F. Farr (1961), R. C. Twombly (1973), M. Secrest (1992), and A. L. Huxtable (2004); studies by H. R. Hitchcock (1942, repr. 1973); V. Scully (1960), P. Blake (rev. ed. 1964), H. A. Brooks (1972), D. L. Johnson (1990), and D. Hoffmann (1995); W. A. Storrer, a catalog of his buildings (1974, repr. 1978) and The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion (1994); bibliography by R. L. Sweeney (1978).

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Wright, Frank Lloyd

Wright, Frank Lloyd (1869–1959) US architect, regarded as the leading modernist designer of private housing. He worked with Louis Sullivan in the Chicago School of architecture, before his first independent design in 1893. His distinctive ‘organic’ style of low-built, prairie-style houses was designed to blend in with natural features. Influenced by Japanese art and architecture, Wright's open-plan approach to interiors was highly influential. His use of materials and construction techniques was radical. Buildings include: Robie House, Chicago (1909); ‘Falling Water’, Bear Run, Pennsylvania (1936–37); and the Guggenheim Museum, New York (1946–59).

http://www.franklloydwright.org

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Wright, Frank Lloyd

WRIGHT, FRANK LLOYD


Frank Lloyd Wright (18691959) was considered one of the most influential and most important twentieth century U.S. architects. His buildingsmore than 400possessed the quality and feel of genius at work. His designs, his unique ideas about homes, seemed eternally futuristic, enormously functional, and have influenced every sphere of twentieth century architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most dramatic and eccentric U.S. geniuses. He was born on June 8, 1867, the eldest of three children born to William and Anna Lloyd Wright in the small town of Richland Center, Wisconsin, on the American prairie. Wright's mother had emigrated from Wales with her family. Her brothers and her father, who was a Unitarian minister, became skilled carpenters and built themselves homes in the Wisconsin River Valley. Wright's relationship with his mother was very close throughout his life. When he was very young his mother, who was a schoolteacher, used the Froebel Kindergarten Method at home, which introduced children to pure geometric forms and their patterns on grids. Scholars have speculated that Wright's later use of so much sophisticated geometric design in his work was an outgrowth of his early integrated exposure to geometric design as a learning tool.

His father, William Carey Wright, was a Baptist minister and musician. When Wright was three years old, his family moved to Massachusetts, where his father worked as a minister. Around 1880 the family moved back to Wisconsin. His father opened a music conservatory and Wright went to school and worked on his uncle's farm. When Wright was 18, his father divorced his wife, leaving him with his mother and two younger siblings. After his parents' divorce in 1885, Wright sought part-time employment in Madison, Wisconsin. He also had plans to study at the University of Wisconsin. Wright took a job with a Madison contractor as a draftsman's apprentice, and he took engineering and graphics courses for a year at the university. That was the end of his formal education. To further his architectural training, Wright left Madison in 1887 for Chicago, Illinois, where he obtained employment as a draftsman with Joseph Silsbee, an architect.

Chicago in the late 1880s was booming and Wright was there to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities available. Architects from all over the world had come to Chicago to rebuild the city after it was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1871. Wright, having learned the architectural basics from Silsbee, began to undertake his own commissions and projects for private residential home design. In 1888 he joined the firm of Adler and Sullivan, where he primarily designed homes.

He landed a job with Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, one of the most progressive architectural firms in the country. Here Wright developed a very close relationship with Louis Sullivan (18561924), who was known for his "form follows function" ideology. By the time Wright was in his early 20s, he had worked on some of the most impressive buildings in Chicago.

Wright left Sullivan in 1893 and established his own business. From 1893 to 1910 he built approximately 273 houses, many of which were the "Prairie-house style"a combination of Japanese design elements and American influences.

In 1889 Wright married Catherine Lee Clark Tobin. Frank and Catherine had six children, two of whom became architects. To support his wife and children in the manner to which he was accustomed, Wright took on extra work designing houses. Wright "bootlegged" designs from Sullivan's firm, adding his own ideas Sullivan subsequently severed his contract with Wright. In 1893 Wright started his own architectural business. In 1909 he abandoned his wife and children, running off to Europe with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a former client. The couple stayed away from the United States for a year, returning in 1911 to settle in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where Wright built his well-known residence Taliesin ("shining brow" in Welsh). In 1914 a servant at the Taliesin residence set fire to the house and murdered Mamah, two of her children, and four other occupants as they tried to escape the flames. The house was almost completely destroyed. Wright rebuilt Taliesin and later traveled to Tokyo, where he was commissioned to build the Imperial Hotel.

During the 1920s Wright developed a new construction method using pre-cast concrete blocks that were reinforced with metal. Several houses were built with this new method, of which the most notable is the Mallard house in Pasadena, California. Wright's personal life was in a shambles during this decade and his professional life was greatly affected: Commissions were not as numerous and many commissions that Wright did have were postponed or cancelled due to the Great Depression (19291939).

In 1922 Wright married the sculptress Miriam Noel. In 1925 Taliesin burned down again. Wright's career suffered because of continual scandal in his personal life, which was continually unraveling. Wright's finances and emotions were depleted. His life was filled with lawsuits, bad publicity, bankruptcy, and bitterness. In 1928 Wright married his fourth wife, Olgivanna Milanoff, a Montenegrin aristocrat, who was at one time a student of G.I. Gurdjieff, a Russian-born esoteric thinker and mystic. This marriage lasted for the rest of Wright's life.

During the early 1930s Wright devoted his time to writing and lecturing. In 1931 Wright set up the Taliesin Fellowship and turned his residence into a studio-workshop for apprentices who would pay to study with him and work on Wright's commissions. As the economy in the country stabilized, building resumed and Wright designed two well known buildings: the Kaufman House, which was cantilevered over a waterfall at Bear Run, Pennsylvania, and an administration building for the S.C. Johnson and Son Company in Racine, Wisconsin. Wright also kept himself busy designing houses and communities that he thought were the perfect answer to modern society; for example, Broadacre City was a decentralized community with no distinction between town and country. He designed homes that would reflect an ideal, democratic AmericaUsonia. In 1938 he built Taliesin West, a permanent desert camp made of stone, wood and canvas, near Phoenix Arizona.

Wright began to lecture and teach. Although his designs continued to be built at a steady pace for more than two decades, he was not to see fame re-emerge in his life until the 1950s. He was in his eighties then, but he had survived into old age with good energy and a burning passion about his beliefs in radical architecture. Wright wrote several books about architecture. He was idolized in the 1950s as a daring, individualistic genius. The eccentricities for which he was once scorned had helped to make him popular. Clearly, before he died, Frank Lloyd Wright had secured a position in the public imagination as a uniquely American icon; a brilliant, loner, "cowboy"-architecta genius to architecture, as Albert Einstein was a genius to physics.

During the 1940s and 1950s Wright continued to design and build innovative and impressive structures. During this time his designs were perhaps more varied and radical than previous decadescollege campuses, crescent-shaped houses, circular houses, and lastly, the unprecedented concrete, spiral-shaped Guggenheim Museum, his last major work. Although his work has been criticized as impractical and expensive, none of his structures have sustained damages due to faulty engineering.

Wright believed that U.S. architecture should reflect the environment in which it was built, the environment of the frontier and of the abundance of land. Wright described his work as "organic architecture, that which proceeds, persists, creates, according to the nature of man and his circumstances as they both change." He created homes with strong horizontal lines and shapes, with roofs that were low pitched with large overhangs, and with flourishes that created a sense of the horizon and of spaciousness. The inside of his homes, influenced by Japanese designs, had large open spaces, huge central rooms, few closed corners, many large windows, and a geometric emphasis in the room's decor. His homes were unadorned; nothing "fancy" or "fake" or unnecessary was present. His ceilings were built highcathedral ceilingsand many of his houses were heated with radiant heat (coils built into the concrete slab floors which circulated warm water through the coils to radiate heat into the home evenly). And since automobiles had become easier to start, he stopped building garages and instead attached simple carports that would protect the car from heavy snow but retain the open feel of the total design.

Frank Lloyd Wright's designs of homes and buildings have inspired generations of architects, including much of what is called "modern architecture." His influence has been internationalmany other countries have considered Frank Lloyd Wright's designs to be a major influence on their contemporary styles. More than 30 states in the United States possess Frank Lloyd Wright structures, and most architectural critics agree that every state in the country has buildings that reflect Wright's style. His many imitators constitute Wright's greatest success. Even if his more severe designs are changed and distorted, the general horizontal style of Wright's prairie architecture created a distinct shape of architectural content that has influenced the way Americans see modern architecture. His brilliant designs of Taliesin West, his Arizona headquarters; the inexpensive Usonian homes; the great Kaufman House, built over a waterfall in Pennsylvania; his designs for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City are all breath-taking examples of his great success as an architect and an artist. Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959.

See also: Louis Sullivan


FURTHER READING

Blake, Peter. Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture and Space. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1964.

Brooks, H. Allen. The Prairie School: Frank Lloyd Wright and His Midwestern Contemporaries. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Brooks, H. Allen, ed. The Writings of Wright. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983.

Gill, Brendan. Many Masks. Putnam, 1987.

Wright, Frank Lloyd. An Autobiography. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1943.

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