Frank Lloyd Wright – An Important American Architectural Innovator
1. Introduction: Frank Lloyd Wright and His Innovative Works
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) – an American architect, who greatly influenced the development of Western architecture in the first half of the XX century. The author of “organic” architecture, which organically combines the building with its natural surroundings, he created such famous buildings as “Fallingwater” and “the Guggenheim Museum”.
Wright was born on 8 June 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. His mother, Anna Lloyd-Jones, was a teacher, and his father, William Carey Wright, was a minister in the Unitarian church. In 1876 the family moved to Weymouth, Massachusetts, and then in 1878 to Madison, Wisconsin. There young Wright first began to study architecture under the guidance of a local carpenter.
In 1885 Wright left his home in Wisconsin and went to Chicago where he worked as a draftsman in the architectural firm of Joseph Lyman Silsbee. In 1886 he moved to the Studio of Adler & Sullivan as a draftsman and briefcase carrying assistant. There he worked until 1893, when he was dismissed after disagreements with his boss Louis Sullivan over the use of Sullivan’s name on Wright’s drawings for the project of the Unity Temple in Oak Park.
After leaving Adler & Sullivan, Wright opened his own architectural practice in Chicago and married Catherine Tobin. The couple had six children: John (born in 1892), Frances (born in 1894), David (born in 1895), William (born in 1896), Katherine (born in 1898) and Peter (born in 1907). In 1909, after the death of Catherine Tobin from tuberculosis, Wright married Maude Goodman with whom he had another child, Iovanna (born in 1910).
Most of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings were designed in Illinois (especially near Chicago) and Wisconsin. Among them there are private houses (“Prairie School”, “Usonian”), office buildings (“Hollyhock House”, “Imperial Hotel”), museums and temples (“Guggenheim Museum”, “Unity Temple”). But there are also some buildings designed by him outside the USA: “Bauta House” in Japan, “Hotel de Hiroshima” in Cuba, etc.
Nowadays more than 500 buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright have survived. And his ideas about architecture continue to influence architects all over the world.
2. Exterior design: A Concise Overview
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that a building should look organic – like it was a part of its natural surroundings. That is why he used a lot of horizontal lines in his designs which made his buildings look like they were spreading across the landscape. He also used a lot of native materials like stone and wood which helped his buildings to “blend in” with nature.
One of the most famous buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is “Fallingwater”. It is located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The client – Edgar Kaufmann – wanted a summer house which would be built over a waterfall. And that is exactly what Wright did: he designed a house which seemed to be “growing out” of the rocks and trees around it. The cantilevered balconies and terraces gave an impression that the house was about to “fall” into the waterfall.
“Fallingwater” is considered to be one of the best examples of Wright’s “organic architecture”.
3. Interior design: A Concise Overview
Frank Lloyd Wright was not only an architect but also a furniture designer and an interior designer. He believed that every building – no matter what its purpose was – should be designed as a whole. That is why he paid so much attention to interior design and even created his own furniture which would be a perfect fit for his buildings.
One of the most famous buildings designed by Wright is the “Guggenheim Museum” in New York. It was built in 1959 – just a few months before the architect’s death. The museum is spiral-shaped and has a very unique interior. The walls are not parallel to each other and the floors are not level. That makes the museum look like a giant spiral shell. And that was exactly Wright’s intention: he wanted the visitors to feel like they were “going down the rabbit hole” into another world where they would see the paintings not as flat images but as three-dimensional objects.
4. Education: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Emma Wright School
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that every child should have access to education. That is why he designed and built his own school – the Emma Wright School in Oak Park, Illinois. The school was named after Wright’s first wife who died from tuberculosis in 1909.
The school was built in 1912 and had a very unconventional design. The classrooms were arranged in a circle around a central courtyard. That way the students could always see each other and would not feel isolated. The classrooms were also very small – no more than 12 students in each one. That way the teacher could give each student more attention.
The school was open until 1918 when it was closed due to financial difficulties. But it was reopened in 1921 and continued to operate until 1938 when it was finally closed for good.
5. Writing: Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright was not only an architect but also a writer. He wrote several books on architecture, including “The Nature of Materials” (1908), “In the Cause of Architecture” (1914), and “An American Architecture” (1929). He also wrote a number of articles for magazines and newspapers.
In his writings, Wright argued that every building should be designed as a whole. He believed that architects should not only take into account the needs of the people who would live or work in the building but also the surrounding environment. He also believed that architects should use native materials wherever possible and design buildings which would look organic – like they were part of nature, not separate from it.
6. Conclusion: Frank Lloyd Wright – An Important American Architectural Innovator
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most important American architectural innovators of the XX century. His ideas about organic architecture and his use of native materials had a great influence on the development of Western architecture. His buildings can be found all over the USA – from private homes to museums – and his ideas continue to inspire architects all over the world.