Frank Lloyd Wright, who emerged as an architect during the turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts movement, gave birth to the first distinctly American brand of architecture. Throughout his seven-decade career, Wright insisted that buildings complement their natural settings: With unfinished materials, simple lines, and open spaces, his structures seem to grow organically out of the landscape. Influenced by sparse Japanese design, Wright rejected the boxy, labyrinthine layouts and excessive ornamentation of Victorian Europe in favor of a style he felt reflected American principles of democracy and self-determination.

Wright is perhaps best known for his striking and innovative dwellings such as the Robie House near Chicago, Fallingwater in rural Pennsylvania, and his longtime home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. He also invented the influential “Prairie Houses,” which he designed regularly between 1900 and 1917. These long, low-to-the-ground buildings with sloping roofs and clean lines were meant to mimic the flatness of the surrounding prairies. The concept eventually led to a proliferation of one-story ranch-style houses around the United States. In addition to his architecture and design, Wright was an educator, philosopher, and prolific writer, publishing 20 books and a myriad of articles.

In addition to the 532 architectural structures he erected worldwide (409 of which are still standing), Wright also designed furniture, textiles, art glass, lamps, dinnerware, silver, and graphic arts. He began creating his own furnishings in the 1890s, as he felt most commercially made objects did not live up to his high aesthetic standards. They were pretty high standards, indeed, because at the time he was employing brothers Leopold and John George Stickley of Fayetteville, New York, to produce many of his furnishings.

Wright believed the interior design of a home could influence the spiritual and emotional well-being of his clients. This philosophy became known as the House Beautiful movement and it applied not just to the spaces he conceived but the furniture within them. Take, for example, the wooden spindle-backed side chairs he designed for his Oak Park home in 1895. The chairs have such high backs that when positioned at the dining table, they create an intimate room-within-a-room effect.

Often Wright made his furniture compact and multi-functional to give living areas an open feeling. In fact, much of his furniture was built into the structure of his homes. Wright also believed that repeating uncomplicated geometric patterns created an atmosphere of order and simplicity. His stained-glass pieces, such as the “Tree of Life” window, echoed these motifs. Even the lines and circles in his textile and carpet patterns, such as his Taliesin Line, played on this theme of geometric harmony.

Wright, who was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on June 8, 1867, to a Unitarian pastor and a schoolteacher, spent his formative years, ages 11-20, in Madison. He never went to college to study architecture; he only took two semesters worth of civil engineering classes at the University of Wisconsin. Instead, he learned the ropes first by helping architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee draft and supervise the construction of Unity Chapel in Madison, and then by taking a drafting job at age 20 for the Adler and Sullivan firm in Chicago.

For six years, Wright reported directly to famous architect Louis Sullivan, the only influence Wright would acknowledge in his life, as his “Lieber Meister,” or “beloved master.”...

In 1889, when Wright was 22, he married Catherine Tobin and built a home in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, which eventually became the headquarters of his practice and is now known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. His first acknowledged masterpiece, the Winslow House, was built in 1893 in River Forest, Illinois.

It was during this period that he started producing his Prairie Houses. He built the Martin House, which first incorporated his trademark horizontal-band windows; Robie House, one of his most celebrated Prairie Houses; the Unity Temple in Oak Park, one of the first U.S. buildings to feature exposed concrete; and the Larkin Company Administration Building in Buffalo, New York, which boasted innovations like the first wall-hung toilets, steel office furniture, glass doors, and extensive use of ventilation.

Around this time, Wright also began to give lectures on architecture. He famously parted ways with the one of the basic principles of the Arts and Crafts movement—that craftsmanship is always superior to machine-made products—in a 1901 lecture at the Hull House in Chicago. In his talk, “The Art and Craft of the Machine,” he asserted that machines can be used to bring out the simplicity and beauty of wood, establishing himself as the first U.S. architect to declare his acceptance of industrialization.

It was a prolific time for him in other ways, too. He had six children with Catherine before he left her in 1910 to run off to Europe with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a client’s wife, where he put together two portfolios, published by Ernest Wasmuth, “Ausgefuhtre Bauten und Entwurfe” and “Ausgefuhrte Bauten,” also known as the Wasmuth Portfolios. These publications brought him international acclaim and also influenced architects worldwide.

In 1911, Wright returned to Wisconsin to build a home on the land his mother’s Welsh ancestors had settled. He named this new home Taliesin, which is Welsh for “shining brow.” When Wright was working on Midway Gardens entertainment center in Chicago and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (a structure heralded for its earthquake-proof support system) in 1914, a mentally-ill servant set fire to the living quarters of Taliesin, killing Mamah, two of her children, and four others.

Wright started resurrecting Taliesin right away, and soon married sculptor Miriam Noel. Concurrently, Wright developed California properties like Hollyhock House and Millard House, for which he created the “textile block” technique, weaving together pre-cast concrete blocks with steel rods and cement. A second fire destroyed the Taliesin living quarters in 1925, when a lightning strike ignited faulty electrical wiring. As with the last fire, Wright rebuilt his home as quickly as possible. In 1928, Wright married again, this time to Olga Lazovich, the daughter of the Chief Justice of Montenegro.

In the 1930s, Wright focused on spreading his philosophies by hosting Taliesin Fellowships at his home, where scholars would study architecture, construction, farming, gardening, cooking, nature, and the arts. He promoted his ideas through books such as his autobiography and “The Disappearing City,” in which he proposed the concept of the Broadacre City, wherein each U.S. family is given a one acre-plot, a concept that helped give birth to modern suburbia.

Taking these ideas one step further, he invented prefab housing, which he named “Usonian” homes—from USONA or the United States of North America. These low-cost one-story houses for families of humble means featured innovations like carports, radiant heating using hot-water pipes under concrete-slab floors, and prefabricated walls made of boards and tar paper. His first functional Usonian home was named Jacobs I.

In 1936, Wright erected one of his most famous houses, Fallingwater, which stretches over a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania. The home, built with cantilevered balconies, doesn’t even appear to touch the ground. His other important later buildings include the SC Johnson Wax Administration Building and the Wingspread house in Racine, Wisconsin; the circular Guggenheim Museum in New York City, whose interior was inspired by the spiral of a conch shell; the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma; and the Marin County Civic Center in California.

Eventually, Wright created two other homes for himself. Taliesin West was his winter residence, built on a sprawling several-hundred-acre property in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona. Then, in 1955, he rented an apartment at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, which he dubbed “Taliesin East” and redecorated it with black and red lacquered furniture and thick peach carpeting.

Many people have speculated that Wright, with his iconoclast reputation and adamant rejection of traditionalist architecture, inspired the architect character Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s book “The Fountainhead.” But in a letter to a fan, Rand herself denied that Roark’s personality and life had any connection to Wright, insisting that the only thing the two have in common is their disdain for cluttered old-world design.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Chicago Silver

Chicago Silver

Paul Somerson's incredible reference on handwrought metalwork from the American Arts and Crafts movement of the ear… [read review or visit site]

1910 Metal

1910 Metal

A detailed tribute to the lesser-known artistic metalwork craftsmen of the Arts and Crafts movement. In addition t… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lego 2010 Architecture Frank Lloyd Wright 21002 21001 21004 21006 White House1677 Sgd Doc. Colony Ct. Ancstr Frank Lloyd WrightSketches Of Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin W/ Detached Sketch Schomer Lichtner Pb Frank Lloyd Wright: Pencil Studies For Mojave Desert DwellingFrank Lloyd Wright Architecture Furniture Book Lot Of 9 Some CoffeetableMason City, Iowa Architect Walter Burley Griffin Frank Lloyd Wright AssociateVintage Money Clip Frank Lloyd Wright Design Mason City,iowa-city National Bank-frank Lloyd Wright Architect-1915 Jh15Acme Frank Lloyd Wright Rollerball Pen,no Ink Rollerball Cartridge,in Wood CaseCat's Meow Frank Lloyd Wright Westcott House Springfield OhioOriginal Outsider Painting On Wood "frank Lloyd Wright's Legendary Parties""Huge 80" Frank Lloyd Wright Moma Silver Orange Black Art Deco Museum Scarf Wrap Boxelder Frank Lloyd Wright Frozen Spheres All Silk Necktie Tie Made In ItalyArts And Crafts Mission Shelf Clock Sessions 8 Day Frank Lloyd Wright Stickley Boxelder Frank Lloyd Wright Frozen Spheres Abstract Olive Grn Black Necktie TiesFrank Lloyd Wright Autobiography Dark Khaki Brown Silk Necktie Tie Hse1615a #p15Frank Lloyd Wright In Oak Park & River Forest By Frances H Steiner Pb1280a 2c Frank Lloyd Wright Booklet Pane Of 5 Mellone #49, Kolor Kover [e34389]Dr Jim Stamps Us Frank Lloyd Wright Fdc Art Craft Bklt Pane Cover 1971Frank Lloyd Wright Mantel ClockFallingwater Rising By Franklin Toker 2003 Hc Dj Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright Collection Guest Book, Wedding, EventsSixty Years Of Living Architecture Frank Lloyd Wright 1952Frank Lloyd Wright The Natural House With 124 Illustrations PbFrank Lloyd Wright Domestic Architecture And Objects Postcard Book Pb1280 2c Frank Lloyd Wright Mellone #49, Kolor Kover Cachet [e34388]

Recent News: Frank Lloyd Wright

Source: Google News

Join the tour: we visit SC Johnson's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed HQ in Racine, October 6th

By far the furthest afield of these offerings - and definitely one of the most memorable - are the free trips to visit the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright-designed headquarters of SC Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin. The complex is about an hour and a half...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright home found in Madison
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 6th

A two-story house in Madison will be announced as a rare Frank Lloyd Wright design. The home, which is on the city's near west side, is an example of the American System-Built House, a short-lived venture by the architect, the Wisconsin State Journal ...Read more

City Mixes Up 2 Frank Lloyd Wright Houses When Stopping Restoration
DNAinfo, October 5th

KENWOOD — The new owner of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was slapped with a stop work order for his neighbor's Wright-designed house on Thursday. Art Reliford and his wife, Elisa, bought the Blossom House and started restoring it after a plan ...Read more

Texas & Neighbors: Crystal Bridges adds Frank Lloyd Wright home
Dallas Morning News, October 3rd

The structure is an example of Wright's Usonian style, residential architecture that was simpler and lower-cost than his elaborate, highly customized homes. Admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday...Read more

Three Other Frank Lloyd Wright Houses That Are Struggling to Find a Buyer
Curbed Chicago, October 2nd

While homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright get a lot of attention when they hit the market, many can go months or even years before finally finding a buyer. Each Wright house has a unique flair and architectural quality, but many also present their own ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright house celebrates 75 years
Herald Times Reporter, October 1st

Multiple elements were combined into one for an event at Two Rivers' Frank Lloyd Wright house. Not unlike the famous architect's approach to design. Dozens of Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy members visited Still Bend, 3425 Adams St., ...Read more

Weary Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie Schooler Gets 12th Price Cut
Curbed Chicago, September 30th

A Highland Park Prairie school gem by Frank Lloyd Wright can now be had for $749,000 — about damn near half of its original $1.399 million ask from May 2011. The George Madison Millard House has been on and off the market since 2011 and during that ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright, One Tough Architecture Critic
Curbed National, September 24th

Australian architect John Andrews's proposed design for Toronto's City Hall, one of eight finalists selected for a design competition held in 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright said it "falls into the utterly fantastic and inutile." Frank Lloyd Wright was a man...Read more