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 2008 Architecture Frank Lloyd Wright 21004 21003 21000 21014 21005 LotLego Architecture Fallingwater (21005) Frank Lloyd Wright CompleteLego Architecture Fallingwater (21005) Frank Lloyd Wright CompleteLot Of Frank Lloyd Wright Books Frank Lloyd Wright Bradley House Stained Art Glass Panels X2Frank Lloyd Wright Tree Of Life Necktie Tie Darwin D. Martin House Made In Italy4 Pc 1998 Frank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim Retro Looking Cups And Saucers By KrupsFrank Lloyd Wright Tree Of Life VaseFrank Lloyd Wright Prairie House Architectural Wood Building Block Set 1998 Toy1st Edition Drawings Of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture 1962 Beautiful Book Tokyo, Japan Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel Beautiful Floral PostcardCabaret For Tiffany Frank Lloyd Wright Design Mug-japanFrank Lloyd Wright Espresso Set Krups Guggenheim 4 Cups & Saucers New In BoxSet Of 6 Imperial China Mug For Tiffany & Co. Frank Lloyd Wright Fdn/ 1992March Balloons Tapestry 100% Cotton Throw Frank Lloyd Wright Made In Usa!Coonley Area Rug Tapestry 100% Cotton Throw 52x70 Frank Lloyd Wright Usa Made!Coonley Playhouse Design Frank Lloyd Wright 18" Stuffed Pillow Made In The UsaFrank Lloyd Wright For Tiffany Designed Coffe Mugs (pair)Acme Studios Frank Lloyd Wright Collection Guggenheim Museum Enamel Metal PinThe Natural House By Frank Lloyd Wright First Edition In Dust Jacket 19542001-03-01, Frank Lloyd Wright And The Art Of Japan: The Architects Other PassioAmerican Arts Gold Medallion Frank Lloyd Wright 1982 1/2 Troy Ounce Gold CoinTreasures Of Taliesin : Seventy-six Unbuilt Designs Of Frank Lloyd Wright By...Frank Lloyd Wright House Beautiful Magazine Architecture/house/furniture Nov1955Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright 3d Viewmaster 3 Reel Pack 1998Us Fdc First Day Cover # 1280c Frank Lloyd Wright 1966 Lot Of 3 Booklet PanesUs Fdc First Day Cover # 1280 Frank Lloyd Wright 1966 Lot Of 3Sb1 Stamps - Lot Of 4 Frank Lloyd Wright Panes; Sc. 1280a, 1280c; MnhDr Jim Stamps Us Frank Lloyd Wright Fdc Colorano Silk Cover 1982Bulova Frank Lloyd Wright Mantel ClockFrank Lloyd Wright Picture Frame, 3x3 Museum Of Modern Art # 14392Vintage Acme Studios Frank Lloyd Wright Modernist Pierced Earrings Noc Frank Lloyd Wright Freeman House Candle Holder 3.5" Cast Concrete Block Made UsaFrank Lloyd Wright Freeman House Paperweight 3.5" Cast Concrete Block Made UsaFrank Lloyd Wright Storer House Paperweight 3.5" Cast Concrete Block Made UsaTwo 1998 Frank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim Retro Looking Cups By KrupsThe Vision Of Frank Lloyd Wright By Thomas Heinz Paperback 2002 EucFrank Lloyd Wright A Visual Encyclopedia Iain Thomson 2002 Soft Cover BookUs Fdc First Day Cover # 1280 Frank Lloyd Wright 1966 Jackson Overseas Mailer

Recent News: Frank Lloyd Wright

Source: Google News

Frank Lloyd Wright House Relocated From NJ Will Open in Crystal Bridges, Ark.
Observer, August 28th

The Bachman-Wilson House, a New Jersey home originally designed in 1954 by world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright for Abraham Wilson and Gloria Bachman, was being threatened by repeated flooding at its original location along the Millstone River...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright house to open at Crystal Bridges in November
Fayetteville Flyer, August 26th

The Frank Lloyd Wright house that Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art bought and moved from New Jersey to Arkansas will open to the public on Nov. 11. Built in 1954 along the Millstone River in New Jersey, the Bachman Wilson House was purchased ...Read more

PHOTOS: Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Houston for sale
KTRK-TV, August 17th

This house recently made national news because it's famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright's only house in Houston. The home is situated on a gated 51,727-square foot lot at the end of a lane on 12020 Tall Oaks St. This artistic masterpiece is ideal for...Read more

Museum plans for Phoenix Frank Lloyd Wright home continue to bring debate, August 17th

PHOENIX — The excitement and controversy surrounding the restoration, and future museum plans for the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Arcadia continues. “Frank Lloyd Wright had such an international influence and legacy,” said Sarah Levi, great-great ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright expert explains Usonian architecture
Times Daily, August 15th

Tlachac is the director of the Frank Lloyd Wright visitors program at the Florida Southern College Architectural District, home to the largest collection of Wright structures in a single location. Tlachac was in Florence on Saturday as part of the “All...Read more

Alabama's only Frank Lloyd Wright house is 75 years old. See why Rosenbaum ..., August 14th

The Rosenbaum Home in Florence, complete in 1940, is the only Frank Lloyd Wright structure ever built in Alabama. It stayed in the Rosenbaum family until 1999 and is now a museum. It turns 75 years old Aug. 15, 2015. (Source: Rosenbaum House Museum)...Read more

Staying in Frank Lloyd Wright's Guest Bedroom
Wall Street Journal, August 13th

All this came to mind when I slept last month in the guest bedroom of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's rambling 601-acre country estate, not far from the village of Spring Green, Wis. I'd previously spent the night in five of the dozen or so Wright...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright's designs are hot properties again
Chicago Tribune, July 31st

It's not unusual for homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright — about 80 still stand in the Chicago area — to take longer to sell than other homes. In fact, the average market time is around two years, said real estate agent Pamela Tilton of Jameson...Read more