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”)

Modernism

Modernism

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    

Motawi Art Tile Frank Lloyd Wright Chicago 4" X 8" Frank Lloyd Wright Autumn Sumac Dana House Stained Glass WindowExceptional 1950's Original Photo Frank Lloyd Wright Portrait By Yousuf KarshThe Architectural Forum January 1938 Entire Issue Devoted To: Frank Lloyd WrightFrank Lloyd Wright Taliesin Floor LampFrank Lloyd Wright Stained Glass Collection Art Glass Rare Cruved Bradley HouseSuperb 1944 Original Photo Frank Lloyd Wright Builds Fallingwater Fayette PaFrank Lloyd Wright Glassmasters Replica Of ParadeLego Architecture Series Frank Lloyd Wright Falling Water 21005 NibFrank Lloyd Wright Collection Pen Prairie Acmew/ Collectible Tin1940's Original Photo Frank Lloyd Wright - A Profile Of Greatness1955 Wire Photo Frank Lloyd Wright Poses In Front Of U.s. Capitol Building1946 Wire Photo Frank Lloyd Wright Inspects Model Of His Architectural DesignVintage House Beautiful 1963 Frank Lloyd Wright House **** Free Ship Frank Lloyd Wright Collection "city By The Sea" Stained Glass Art Piece4 - Guggenheim Frank Lloyd Wright White Coffee 10 Oz Mugs Cups 2002Frank Lloyd Wright Waterlilies Design 15" X 8.5" Framed Metal Art Shadow Box NewAcme Studios Biltmore Brand (frank Lloyd Wright) Retractable Pen (p6w50)Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House Candle Holder 3.5"sq Cast Concrete Block Made UsaFrank Lloyd Wright Dana House Design 15" X 8.5" Framed Metal Art Shadow Chevron Frank Lloyd Wright Stained Glass Window 7" X 11"Mid Century Modern Frank Lloyd Wright Silk Tie Confetti Boxelder Made In Italy Frank Lloyd Wright : A Visual Encyclopedia By Iain Thomson (2000, Paperback)Dr Jim Stamps Us Frank Lloyd Wright Fdc Art Craft Cover 1971 Booklet PaneFrank Lloyd Wright Wood Mounted Art Photo Signed (garden Sprite Taliesin West)Frank Lloyd Wright Storer House Candle Holder 3.5" Cast Concrete Block Made UsaNew Frank Lloyd Wright May Basket Tie Box Elder 100% Silk Made In ItalyFrank Lloyd Wright 2 Plate Block - Mnh- Usps 2 Cent 1965 Sc #1280 Xyz-92Frank Lloyd Wright~#1280~mnh "zip Code" Block Of (4)~u. S. Stamps

Recent News: Frank Lloyd Wright

Source: Google News

An Afternoon With Frank Lloyd Wright
Cedar Valley Daily Times, September 19th

QUASQUETON – The Friends of Cedar Rock will present the 10th annual An Afternoon with Frank Lloyd Wright program at 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18 at the American Legion Hall, Water Street (County Road W35) in Quasqueton. There will be two ...Read more

3D Printing Is Being Used to Restore a Frank Lloyd Wright Classic
Gizmodo, September 18th

The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world is at Florida Southern University. Depending on how you count, there are 7 to 12 buildings, the most distinctive of which is Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. Time has taken its toll on the...Read more

New kids' book constructs a complex portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright
Chicago Tribune, September 17th

Did you know that renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a triangular doghouse for a Labrador retriever at the request of a client's son in 1956? Kathleen Thorne-Thomsen didn't when she first wrote a children's book chronicling Wright...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright's William Winslow House Now Just $1.7M
Curbed Chicago, September 15th

It's another week, which means there's been a price chop on another classic Frank Lloyd Wright home in the Chicago area. But this time, it's not just any Frank Lloyd Wright home, it's the William Winslow House - Wright's first totally independent...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright Home Price Slashed To Sell In Highland Park
CBS Local, September 9th

CHICAGO (CBS) — For about four years, a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Highland Park has languished on the market. Curbed Chicago is making an appeal for somebody to buy the home and give it the care it deserves. The asking price has been slashed from ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright School's Future Divides Leaders
ABC News, August 31st

The future of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has divided the institution named for the iconic designer. The quest to keep its accreditation status has some school board members concerned the degree program will end, while its foundation ...Read more

Spiralling Tensions at Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture School
New York Times (blog), August 27th

The architecture school run by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation on Wednesday criticized a decision by the foundation's board that will result in the school losing its accreditation. Last week, the Higher Learning Commission, a Chicago-based nonprofit...Read more

news
USA TODAY, August 21st

PHOENIX — The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, started 82 years ago by a man who changed American architecture, could lose its ability to produce future architects. The Higher Learning Commission, a Chicago-based non-profit that accredits ...Read more