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    

Frank Lloyd Wright~ Cabaret ~crystal Ice Bucket~ Imperial Hotel Tiffany Noritake2 Frank Lloyd Wright Collection Motawi Porcelain TilesMuseum Of Modern Art Silk Scarf Frank Lloyd Wright Nr Free ShipFrank Lloyd Wright Foundation Stained Glass Panel Decoration For Table Or WindowVintage Luxfer Frank Lloyd Wright Prism Glass Pinwheel Spiral Spiralite GreenTiffany & Co Crystal Candlestick 3.5” Frank Lloyd Wright 1986 Candle Holders X2Music, Ritual Exercises And Temple Dances. Georges Gurdjieff. Frank Lloyd WrightNice Frank Lloyd Wright Krups Tea Pot Guggenheim Collection Mid-century ModernNwt Frank Lloyd Wright, Ennis House Textile Block Scarf, Red, 9" X 66", By Moma Frank Lloyd Wright Perry House Architectural Wood Building Block SetHouse & Home Magazine - June 1959 - Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West McmFrank Lloyd Wright Monona Basin Project Madison, Wi 1967 ProspectusOriginal 1956 Sixty Years Of Living Architecture Frank Lloyd Wright Structures2 Booklets On Frank Lloyd Wright Homes, Fallingwater And Kentuck KnobQuilts In Tradition Frank Lloyd Wright Designs RobinsonScott 1280, 2 Cent, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mint SheetArchitectural Building Blocks Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie House SetFrank Lloyd Wright Waterlilies Silk Scarf - Moma - Nwt1966 2c Prominent American Frank Lloyd Wright - Cover Craft Combo Fdc X7Frank Lloyd Wright (scott 1280) Full Sheet Of 100Dr Jim Stamps Us Cover Frank Lloyd Wright Fdc Artmaster 1966Dr Jim Stamps Us Cover Frank Lloyd Wright Fdc Block Artcraft 1968* Frank Lloyd Wright "balloons And Confetti Window" T-shirt -- Size Large *1930s Imperial Hotel Tokyo Japan Original Postcard Frank Lloyd Wright Wu9821The Work Of Frank Lloyd Wright Wendingen EditionUnited States, # 1280, Part Plate Number Of Booklet Pane Of Frank Lloyd Wright1966 2c Prominent American Frank Lloyd Wright - Cover Craft Fdc X3Dr Jim Stamps Us Cover Frank Lloyd Wright Fdc Block Artmaster 1966

Recent News: Frank Lloyd Wright

Source: Google News

Exclusive: Fight over Frank Lloyd Wright house fires up wealthy Phoenix ...
Phoenix Business Journal, March 31st

Some of the Arcadia neighbors of a Phoenix house designed in 1952 by Frank Lloyd Wright are upset with plans to host events and develop a subterranean building to house archives, events, a bookstore and cafe. They could fight city permits needed for ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright's former Plaza pad hits market for $39.5M
The Real Deal Magazine (blog), March 31st

Wright lived in the 4,000-square-foot unit at 768 Fifth Avenue from 1954 till 1959 while he was working on the Guggenheim Museum, according to the New York Post. Corcoran Group's Marie-Claire Gladstone has the listing. The unit includes four bedrooms, ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright's Plaza home on market for $39.5M
New York Post, March 30th

Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright's former home at the Plaza is also now on the market for $39.5 million. The 4000 square foot corner condo comes with Central Park views. It's where Wright lived from 1954 to 1959 — his “Plaza years” — while he...Read more

Why Frank Lloyd Wright Didn't Want Art Hung In His Homes
Huffington Post, March 30th

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright is recognized for designing incredible houses, museums and offices, many of which double as works of art. And that might just be how he wanted them viewed by the public. According to a recent interview with Andrea ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona legacy
Bend Bulletin, March 28th

Weekends in April, $125-$150/night; 6825 E. Fourth St., Scottsdale. • Hotel Valley Ho: Designed by Edward L. Varney, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, this circa 1956 property has more groovy orange-and-aqua details than Zsa Zsa Gabor had husbands...Read more

EXCLUSIVE: Owner of Frank Lloyd Wright house looks to ease wealthy ...
Phoenix Business Journal, March 26th

The owners of an Arcadia home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1952 for one of his sons and daughters-in-law have bought adjacent properties and want to build a subterranean education center, cafe, bookstore and archives on the parcel just south of ...Read more

A Frank Lloyd Wright House Divides a British Village
Wall Street Journal, March 25th

In North America, Frank Lloyd Wright is considered an architectural deity. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, a fight over the famed architect's work has divided a peaceful British village. On one side of the dispute is the very determined...Read more

Touring the Arizona legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright
The Seattle Times, March 15th

Today, the compound consists of about a dozen interconnected structures that house the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Together, the buildings function as a sort of 3D sketchbook, introducing visitors from...Read more