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”)



An overview by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts of the design movements between 1880 and 1940 that comprised Moder… [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 Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture Fallingwater Set 21005 With Manuals + BoxBulova Frank Lloyd Wright Collection Standing Clock Out Of Production Wonders Of America - Frank Lloyd Wright "falling Waters" Silver Art Bar - .999Frank Lloyd Wright - Set Of 4 Dvd Documentaries With Bonus Features Haeger Potteries Frank Lloyd Wright Prarie Urn Flw Copper RareFrank Lloyd Wright Imperial Tiffany & Co. Dinner Plate 10.5"Bulova Elongated Frank Lloyd Wright Willits Leather Strap Watch - Never WornHaeger Potteries Frank Lloyd Wright Pinnacle Vase Rare Flw Nutmeg Glaze3 Neck Ties Boxelder Frank Lloyd Wright & Screenplay Martin Wong Bachrach Silk Boxelder Frank Lloyd Wright Black Gold Khaki Pink Geometric Mens Silk Neck TieFrank Lloyd Wright Graphic Tee Shirt VintageFrank Lloyd Wright S.c. Johnson Wax Tower RareFrank Lloyd Wright Laser Cut Wood Ennis House Block Design Trivet Or Wall DecorPillow From Frank Lloyd Wright Oak Park Home & Studio Skylight Rennie & RosePoster Frank Lloyd Wright Architect Moma 2/20-5/10/1994 - 39 X 26 InchesMuseum Of Modern Art Frank Lloyd Wright Silk Scarf2 Henriksen Frank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim Museum MugsFrank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim White 12 Oz MugPrairie Style Houses And Gardens Of Frank Lloyd Wright By Dixie LeglerTwo (2) Sets Krups Guggenheim Cup & Saucer By Frank Lloyd WrightBoxelder Frank Lloyd Wright Black Orange Horizontal Stripe Geometric Neck TieFrank Lloyd Wright's Stained Glass&lightscreens 1st Ed Thomas A. Heinz (2000 Hc)Fallingwater -frank Lloyd Wright Architecture Pennsylvania Vintage PostcardDr Jim Stamps Us Artmaster Cover Fdc 2c Frank Lloyd Wright Spring Green, Wi 1966Dr Jim Stamps Us Cover Fdc 2c Frank Lloyd Wright Spring Green, Wi 1966

Recent News: Frank Lloyd Wright

Source: Google News

Save the date: Frank Lloyd Wright Housewalk, Art League benefit and more
Franklin Park Herald, April 14th

The Nineteenth Century Charitable Association will host a fundraiser for its scholarship program for female graduates of Oak Park River Forest High School students. The April 21 event will feature award-winning journalist Bill Kurtis who will explore...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright's Laurent House Set to Open Friday, June 6 in Rockford ...
PR Newswire (press release), April 14th

ROCKFORD, Ill., April 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The newest Frank Lloyd Wright museum, The Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House, will open to the public on Friday, June 6 in Rockford, Illinois. A series of events beginning Wednesday, June 4 will celebrate the ...Read more

Accessible Frank Lloyd Wright House To Make Public Debut
Disability Scoop, April 13th

The only fully-accessible home ever designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright is set to open to the public as a museum. The Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Ill. will open June 6, just days ahead of what would have been Wright's 147th ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright home among historic homes for sale in La Grange
The Doings La Grange, April 11th

Two heaping slices of history are being served up in La Grange's housing market for just the right buyers of means. The Robert Emmond House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1892, is listed for $859,000 at 109 S. 8th Ave. The John W. Farley House, ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright Died 55 Years Ago, But His Legacy Lives On In These ...
Huffington Post, April 9th

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright once called his Darwin D. Martin house in Buffalo, N.Y. "the most perfect thing of its kind in the world -- a domestic symphony, true, vital, comfortable," but those words could easily apply to any of the numerous...Read more

Was This Mile-High Skyscraper Frank Lloyd Wright's Brightest Idea? MoMA ...
Forbes, April 3rd

“Carcass… parasite… fibrous tumor… pig-pile.” Frank Lloyd Wright was not exactly enamored of cities, which he famously lambasted as “enormity devouring manhood”. He favored the 19th century countryside. In his quest for transcendental tranquility, ...Read more

Frank Lloyd Wright Was a Genius at Building Houses, But His Ideas for Cities ...
The New Republic, March 29th

Most educated Americans can recite the names of at least a few of the principal figures of twentieth-century art—Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Jackson Pollock, maybe Jasper Johns—but ask about the architects of the same era and the only name you are ...Read more

Wisconsin: Frank Lloyd Wright tower to open to visitors for first time
Los Angeles Times, March 25th

What do products like Raid and Pledge have to do with architect Frank Lloyd Wright? Plenty. Headquarters for brand maker SC Johnson in Racine, Wis., are housed inside Wright-designed buildings that look as modern as the 20th-century day they were built...Read more