Monday, July 8, 2013


With a career that encompassed more than 70 years, Frank Lloyd Wright was this country's greatest known and most celebrated architect.  By far, his influence on 20th century American design is the single greatest ever and made him the first American to have such effect on the international scene.

Wright was born June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin.  As a young child, he was influenced by the theories of German educator Friedrich Froebel, creator of the kindergarten system and whose philosophy included the use of colorful geometric shapes as construction toys.

Later, Wright was apprenticed to Allan D Conover, a Madison, Wisconsin builder and Dean of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin.  He studied at the university for two years where he excelled in drafting.

1887 saw the young aspiring architect leave Wisconsin, landing in Chicago, a city still recovering from the Great Fire of 1871.  That spring he applied for a draftsman position with Joseph Lyman Silsbee.  The influences of English critic and social theorist John Ruskin impacted his work at this point in time as well as the British and European Arts and Crafts movement.  As a result he would maintain his anti classical architectural stance throughout his career.

In the fall of the same year he applied for a drafting position with Adler & Sullivan, where he spent 6 years perfecting his skills before striking out on his own..  He married his first wife in 1893 and they set up a household in a residence he designed in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park.  Wright accepted numerous new commissions, mostly from his suburban neighbors as he became better known.  He continued to develop his building style, featuring more and more of the Arts and Crafts influence in his designs.  This lead to his Prairie House concept, which exemplified open, free-flowing living areas, brightly lighted by windows providing wide continuous views of the surrounding landscape.  With this concept he designed fireplaces that helped designate different living areas.  They became the focal point of family living.  He designed furniture specifically for the home and it's occupants.  The use of beautiful natural materials, plantings, and outdoor fixtures made for a harmonious unification between site and dwelling.

His contemporary view of architecture gained national  attention in 1901 with the commission of several of his designs to be published in Ladies Home Journal.

Wright's designs were not limited to residential structures.  Two Chicago apartment buildings were commissioned in the mid-1890's from his designs.  Numerous office buildings and public spaces were also part of his repertoire.  The Unitarian church of Oak Park, lost to a terrible fire, was rebuilt by Wright under his creative eye in 1904.  With it's soaring walls, pre-Columbian-looking columns, and heavy slab roof jutting outward at different levels, it was a church, the likes of which had never before been seen.

Wright's career hit international heights in 1916 with the Japanese commission of the Imperial Hotel project in Tokyo.  It proved to be most atypical of anything previously conceived by Wright, an imposing and grandiose structure.

With all of his notoriety in the world of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright will forever be known for the stunning beauty of Fallingwater, the home he designed for Edgar J Kaufmann, Sr, in 1935.  The residence seductively defines a serene wooded site with a stream and waterfall, located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.  It is this harmony between site and structure that continues to be a theme in modern architecture.

His buildings stand as testimony to his immense energy and creativity.  As an architect and artisan he remains the single most influential architect of 20th century American design.

Image above of Wright designed 1935 Kaufmann home, Fallingwater.

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