Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
Years after his death, Frank Lloyd Wright continues to be recognized as the most prominent and revered American architect of the 20th century. Over the course of more than 90 years, Wright
lived and perfected his craft, for which he would become known all across the globe. His life was punctuated with worldwide fame, hostile derision, and artistic triumphs. Wright designed some 1,000 structures of all shapes and sizes: homes, hotels, office buildings, museums, schools, churches, chapels and synagogues, and even a doghouse.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Early Years
In 1867, just two years after President Lincoln’s assassination, Frank Lincoln Wright was born to William Cary Wright and Anna Lloyd-Jones. Influenced by his father’s love of classical music and his mother’s creative teaching methods, young Frank was introduced to famous architecture through drawings and paintings. His mother believed he was destined to be an architect and design great buildings. Upon the divorce of his parents, Wright would change his name to Frank Lloyd Wright to honor his mother’s family. Eventually his family would locate in Madison, Wisconsin, where Frank would attend Madison High School, but never graduate.
As a teen, Wright worked on his uncle’s farm developing an appreciation of nature and a love for architecture. Upon abandoning high school, he went to work for the dean of the Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin and spent some time at the University studying engineering. In 1887, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois.
In Chicago, Wright would be given the opportunity to draft his first building, the Unity Chapel. Within a year, he would work directly under local famed architect, Louis Sullivan. Louis Sullivan would be the one to teach Wright that “form follows function.” Wright would later readapt this philosophy as “form and function are one.”
Frank Lloyd Wright became known in and around Chicago for his unique architecture. His Prairie designs were the beginning of true American architecture based on American needs and function, rather than on old European traditions. Gone were the large decorated Victorians with turrets and finials, gone were the imposing Greek Revivals. Wright preferred site-specific construction where buildings blended into the landscape rather than being perched atop. It was with the Prairie homes that Wright began using materials limited to those found in the local area, whether it be brick if there was clay, stone if there was an abundance of rocks nearby, or wood – natural not painted from nearby trees. These elements became one definition of his new concept, “Organic Architecture.” To Wright, architecture was not just about the buildings, but included the furnishings, and other elements that would help those within live peaceful harmonious lives.
Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings
During his seventy years as an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright would become famous across the world. He was commissioned to design buildings from as far away as Tokyo.
In 1991, the American Institute of Architects named Wright the greatest American architect of all time. In 2000, the A.I.A. selected their top ten favorite buildings of the twentienth century: Wright’s Fallingwater topped this list, with the Robie House, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Johnson Administration Building also among the select few.
Today, Wright is well known for architectural designs such as the Prairie, Concrete Block, and Usonian. His ideas about the environment and architecture allowed for truly unique buildings that are still loved, even today.