Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

Frank Lincoln Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator who developed an organic and distinctly American style. He was the most influential American architect of the 20th century and over his career he designed numerous iconic buildings.

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About his life

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin, in a family of Unitarian Welsh preachers. His mother brings him up in accordance with the principles of pedagogy of Friedrich Froebel (as will happen, in particular, with Charles Eames, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Johannes Itten), in which Spielgabe (translated as “gifts of play”) plays an important role: spheres, cubes, cylinders and other primitive solids made from various materials (from yarn to wood) that can be manipulated and assembled in endless variations, and which, according to criticism, would capture his imagination.

Frank Lloyd Wright at the “Frank Lloyd Wright American Architect” (1940-1941) exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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About his career

After enrolling as an external student at the Wisconsin Faculty of Engineering (which he later left), he began his professional career as an apprentice in two important studies: first, with JL Silsby; then – the Chicago office of Dunkmar Adler and Louis Henry Sullivan, who were the pioneers of modern American architecture and the “fathers of skyscrapers”.  He stayed here for about six years, from 1887 to 1893, devoting himself primarily to designing single-family homes, while Adler and Sullivan built skyscrapers and commercial buildings, founding the Chicago School and, more generally, initiating the phenomenon of organic architecture (in which Wright would become the undisputed protagonist).

Winslow House, Chicago suburb (1893)

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Wright was greatly influenced by Sullivan, whose motto was “form follows function” and who rejected florid European styles in favor of a purer aesthetic.  Wright followed his ideas and developed them into unique style of modern American architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright founded his own firm and developed a style that became known as the Prairie School. He became known as the creator of organic architecture. His buildings are in harmony with both their inhabitants and the environment. The audacity and fruitfulness of his invention and his mastery of space are probably his greatest achievements.

Guggenheim Museum, 1959, F. L. Wright
Guggenheim Museum, 1959, F. L. Wright

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What are his major works?

His  main works are:

  • Winslow House, Chicago suburb (1893);
  • Unity Temple, Chicago, USA, (1906-1907);
  • Robie House, Chicago, USA, (1908-1910);
  • Midway Gardens, Chicago (1913-1914);
  • Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan, (1916-1922);
Robie House, Chicago (1910)

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  • Ennis House, Los Angeles, USA, (1920-1924);
  • Kaufmann House – Fallingwater House, Pittsburg (1932-1936);
  • Johnson Wax Headquarters, Racine (1936-1939);
  • Guggenheim Museum (1949-1959).
  • Norman Lykes house, Phoenix, Arizona. (1959). One of the few circular homes Wright designed during his career. It was built into the side of a mountain.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings that integrated into the natural environments that surrounded them. Perhaps the most famous example of Wright’s daring design was Fallingwater House, which Wright designed to literally hover over a waterfall.

Casa sulla cascata (Fallingwater), 1935, F. L. Wright
Kaufmann House (Fallingwater House), 1935, F. L. Wright

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About his style

Frank Lloyd Wright developed an organic architecture is considered the greatest American architect of all time. He perfected a distinctly American architectural style that emphasized simplicity and natural beauty in contrast to the intricate and ornate architecture that prevailed in Europe. With superhuman energy and tenacity, Wright has designed over 1,100 buildings in his lifetime, nearly a third of which he has designed in the past decade.

Norman Lykes house, 1959

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Wright was a great originator and a highly productive architect. Throughout his career he retained the use of ornamental detail, earthy colours, and rich textural effects. His sensitive use of materials helped to control and perfect his dynamic expression of space, which opened a new era in American architecture.

Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan, (1916-1922)

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