Frank Lloyd Wright

It has been said the only person who has had more books written about him than Frank Lloyd Wright is Abraham Lincoln. With that in mind here is a short summary of Wright's architectural life.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), was an American architect, graphic artist, urban planner, interior designer, writer and lecturer. He was a true renaissance man. He designed more than 1,000 projects and completed 500 works, which were original and innovative examples of various building types - offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels, museums, but mostly homes. His goal was to provide a truly American style of architecture not dependent on the European precedents.

The Prairie School of Architecture is a North American architectural movement of which Chicago architect Louis Sullivan is the spiritual father and Frank Lloyd Wright the most famous practitioner. The Prairie School is an outgrowth of the great Arts & Crafts movements that arose in Europe in the mid-19th century, inspired by the writings and works of John Ruskin, William Morris and other philosopher-artists.

He also developed concrete textile block houses in the 1920s and in an effort to design an affordable house for the middle class he developed the concept of the Usonian House, an acronym for the United States of North AmerIca, ​in the 1930s.

These houses eliminated the attic and basement and were set on a concrete pad containing radiant floor heat. Approximately sixty of these Usonian houses were built from 1935-1959 which served as the inspiration for the very popular ranch house of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s which have come to be known as Mid-Century Modern houses.

Often Wright designed many of the interior elements of his buildings, such as furniture, lighting fixtures, dinnerware, stained glass windows and sometimes even dresses for the client. He authored twenty books and many articles. He was a popular lecturer in the United States and Europe.

Many times the elements of Wright's personal and very colorful life made national headlines. Such elements included his multiple marriages and the 1914 fire and murders at his Taliesin (WI) studio.

From 1900 to 1901, Wright completed four houses - the Hickox and Bradley Houses (Kankakee, IL), Thomas House (Oak Park, IL) and Willits House (Highland Park, IL) -, which have since been considered the onset of the "Prairie Style." Publication of Wright's designs in the February and July 1901 and April 1907 issues of The Ladies' Home Journal attracted quite a bit of interest although those affordable designs were never constructed. 

Wright's designs featured extended low buildings with shallow and sloping roofs, clean geometric lines, central broad chimneys, large overhangs and bands of windows. They were the first examples of an "open plan."

Always an individualist, Frank Lloyd Wright never joined the American Institute of Architects. Nonetheless, the AIA recognized his immense contribution to American architecture by awarding him the AIA Gold Medal in 1949.

In 1991 the AIA Board passed a resolution recognizing him as "among the greatest architects of all time." The also urged that “because of changing needs and tastes any of Frank Lloyd Wright significant buildings might be thoughtlessly destroyed” that seventeen of his most significant works be forever preserved. These works were:

W.H. Winslow House, River Forest, IL (1893); Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, Oak Park, IL (1895); Ward Willitts House, Highland Park, IL (1902); Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL (1906); Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago, IL (1909); "Hollyhock House", Los Angeles, CA (1920); Taliesin East, Spring Green, WI (1925); "Fallingwater", Bear Run, PA (1936); S.C. Johnson Administration Building, Racine, WI (1936-39); Paul R. Hanna House, Palo Alto, CA (1937); Taliesin West, Scottsdale, AZ (1938); Unitarian Church, Madison, WI (1947); S.C. Johnson Research Tower, Racine, WI (1950); V.C. Morris Shop, San Francisco, CA (1951); H.C. Price Tower, Bartlesville, OK (1952-55); Beth Sholom Synagogue, Elkins Park, PA (1958-59); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC, NY(1957-59)

Four of Wright’s buildings have also received the AIA’s Twenty-five Year Award. This award was established to recognize architectural designs of enduring significance. It is conferred on a project that has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years. These buildings were: Taliesin West, Paradise Valley, AZ; S.C. Johnson Administration Building, Racine, WI; H.C. Price Tower, Bartlesville, OK; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC, NY

Wright died in Phoenix, AZ April 9th of 1959 while undergoing surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction. Olgivanna was at his side. But controversy seemed to follow the pair even after his death. His body had laid peacefully for over 25 years in the Lloyd-Jones Cemetery, near his early home in Spring Green, WI. But Olgivanna’s dying wish was that Wright’s body be exhumed and cremated and his ashes brought back to Arizona. In one more lasting imprimatur on their Western home and architectural legacy, Olgivanna directed that Wright’s ashes be mixed with her own and used in the walls of a memorial garden on the grounds of Taliesin West. His wife's will called for his remains to be exhumed and cremated so Olgivanna could have her ashes mixed with his and interred at Taliesin West.

Even though the grave is empty, Wright's gravestone still stands in the small cemetery south of Spring Green, WI. 

[adapted from an article on]

A Chronological Biography of Frank Lloyd Wright by David Jameson: click here

Books on Frank Lloyd Wright: click here




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