Wright, Frank Lloyd

Wright, Frank Lloyd

Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959, American architect, b. Richland Center, Wis. Wright is widely considered the greatest American architect. After studying civil engineering at the Univ. of Wisconsin, he worked for seven years in the office of Dankmar Adler and Louis H. Sullivan in Chicago.

The Prairie Style

Wright's first independent commission was the Winslow residence (1893) in River Forest, Ill. Establishing himself in Oak Park, Ill., he built a series of residences with low horizontal lines and strongly projecting eaves that echoed the rhythms of the surrounding landscape; it was termed his prairie style. The most famous examples are located in Chicago and its suburbs; they include the Willitts house (1900?-1902), Highland Park; the Coonley house (1908), Riverside; and the Robie house (1909), Chicago.

Innovative Techniques and Styles

From the beginning Wright practiced radical innovation both as to structure and aesthetics, and many of his methods have since become internationally current. At a time when poured reinforced concrete and steel cantilevers were generally confined to commercial structures, Wright did pioneer work in integrating machine methods and materials into a true architectural expression. He was the first architect in the United States to produce open planning in houses, in a break from the traditional closed volume, and to achieve a fluidity of interior space by his frequent elimination of confining walls between rooms. For the Millard house (1923) at Pasadena, Calif., he worked out a new method, known as textile-block slab construction, consisting of double walls of precast concrete blocks tied together with steel reinforcing rods set into both the vertical and the horizontal joints.

Important Works

The Larkin Office Building (1904; destroyed 1950), Buffalo, and Oak Park Unity Temple (1908), near Chicago, were early monumental works that exerted wide influence. Among other notable works are the Imperial Hotel (1916-22; demolished 1968; partially reconstructed, Meiji Mura Mus., Inuyama, Japan), Tokyo, Japan, which withstood the effects of the 1923 earthquake; the Midway Gardens (1914; destroyed 1923), Chicago; and Wright's own residence "Taliesin" (1911; twice burned and rebuilt) at Spring Green, Wis. Among his later projects were "Taliesin West" (1936-59), Scottsdale, Ariz. (which has continued since his death as a school of architecture); the Johnson administration building (1936-39; research tower, 1950), Racine Wis.; and the house for Edgar Kaufmann, "Fallingwater" (1936-37), Bear Run, Pa., which is dramatically cantilevered over a waterfall.

After World War II, Wright continued a large and ever-inventive practice until his death. He created dynamic interior spaces with spiral ramps for the V. C. Morris Gift Shop (1948-49), San Francisco, and for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1946-59), New York City. Other notable later buildings include a Unitarian church (1947), Madison, Wis.; the Price Tower (1955), Bartlesville, Okla.; and Beth Sholom Synagogue (1959), Elkins Park, Pa. He left numerous unrealized projects, including one for a mile-high skyscraper ("The Illinois") for Chicago and an ambitious design for a civic center in Madison, Wis. The latter was later reconceived as the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center and opened in 1997.

Writings and Bibliography

Wright's architectural philosophy was expressed in his lectures and writings. Among them are On Architecture (1941); When Democracy Builds (1945); Genius and the Mobocracy (1949, enl. ed. 1971), an evaluation of his master Louis H. Sullivan; The Future of Architecture (1953); An American Architecture (1955); and A Testament (1957). His influence can be seen throughout Europe. Volumes illustrative of his works were published in France and Germany as early as 1910. In 1995 about 5,000 of his architectural drawings were published in CD-ROM form as Frank Lloyd Wright: Presentation and Conceptual Drawings.

See also his autobiography (enl. ed. 1977); biographies by his daughter, Iovanna Lloyd Wright (1962) and his wife, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright (rev. ed. 1970), F. Farr (1961), R. C. Twombly (1973), M. Secrest (1992), and A. L. Huxtable (2004); studies by H. R. Hitchcock (1942, repr. 1973); V. Scully (1960), P. Blake (rev. ed. 1964), H. A. Brooks (1972), D. L. Johnson (1990), and D. Hoffmann (1995); W. A. Storrer, a catalog of his buildings (1974, repr. 1978) and The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion (1994); bibliography by R. L. Sweeney (1978).

(born June 8, 1867, Richland Center, Wis., U.S.—died April 9, 1959, Phoenix, Ariz.) U.S. architect. After studying engineering briefly at the University of Wisconsin, he worked for the firm of Dankmar Adler (1844–1900) and Louis Sullivan in Chicago before opening his own practice there in 1893. Wright became the chief practitioner of the Prairie school, building about 50 Prairie houses from 1900 to 1910. Early nonresidential buildings include the forward-looking Larkin Building in Buffalo, N.Y. (1904; destroyed 1950), and Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill. (1906). In 1911 he began work on his own house, Taliesin, near Spring Green, Wis. The lavish Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (1915–22, dismantled 1967) was significant for its revolutionary floating cantilever construction, which made it one of the only large buildings to withstand the earthquake of 1923. In the 1930s he designed his low-cost Usonian houses, but his most admired house, Fallingwater, in Bear Run, Pa. (1936), is an extravagant country retreat cantilevered over a waterfall. His Johnson Wax Building (1936–39), an example of humane workplace design, touched off an avalanche of major commissions. Of particular note is the Guggenheim Museum (1956–59), which has no separate floor levels but instead uses a spiral ramp, realizing Wright's ideal of a continuous space. 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. Often considered the greatest U.S. architect of all time, his greatest legacy is “organic architecture,” or the idea that buildings harmonize both with their inhabitants and with their environment.

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Work Song: Three Views of Frank Lloyd Wright is a play by Jeffrey Hatcher and Eric Simonson. It premiered at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 2000. The play was commissioned by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago.

The play explores the relationship between Wright's personal life and work. The ensemble portrays more than a dozen people who were important in Wright's eventful life. The work is populated by architect Louis Sullivan, friends Ayn Rand and Alexander Woolcott, son John Lloyd Wright, wives Catherine and Olgivanna, and paramour Mamah Cheney.

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