Inspiring decades of new architects with the development of his unique style of architectural design, Frank Lloyd Wright is known by the American Institute of Architects as the greatest American architect of all time. “Designing 1,114 architectural works of all types — 532 of which were realized — he created some of the most innovative spaces in the United States” (FLW Foundation). Born on June 8th, 1867, Frank Lloyd Wright spent nearly 92 years designing, mentoring and inspiring creators across the country with his unique style and fiery personality. He was an innovator, and on April 9th, 1959, he left behind a legacy that has yet to be matched.
With his early design years known primarily for his Prairie Style, as said by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, “Wright’s work from 1899 to 1910 belongs to what became known as the “Prairie Style.” With the “Prairie house”— a long, low, open plan structure that eschewed the typical high, straight-sided box in order to emphasize the horizontal line of the prairie and domesticity— Wright established the first truly American architecture. In a Prairie house, “the essential nature of the box could be eliminated,” Wright explained.” As the Foundation continues, “The relationship of inhabitants to the outside became more intimate; landscape and building became one, more harmonious; and instead of a separate thing set up independently of landscape and site, the building with landscape and site became inevitably one.”
“Wright called his design philosophy "organic architecture," which, at its core, promoted the construction of buildings that exuded harmony with their respective environments, enhancing their surroundings rather than extruding from them. It promoted simplicity and necessity in layout and decoration and the frank exposure of the true properties of materials, befitting their use. Wright, unlike the architects of the International Style, did not shun decoration, but used nature as inspiration for ornament” (The Art Story).
Following the 1929 financial crash, Frank Lloyd Wright responded to the hundreds of thousands of American families without food or shelter by developing affordable housing. Known as the Usonian house (which stands for the United States of North America), “Wright’s Usonians were a simplified approach to residential construction that reflected both economic realities and changing social trends. In the Usonian houses, Wright was offering a simplified, but beautiful environment for living that Americans could both afford and enjoy. Wright would continue to design Usonian houses for the rest of his career, with variations reflecting the diverse client budgets” (FLW Foundation).
“Wright devoted his life to promoting architecture as “the great mother art, behind which all others are definitely, distinctly and inevitably related.” Seeking a consistent expression of underlying unity, he drew inspiration from the Japanese idea of a culture in which every object, every human, and every action were integrated so as to make an entire civilization a work of art. Above all else, Wright’s vision served beauty. He believed that every man, woman and child had the right to live a beautiful life in beautiful circumstances and he sought to create an affordable architecture that served that aspiration” (FLW Foundation).
“Arguably the most famous private home of the 20th century, this residence and its striking silhouette—appearing on a career-defining cover of Time magazine in 1938—created a sensation that propelled Wright through the final decades of his career. Set atop a waterfall in Bear Run, a summer camp in western Pennsylvania owned by the wealthy Kaufmann family, the concrete-and-limestone home, entwined with the body of water that gives it its name, is a symbolic masterpiece, instructive of both Wright’s philosophy and his single-mindedness” (Sisson).
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1959)
(Photo by: Jean-Christophe Benoist)
“Opened six months after Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959, the Guggenheim met with the kind of criticisms that one might imagine the architect would delight in hearing: that this incredible building was so striking, it would overshadow the art within. The apex of Wright’s cylindrical and circular style, this cultural center, a ribbon of concrete on the Upper East Side, descended from an earlier design for the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective and Planetarium. The open atrium and curved, spiraling floorplan created a unique viewing experience, with patrons slowly ascending toward the top of the architectural nautilus shell” (Sisson).
Frederick C. Robie House (1906)
(Photo by: Teemu08)
“While ownership of the Robie House has bounced back and forth throughout much of the 20th century, its place in the pantheon of Prairie School design is unshakeable. The home’s main living space, an open-plan living-dining room with a central chimney, is considered one of Wright’s greatest expressions of his early style, lined with artful leaded windows and his custom light fixtures and furniture. Designed around two rectangular vessels, Wright’s design stretches across a lot in Hyde Park, its cantilevered roofs and Roman bricks recalling the endless horizons of wide-open Midwest landscapes” (Sisson).
Inspiring Generations with Structural Design
Of all of Frank Lloyd Wright’s contributions to the world, his biggest has been his decades of inspiration to the younger generations. From fueling the fires of aspiring architects to energizing modern designs, Wright’s influence on architecture is evergreen.
In an effort to inspire the world’s youngest architects just like Frank Lloyd Wright, PCS Edventures has developed many different programs and projects that key in on the same spark of creativity that Wright thrived on.
In our Structural Design Camp, students learn how to integrate mechanics into construction, investigate the impacts of external forces, learn advanced building techniques and blueprinting exercises, and much more. As the world of architecture continues to reach as high into the sky as it can, our youngest material artists need an even deeper understanding of how art, structure and style work hand-in-hand to create some of the world’s most incredible architectural feats. With Structural Design Camp, students not only learn the science behind how structures are created, but they gain an appreciation and understanding of the real-world applications of architecture!
As an artform, architecture has always been held in the highest esteem. With Roman architects holding celebrity status and Gothic architecture highlighting the pinnacle of the Renaissance, architecture is art you can interact with — it’s livable art. Frank Lloyd Wright devoted his life to providing the world with liveable art. He was a titan of his craft, and today, we remember the man who inspired generations.
“The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.” — Frank Lloyd Wright, 1957
Sisson, P. (2017, June 02). Frank Lloyd Wright in 45 essential works. Retrieved June 5, 2018, from https://www.curbed.com/maps/frank-lloyd-wright-best-buildings-map
The Art Story. (2018). Frank Lloyd Wright Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works. Retrieved June 5, 2018, from http://www.theartstory.org/artist-wright-frank-lloyd.htm
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. (n.d.). About Frank Lloyd Wright. Retrieved June 5, 2018, from http://franklloydwright.org/frank-lloyd-wright/