Home | Whats New | Architects | Site Index | Search

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect [1867-1959]

Frank Lloyd Wright [†] was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin. From a young age, buildings fascinated Wright, but rather than architecture he studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After school, he moved to Chicago to work for the architectural firm of J. Lyman Silsbee and in 1887, was hired by the firm of Adler and Sullivan who were designing Chicago's Auditorium Building. Louis Sullivan was the young Wright's mentor and "Lieber Meister" (beloved master) and Wright eventually became the chief draftsman and head of the firm's residential design. It was not long before Wright began to develop his own architectural ideas—low, sheltering rooflines, the prominence of the central fireplace and "the destruction of the box" in favor of an open floor plan. Contrary to the firm's policies, Wright began "moonlighting", and was subsequently fired for the betrayal. He left, taking with him, Sullivan's considerable design influence.

Wright began his own firm in 1893 and worked out of his now famous Home Studio in Oak Park, an affluent Chicago suburb. In the years between 1893 and 1901, Wright produced 49 buildings—primarily residential. This work is collectively known as the "Prairie School." His personal life was dramatic and tragic and included abandonment of his first wife for a highly publicized liaison with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a client. She was murdered by a servant, who also set their home on fire. It took Wright over 20 years to recover from these events, but even during the nadir of his career, he completed many important architectural projects including the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and several concrete Californian residences.

In 1932 Wright founded the Taliesin Fellowship. Thirty apprentices came to live and learn with Wright, bringing with them, a reliable stream of fees and sending out into the world avid Wright disciples. The Fellows program was expanded to Arizona in 1936 and coincided with a rush of new commissions, including Fallingwater, his most famous building. During the war years, few buildings were produced, but under the G.I. bill. Taliesin built 270 houses—many in the simplified Usonian style. Wright also completed large important projects including Price Tower skyscraper, the Guggenheim Museum and the Marin County Civic Center. Frank Lloyd Wright defined "organic architecture" as architecture that is appropriate to time, appropriate to place, appropriate to man. These three concepts characterized his work throughout his long career. He died at the age of 92.

† Janice Thomas and Fredrica Drotos, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Panoramic Hill, Alameda California, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.